S5 - Joseph Beuys and Art Therapy

Abstract for TAoAT 2002 by Tony Gammidge

This paper is about the German artist Joseph Beuys and how his art and his life had influenced and inspired ma as an Art Therapist. Through looking at slides of his work and reviewing the literature about him and by him I hope to make a case that his art, ideas, ideals and life are hugely relevant to us all as Art Therapists. Through him, I also want to touch on the wider issue of the ‘art’ in Art Therapy and how artists, both historical and contemporary can (and do) inform our practice. Art Therapy theory tends to be mostly drawn from psychoanalytical theory. I want to put an artist, in this case Beuys, in the place that is usually filled by an analyst or therapist.

Beuys is such an obvious candidate; he started making art following a breakdown that was a result of his experiences in the Second World War. He consciously set out to heal the wounds not only of his trauma, but also those of his fellow countrymen. He also believed that potentially everyone was an artist and his motivation was, in part, in encouraging creativity in others. This is why he has so inspired me as an Art Therapist. Also he has helped me to look at art in a different way, perhaps more from the heart than from intellect, and this over time has greatly informed the way that I look at a clients work.

Finally, I hope that this paper will inspire others to consider what artists they would choose as relevant to Art Therapy.

Themes and key words:

  • The art and life of Joseph Beuys; its relevance to Are Therapy and the inspiration it gives me.
  • The need to look to art and artists to inform Art Therapy Practice.
  • The way we look at art, both in a gallery and the therapy room.
  • Other relevant artists to Art Therapy.

Biography of Tony Gammidge

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