Art as Therapy or Art in Therapy? (Part 1/2)
It’s seems like an age since my last post, particularly as I’ve been reading up on how others are getting on through their blogs. For instance, in reading Kate Murdoch’s blog on Keeping it Going, I’m reminded of how Projects unedited provides such a vital networking tool. Particularly when art making can sometimes feel like a rather odd and insular activity…. it’s helpful to have other creative thinkers around you as an encouragement, helping you to move your ideas along.
In regards to this blog, one of the things that has been on mind recently is trying to articulate how my experience of art making is a therapeutic experience as well as an artistic one. It’s quite a difficult thing to put into words….
Whenever I find myself trying to explain to others what art therapy is it’s always with some degree of trepidation and unease. Hence after speaking to Lee last month I found myself thinking a lot about how to differentiate art therapy from other artistic practices. I guess the real question is at what point does art making become therapeutic and how can these affects be quantified?
In considering the links between art and therapy it’s been useful to reflect upon the origins of art therapy and it’s affect on how it’s practiced today. In Art Therapy, David Edwards cites the artist Adrian Hill as being one of the first to acknowledge the therapeutic benefits of drawing and painting whilst he recovered from Tuberculosis (2004:1). For Hill, the value of art therapy was rooted in allowing the inhibited patient to become completely immersed in the art making process. He suggested that in participating in creative activities the patient would be able to build up a strong defense against unprecedented misfortunes (2004:1). Incidentally I was reminded of art making in this context when watching the Culture Show recently and discovering the work of Scottish figurative artist, John Bellany (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01ny2y7 ). Like Hill, Bellany had been hospitalized in the 1980’s due to liver failure (a result of alcoholism). Although he worked prolifically throughout this time generating numerous drawings and paintings (often self portraits); adorning the walls of his hospital room as a visual record of his recovery. As such, both of these stories echo the cathartic affects of art making and how it can be used to make sense of difficult or traumatic experiences.