Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Art therapy - a window to your messy mind or a celebrated art form?

How does one really define the notion of art therapy? It's a practice which has been around for over 100 years, but how do we really consider it - as just another tool for medics to try and untangle your mind, or is it true, valid art in itself?

You know that expression 'Work borne of pain'?, well pain is probably the secret ingredient that many artists have been indulging in without really admitting it to themselves.
Obviously the most recognizable form of this is good old art therapy. You know, the one where a bunch of f**ked up people sit around painting pictures of cows in milk jugs or something. It makes me wonder whether those cross-eyed (oh, don't I love to generalize!) people, would have still painted those pictures and whether they would have been better or worse, had they not ended up in a mental asylum? Which really comes first: the chicken or the pain?
It's a battle of science and cyanide; some profess that the more close to the mental brink you are, the more desperate, wild, experimental, creative, you become.

In terms of art therapy, I have found this to be, certainly in medical theory, true; although maybe not in the way you'd think. Please don't misunderstand, I am not saying that it's a simple equation of crazy = art genius. For instance, in the Handbook of Art Therapy, Tracy Councill writes how in child art therapy, the children display certain improvements with the practice of artistic expression. By being in control of the materials, 'the scope, intent, imagery; when the piece is finished; and whether it is to be retained or discarded', gives a confidence boost and a sense of hope and self-esteem. It makes me wonder what is the true value of art and what it needs to be to be considered 'good'. These children who painted the pictures - OK, they may be no Rembrandt, but shouldn't the fact that they've put so much of themselves and their personal private feelings into their work, count for something? Surely, this is when it stops being a creative outlet for a clinical disorder and starts being 'Art'? Unfortunately, there's no art Yoda around to tell us, definitively, what constitutes as art; so it's up to you, Sonny Jim, to decide for yourself.

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