Drawing : What is art capable of?
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John Dewey said that art is not about objects but about the experience they offer. Every individual is therefore a potential artist because of their ability to participate in the experience. I.e. It is collaborative. This collaboration involves a participation that leads to a transformative change, because participants experience differences. Art is both psychological and social. It transforms not only intra-personal processes but also interpersonal relationships. (Dewey, 1934)
This gives my art a psychological purpose, as I would describe it. This in turn would lead to an introspection by the people who engage and, beyond that, the engagement will help them towards new ideas about people and things.
How does it actually work?
I have recently been using an image of a glove puppet Sooty to carry a variety of ideas about the world and how I / we might think about our engagement with it. The idea was personal to me, as I drew on my childhood memories of playing with a Sooty doll in the 1950s. As an adult who has been a professional practicing artist for over 50 years, I now feel capable of being able to return to experiences from the past and reframe them as constructions for thought and the development of feelings, hopefully in a way that facilitates the engagement of others. I also believe that by making these images and allowing others to engage with them, this contact can lead people to change their cognitive awareness, and how they use feelings to interpret the world. I make objects that facilitate what I called externalised minds in the past. It is easier to think and feel in response to something externally perceived than to have to compose all your understandings, concepts, and feelings inside your head.
Sooty begins a variety of narratives which others can finish in their own minds
Animism has become a central part of my art-making process as I have come to understand the world around me. I want the rain to talk to me as it falls, the land to listen as I walk on it, the materials to tell stories as I work with it, and to be a tree, a bird, or a cloud as I do these things. Animism is a belief that all objects, places and creatures possess a spiritual essence. This includes animals, plants and rocks, rivers and weather systems, as well objects made by people, such as forks, spoons, knives, and other objects. All animated and alive. This belief allows us a new way to engage with other things. We can have conversations, form connections, and engage in things without having to think about separateness or differences. It is an idea that sits alongside the Gaia hypothesis that suggests that all of Earth’s organisms, both organic and inorganic, are tightly integrated into a single self-regulating system. The maintenance of the conditions of life on Earth is therefore dependent on an awareness of this interconnectedness and a set actions that reflect it.
These blog posts are part and parcel of the strategy of transforming art practice. If only one person decides to change after reading them, then this work has had an impact.
These are not novel ideas, and I consider myself a part of the global movement to redefine what an artists does. For example, the shamanists tradition continues through work such as Pitsiulaq Qimirpik’s, “Bart & Lisa Flowers”, this sculpture made of soapstone and antler bone, mixes a use of traditional mediums with images taken from the Simpson’s, an iconic animation that has helped shape contemporary TV culture. He has this to say about his work, “Sculptures are in the shamanistic tradition. A lot of the visuals are about transformation, the body shifting into a different body, and the spectacle of transformation.”
Pitsiulaq Qimirpik “Bart & Lisa Flowers” (2023)
Animism assumes that the body can change and morph, and that spiritual essences are found in all things. This opens up possibilities for wonder and allows us to re-engage the process of loving the earth, instead of exploiting it for its resources. References
Preminger, S., 2012. Transformative art: Art as a tool for long-term neurocognitive changes. Frontiers in human neurology, 6, p.96.
Vail, J. & Hollands, R. (2013). Creative democracy and the Arts: The Participatory Democracy of the Amber Collective Cultural Sociology, 7(3), pp.352-367.
Goldblatt, P., 2006. How John Dewey’s theories underpin the art and art education. Education and culture.
Dewey, J. 1934. Art as experience. New York: Minton, Balch, and Company.
Brooke, S.L. Myers, C.E. eds., 2015. Therapists Creating A Cultural Tapestry : Using The Creative Therapies Across Cultures. Charles C Thomas Publisher.
LeBaron, M., and Sarra, J. eds., 2018. Changing Our Worlds : Arts as Transformative Praxis (Vol. 12). AFRICAN SUNS MEDIA.