S6 - Art Therapy and Materiality – Art and the Flesh of the World

Abstract for TAoAT 2002 by Sally Scaife

In this paper art is seen as a meaning making activity in a process of ‘Becoming’ that happens through an interaction of our embodied selves and our physical environment. These ideas about art, derived from the ‘continental philosophers’ Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty, will be related to John Berger’s discussion of the work of Courbet. Berger (1980) describes just such an interactive relationship between the landscape of Courbet’s homeland in the Jura mountains, his style of painting and his socialist politics. The reflexive relationship we have to the physical world can be a lens through which art work is examined. I will try to demonstrate, with examples, how a similar analysis can be made of work produced in art therapy groups. 

Depending on time, five pieces of art work will be discussed: Van Gogh’s paintings of a pair of boots, Heidegger (1950) uses this painting as a means to discuss the interaction of materiality and cultural activity; Courbet’s ‘Burial at Ornans’, see above, and three art works from different clinical settings, one a ‘modernist’ piece, another a performance work and the other a 3d piece.

The intention of the paper is to highlight the significance to art making of materiality, and to show how this lens can reveal what is therapeutic about art therapy.

Berger (1980) ‘About Looking’ published by Writers and Readers Publishing Cooperative Ltd, London England

 Heidegger (1971) ‘The Origin of a Work of Art’ in ‘Poetry, Language and Thought’ transl. Hofstadtler A. Originally published 1950

 

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