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Art as the centre of art therapies education

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Abstract

Art has to be the centre of art therapies education. But: The piece of art is not the purpose of art therapy. The process of creating is the decisive moment. Art therapy is the science of relationship. If I stand here looking to a painting I have to relate to it to enable myself to express my feelings, my images, my visions and my passions. I have to get a sensitive feeling about it. Art therapies education is dealing about how we can relate to a piece of art by creating it.
Published in:
Scoble, S. (2007) (eds.): European Arts Therapies. Grounding the Vision to advance theory and practice.
University of Plymouth Press, 64-69
1
Art as the centre of art therapies education
1. Introduction
Art has to be the centre of art therapies education. But: The piece of art is not the purpose
of art therapy. The process of creating is the decisive moment.
Art therapy is the science of relationship. If I stand here looking to a painting I have to
relate to it to enable myself to express my feelings, my images, my visions and my
passions. I have to get a sensitive feeling about it. Art therapies education is dealing about
how we can relate to a piece of art by creating it.
There is no way to explain, what a painting is about (Boehm 1995). Mark Rothko said:
“No possible set of notes can explain our paintings. Their explanation must come out of a
consummated experience between picture and onlooker. The appreciation of art is a true
marriage of minds. And in art, as in marriage, lack of consummation is ground for
annulment.” (Mark Rothko 2001)
Art is not about what we see on a
painting, it is about how we could
look at it (Sontag 1967). If we
recognize a pipe in a painting, we can
relate to it with the term “pipe”. The
word “pipe” is not especially
concerning this painting, it means
everything that is looking similar to a
pipe. The word “pipe” is only a
reference to the painted or real pipe.
There is no doubt: Our relation to this individual painting is different having a sensitive
feeling about what this painting looks like. And, indeed, this feeling is much different
from our relation to a real pipe that we are smoking. Obviously we are able to relate to a
painting like this in different ways.
Rene Magritte: Ceci n´est pas une pipe
Published in:
Scoble, S. (2007) (eds.): European Arts Therapies. Grounding the Vision to advance theory and practice.
University of Plymouth Press, 64-69
2
2. Three ways forming a relationship
Before I speak about pictures, that have been painted in art therapy, I use a simple object
like an apple to find out how we get into a relationship to it and how the apple can get part
of our history.
The first level of a relationship between me and this apple is the physical one. If I look at
an apple, I recognize that this apple is different from me. I am not this apple and the apple
is not me. On the level of its physical appearance there is no doubt that I am not an apple
and the apple is not me. I have nothing to do with it.
The second level of a relationship between me and an apple is an emotional one. If I get
interested in an apple, I have to go into a certain relationship to it. The question is: What do
I have to do with this apple? To find out something about it I bite into the apple. I don’t let
it be as it is, I eat this apple, and I annex it. The result is not that I by myself get similar to
an apple, it happens something different: I like the taste or I don’t like it. With a sensitive
feeling I try to find out, what I have to do with this apple: I get in a relationship to it. I
respond to it with a feeling, that tells me, how it tastes: sweet, sour, juicy. I don’t get this
feeling if I only have a look on this apple. I have to bite into it to get to a perception.
Having this experience I make this apple to a part of my own history.
The third level of a relationship between me and an apple is the spiritual one. If I speak
about “apple” in general, without seeing it and without eating it, I don’t speak about a
special apple, but I get an idea of an apple. If I imagine an apple in my mind, I have
transformed an apple in an image of it. This transformation of the physical appearance to
an idea is the way art happens. In my mind I relate the term “apple” to the essence, to the
character of an apple. The apple I speak about can not be understood as a physical thing, it
is a spiritual matter. It has nothing to do with a real apple in its physical appearance. I
create this apple in my mind. The question is not, what I have to do with this apple, when I
bite into it to get a sensitive feeling. The matter is what the species “apple” is about. If I get
an idea of that, I have something understood about an apple.
By this, I have described three levels that determine our relation to our surroundings: The
physical, the mental and the spiritual level.
Published in:
Scoble, S. (2007) (eds.): European Arts Therapies. Grounding the Vision to advance theory and practice.
University of Plymouth Press, 64-69
3
3. The painting and its context
Assumed I go by night in my neighbor’s garden to steal an apple from his tree. In this case
this apple is different from all the other apples. It has its meaning through this story, which
distinguishes it from each other apple. This apple is connected with my personal story. It
gets its meaning because I went into my neighbor’s garden to steal an apple from his tree.
Only if I tell you this story, this apple gets the same meaning for you as for me: the apple
taken out of my neighbor’s garden.
If we look at a water-color painting without any object like a pipe, an apple or anything
else on it, we have to find another way to describe what we see. At first we may describe
its physical conditions: Its ground, the paint, and its proportions. We see how it physically
looks like. But on this level we get no idea of its image as less as we get an idea of the taste
of an apple only looking at it. At first this painting is a strange object for us with its own
history, we have nothing to do with.
Usually a motion is our reaction looking at a painting: We like it or not, it looks strange or
familiar. We judge about it. So far it is a matter of taste that determines our relationship to
this painting. Looking at its colors we get a feeling of grief or happiness, of warm or cold,
of calm or movement. Our feeling is more, what the physical conditions of this painting are
about. The colors are causing something like a sound we don’t hear with our ears; we hear
it with our soul. This sound only gets real between the painting and the onlooker
(Bockemühl 1985). In order to get this feeling we have to make a personal experience like
biting into an apple. We are producing its image.
Beyond that an art therapist might have the question: What does this painting mean, what
is its image and what has it to do with the person, who painted it. As soon as I have this
question, I go over my personal emotions I got looking at it the first time. The question
aims now at the circumstances the painting was connected with. The context of this
painting might disclose its real meaning, which let us know something about its author.
In this case a painting is similar to an apple that I have stolen from my neighbor’s garden: I
have to know something about its history to understand its meaning. We don’t get its
meaning only looking at it. Its appearance has no evidence about what has happened in
therapy. But if I tell you the story about it, we are able to see it with other eyes.
Published in:
Scoble, S. (2007) (eds.): European Arts Therapies. Grounding the Vision to advance theory and practice.
University of Plymouth Press, 64-69
4
4. Forming a relationship through painting
The painting, I am thinking about is connected with the following situation:
Nadine was 14 years old, when she came to art therapy. She was suffering from acute
asthma. She liked to draw and to paint. At first she was doing what she liked most: Having
put a shell in front of her she drew it very carefully and with her own accuracy by using a
pencil and a small piece of paper. I did the same and so we both were absorbed in our
work. At the end of our meeting we compared what we had done and spoke about it.
After some more meetings I had the desire to paint a common painting with Nadine like a
conversation piece. We took a large paper between us and choose for painting water-
colors and decided not to speak before we had finished the painting. The colors on the
paper were our words and the basis for our conversation. About half a year we painted
common pieces every week. Through this process we developed something that was
speaking through the relations of colors, like you see here.
As a result of art therapy the relationship between Nadine and her surrounding were
directly concerned: the asthma-attacks which had lead her to art therapy, disappeared
after half a year. (Sinapius 2005)
In therapy with Nadine we can see two different processes of creating:
At first we drew a shell. Each of us was absorbed in his own work. Tracing something
we saw in front of us and looking for a good result we tried to get into a relationship to
an object by drawing this object. Like biting into an apple we tried to get a feeling of
the shell by drawing.
Than we painted a common piece. There was no image beyond the painting itself. We
didn’t relate on an object, we related to what the partner was doing. The image was
developed by painting: The relations between the colors. The image, the painting was
about, was arising in between Nadine and me.
In this example we relate in different ways on the painting as an object of art. The painting
may tell something about a shell. In this case it is something like a document of history.
Beyond that a painting could be part of history. It gets its meaning during the process of
doing (Aldridge 2002). Art may open a space between you and me. In this case art therapy
Published in:
Scoble, S. (2007) (eds.): European Arts Therapies. Grounding the Vision to advance theory and practice.
University of Plymouth Press, 64-69
5
is getting a social significance. The image, that determines art therapy, is the process of
getting a new access to our surroundings.
5. Art and therapy
This understanding of an art including the creative process, determines already
contemporary art. Looking at art of the 20.Century we see: its theme is the discrepancy
between the painting as a closed document about something that happened in the past and
the context, it was connected with. In the art of our days the process of creating gets more
and more important. The production and setting of art is getting more important than the
piece of art itself.
Two short examples might illustrate that:
1928 Magritte painted the “Impossible”: He painted himself while he was painting a
model he is creating at the very moment we look at
it. He is not depicting reality. The painting is not a
document of the past. It is creating a reality that is
present. It happens at that moment, we are looking
at it.
Contemporary art is going one step further. 1952
John Cage composed a work that contents only the
noise of the listeners: The listeners are the
musicians. Almost at the same time the shadows of
the onlookers are part of Rauschenberg’s “white
paintings” (Rolling / Sturm 2002). And in the
sixties Joseph Beuys transformed the traditional understanding of art. His images get
real in a social and political context (Mennekes / van der Grinten 1984 / Harlan 1986).
Not the analysis of the piece of art is the decisive moment; it is the way we are taking part,
the way we are looking at it. Art is the science of relationship. From this point of view art
in therapy is more than a document of the past. It is something that gets its meaning in that
moment we are participating: Each action, moving, shape or color in the therapeutic
Rene Magritte: Impossible
Published in:
Scoble, S. (2007) (eds.): European Arts Therapies. Grounding the Vision to advance theory and practice.
University of Plymouth Press, 64-69
6
process is part of our way to communicate through art. The art therapist needs the artistic
skills to create this process.
This is the reason that art has to be the centre of art therapies education.
References:
Aldridge, D (2002). Forschungsmethoden Künstlerischer Therapien / Grundlagen Projekte Vorschläge:
Musiktherapieforschung - eine Erzählperspektive. Stuttgart, Maier
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Harlan V (1986). Was ist Kunst? Werkstattgespräch mit Beuys. Stuttgart, Urachhaus.
Mennekes F / van der Grinten F J (1984). Menschenbild Christusbild. Stuttgart, Katholisches Bibelwerk.
Rolling S / Sturm E (ed) (2002). Dürfen die das? Kunst als sozialer Raum: Zwischen Agitation und
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Rothko M (2001). Mark Rothko: Foundation Beyeler, Ostfildern-Ruit, Hatje Cantz Verlag.
Sinapius P (2005). Therapie als Bild Das Bild als Therapie: Grundlagen einer künstlerischen Therapie.
Frankfurt a.M., Peter Lang.
Sontag S (1967). Against Interpretation. New York, Straus & Giroux.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Chapter
Michael Bockemühl (1943-2009) zählt zu den interessantesten Wahrnehmungs- und Bildtheoretikern der letzten Jahrzehnte. Mit seinem beispielhaften Verfahren der visuellen Analyse erweiterte er den eng gesteckten Theorierahmen der Kunstgeschichte, entwickelte eine Epistemologie der Bildanschauung und nahm manche theoretische Überlegung der relationalen Ästhetik vorweg. Die von ihm geprägte Formel »Bildrezeption als Bildproduktion« und seine Texte zum Verhältnis von Ästhetik und Wirtschaft lassen sich als handlungsorientierte Erkenntnistheorie verstehen. Der Band bietet eine Essenz seines Werkes und führt mit ausgewählten Texten in seine wegweisenden Verfahren der Bild- und Wahrnehmungsanalyse ein.
Forschungsmethoden Künstlerischer Therapien / Grundlagen Projekte -Vorschläge: Musiktherapieforschung -eine Erzählperspektive
  • D Aldridge
Aldridge, D (2002). Forschungsmethoden Künstlerischer Therapien / Grundlagen Projekte -Vorschläge: Musiktherapieforschung -eine Erzählperspektive. Stuttgart, Maier
Beschreibungskunst -Kunstbeschreibung: Ekphrasis von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart: Bildbeschreibung. Über die Grenzen von Bild und Sprache
  • G Boehm
Boehm G (ed) (1995). Beschreibungskunst -Kunstbeschreibung: Ekphrasis von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart: Bildbeschreibung. Über die Grenzen von Bild und Sprache. München, Wilhelm Fink Verlag.
Dürfen die das? Kunst als sozialer Raum: Zwischen Agitation und Animation. Aktivismus und Partizipation in der Kunst des 20
  • S Rolling
  • E Sturm
Rolling S / Sturm E (ed) (2002). Dürfen die das? Kunst als sozialer Raum: Zwischen Agitation und Animation. Aktivismus und Partizipation in der Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts. Wien, Turia & Kant.
Mark Rothko: Foundation Beyeler, Ostfildern-Ruit
  • M Rothko
Rothko M (2001). Mark Rothko: Foundation Beyeler, Ostfildern-Ruit, Hatje Cantz Verlag.