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 participation, which in turn leads to transformational change as participants experience different ways to think, feel and behave.  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, I would hope leads people to engage in some sort of introspection and beyond that that the engagement helps them towards new way of thinking about people and other 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. The objects I create facilitate what I have previously called externalised minds. 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 is at the heart of this new approach to art. It’s a way to come to terms with my surroundings. 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 an ancient belief that all things, including animals, plants, rocks and rivers, weather systems and objects made by humans such as knives, forks and teaspoons, as also sculptures and drawings are spiritual. All animated and living. 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. This idea is a part of the Gaia Hypothesis, which proposes that the Earth’s inorganic and organic environments are closely integrated and form a self-regulating complex 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 part of a global movement to redefine the role of an artist. The shamanist tradition, for example, 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, that spiritual essences are everywhere, and this opens up possibilities for wonder. It also gives us an opportunity to re-engage in the process of loving the planet, instead of mining its resources. References

Preminger, S., 2012. Transformative Art: Art as a means for long-term Neurocognitive Change. Frontiers in human neurology, 6, p.96.
Vail, J., and 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 practice (Vol. 12). AFRICAN SUNS MEDIA.

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