Thursday, 7 January 2010

Behind the wheel of creativity - is there a medical link?

When considering the link between suffering and creativity, it led me to question whether or not it can (or has been), medically proven that suffering stimulates creativity. There have been several correlations drawn between the peak point of artists careers and the climax of their depression. I believe it is also a great possibility that suffering enhances certain creative impulses in people. Impulses which may not have been realised fully without this degree of infliction. For example, who can name one artist who was indisputably amazing, indisputably successful and indisputably.. a wacko? Yup... Van Gogh. This is a man who cut off his ear for Christ's sake! Between his blood happy pastimes of ear-chopping and moping however, he did manage to do a few good paintings as well. I think I've seen that Sunflowers one round about...
Anyway, much arguing has been had since his death about the link between his troubled mind and his tremendous work. Here's one little quote that I found fairly illuminating - take a look:

"The developmental period ends at the beginning of 1888. This coincides with the beginning of the psychosis. The works which had influence on us and our time are those of the years from 1888 to 1890. More pictures have been produced during this time than all preceding years. It was a period of vehement and ecstatic turbulence, although always disciplined. The works of 1888 to 1890 are filled with a tension and excitement as if world problems and problems of life wanted to express themselves."

In the same way that athletes may take steroids to improve their performance, 'Schizophrenia helps to create something out of the original telos which would never have come into being without psychosis.'

Theories like this have been supported by people such as Freud who famously deemed art the 'Child of Neurosis'. From a psychiatric viewpoint, many artists and writers have been long considered disturbed and in need of treatment. This to me begs the question: Is it better to be a mad lonely genius, or a sane celebrated amateur? And why did Van Gogh for example, in his suffering, create things of beauty? Perhaps because the world wasn’t at that time demanding it and he wasn’t a cynic? Perhaps because he truly painted what his suffering demanded of him? If both those assertions are true then its reasonable to suppose that in this day and age his suffering and genius would not make the walls of the big galleries but would simply disappear into sad obscurity.

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