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In our previous meeting together, back in September, some of the artists mentioned their own experiences of being part of other peer groups or crit groups and possible formats that could be adapted for this group. Some individuals spoke of the difficulty in showing everyone’s work and managing time. One suggestion was to use a Pecha Kucha format for our next meeting together as this would provide a fun and informal way of all members being able to introduce their art practice.

Pecha Kucha is a form of presentation where, traditionally, those showing their work present 20 slides for 20 seconds each (see http://www.pechakucha.org/faq). The images advance automatically and you talk along to the images. Within our group, we adapted this format showing only 5 images though still only talking about each image for a maximum of 20 seconds.

Ahead of the event, artist Julie Turner very generously let us meet at her place. Five artists attended from the group: Julie, myself, Rachel Bailey (Prune), Anna Arbiter and Anna Sikorska. However, three other artists put forward their work for discussion even though they were unable to attend themselves (Sarah Heenan, Mary Heagney and Flor Ferraco). Prior to the night, all artists submitted 5 images which were then collated as a video (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZP2yGKaRkM).

Having the artists talk briefly about their work using this format was really useful, both from my point of view and, I hope, from theirs as well. Some artists chose to use the Pecha Kucha format to give a whistle-stop tour of their art practice up to now, whereby art works were sequenced chronologically and their accompanying descriptions alluded to how their work had changed over a period of time or since leaving formal education. Oppositely, others showed images in a randomised order and welcomed opportunities from the group to discern common threads which pulled their body of work together. Even artists who were unable to attend had their work shown and discussed and it’s hoped that this will naturally lead to other conversations, in the future, perhaps amongst artists of similar artistic disciplines or interests.

For me, presenting my work in this way was great in terms of consolidating my artistic practice and getting me used to thinking and talking about it as something that was continuously moving and changing. It was great to revisit older works from my first degree and my MA, but I also enjoyed talking about how my recent work had been coloured by my training as an art therapist. The presentation also provided a perfect opportunity to present a new piece I’d been working on, loosely titled ‘Self’. The image was generated from one hundred photographs I’d taken of myself over the course of about year which were layered together as a series of transparencies in Photoshop. The resulting image seems ethereal, I’m undecided what to do with it next. For instance, could it simply be a stand-alone image, or a series of images, or could it be developed into some form video montage. Who knows. Though I’m really glad I had the opportunity to present the work publicly and to gain feedback from other like-minded artists, rather than it simply being an idea that I wrestled with on my own.

Our next meeting together will be in January 2016 whereby artists will have an opportunity to revisit ideas and artworks that were presented as part of this event.


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It’s been 5 months since my last post. I’ve been stuck for things to write about and away for a lot of the summer. Now seems to be as good time as any to resurrect the blog as I now find myself practicing art therapy, following three years of training at Roehampton University, though still trying to make sense of what it means to be both an artist and an art therapist. With this in mind I spent part of my summer putting together a funding proposal to set up an art/ art therapy peer mentoring group to determine whether there were others like me wrestling with similar concerns.

The function of the group was primarily be to create a forum for individuals to talk about their own artwork and art making process, and to foster discussions about the relationship between art and therapy. And, whilst the funding proposal was unsuccessful, there was enough interest from other artists to suggest that there was need for a group like this (even if it meant meeting on an ad hoc basis).

The artists who were identified as being suitable for this group are primarily artists and art therapists and most are either currently training as art therapists or have completed their training within the last 8 years (though not all). Having met together for the first time last month, most people said that they hoped being part of the group would primarily enable them to develop their art practice, citing that despite making artwork, either at home or within a studio context, they felt isolated and needed to be ‘backed up’ by other like-minded artists. Others identified a need for honest feedback when presenting their work and clarification that what they were expressing visually made sense.

Our next meeting together will be in mid-November where we’ll be running a Pecha Kucha event out of someone’s living room. Pecha Kucha is a form of presentation where, traditionally, those showing their work present 20 slides for 20 seconds each. This promises to be a great opportunity to get to know one another a bit better and to learn about each other’s art practice.


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With my written coursework finished, my attention has shifted back to my art practice and to ideas that I started work on last year. A continued interest throughout this time as being been around the theme of containment and with that I have generated a series of new works which I feel happy showing to others.

Duct is part of a series of works entitled Forms of Containment, a reference to the influential British psychoanalyst, Wilfred Bion. In a therapeutic context the term ‘containment’ describes the safe and holding environment that enables patients or clients to actively project their feelings onto the therapist which are then contained, detoxified and given back to the client in a more manageable form (Edwards, 2004: 47).

Duct works to express something of the unstable, perilous nature of the therapeutic relationship; often both the client and the therapist are affected and changed in some way.  I often associate the rigour of the therapeutic process with the dynamic qualities of clay being shaped on a potter’s wheel. One might reshape or reframe one’s way of thinking as a result of effective therapeutic intervention. The image of clay being manipulated on a wheel is linked to my own understanding of therapy as a transformative, yet hazardous, process.

The imagery used for these works was generated by scanning my face on a photocopier. The contorted expressions are as a result of pressing my face up against the glass of the scanner and then manipulating these images in Photoshop, either by squashing the image or stretching them out over several pages so that hands and faces become long, fluid forms.

The qualities of these images reminds me of a project undertaken by Jenny Saville and Glen Luchford called Closed Contact, in which Saville’ body and face are pressed up against a sheet of glass and photographed. Although in contrast, within my own works, I have chosen to use only black and white images to in some way disguise these figurative elements.  I want to encourage viewers to really look at the works before determining whether these are indeed distorted faces and bodies or something else altogether. As such the absence, of colour to discern skin tones, lips, eyes, hair encourages this type of active or investigatory viewing.

Another facet of these works I really like is that they are segmented and taken and restacked in a different order. I found that it was better to work in this way as when I stuck the individual segments together I was left with this long, inflexible form that was difficult to store and move. It also means that I can mix different parts together or add to them.

 

References:

Edwards, D., (2004), Art Therapy, London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

S. Mora, X. (2013), Writing about Scanface, Available at: https://xavisolemora.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/writing-about-scanface/ (accessed: 07.05.15)

 


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Wow. It’s been a long while since I last blogged. Although, since my last entry, I have feverishly been working on my final research paper for the MA Art Psychotherapy course. The final deadline is on Wednesday this week and I’m now within touching distance of completing my last ever piece of MA coursework (I hope).

Since January/ February I have dedicated most of my free time to working on an 8000 research paper on the effects of countertransference in  when working aggressive children in schools. Whilst, having written the paper, I don’t feel I can adequately explain or summarise what it’s about right now, it might be something that I look to expand upon in later entries. I would however say that for anyone interested in school-based art therapy interventions, or wanting to know how art therapy can be used as an alternate intervention for children and adolescents, I have listed a number of useful resources below that might be interest.

Subsequently with the course nearly finished, attention now turns to our end-of-year MA show. Having had studio-practice time built into the course schedule I had some time at the start of the year to begin work on a new series of art works. I hope to talk more about these in my next blog.

 

Useful Resources:

Case, C. & T Dalley, (1990), Working With Children in Art Therapy, London: Tavistock/ Routledge

Case, C. & T, Dalley (2007), Art Therapy with Children from Infancy to Adolescence, Sussex: Routledge

French, L. & R. Klein, (2011) Therapeutic Practice in Schools: Working with the Child within: A Clinical Workbook for Counsellors, Psychotherapists and Arts Therapists, London: Routledge

Karkou, V., (2010), Arts Therapies in Schools, London: Jessica Kingsley

Rubin, J. R., (2005), Child Art Therapy, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons


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Since starting my training I have often wondered where feelings reside from within the body and to what degree do they inform our reasoning and decision making. Damasio suggests emotions are inseparable from the idea of reward or punishment or reward, of pleasure or pain, of approach or withdrawal that are integral to our survival (1999: 41). Yet how can we, as trainee therapists, begin to work in a safe and contained manner with clients who express difficult emotions or are ill-equipped to manage their own emotional experiences?

Emotional development takes places in the limbic centre of the brain, an area situated in the right hemisphere where a group of linked structures develop social and emotional intelligence (Liebmann, 2008: 90). The amygdala, for instance, is important for emotional responses to threats and impulses whereas the hippocampus stores emotional memory.

Robert Plutchik’s psychoevolutionary theory of emotion identifies that there are 8 primary emotions: anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, anticipation, trust, and joy. These primary emotions are all characterised by their adaptive action tendencies, which are designed to change the organism’s relationship with their environment. For instance, ‘In anger we puff up and become larger, thrusting forward; in fear we shrink away, in sadness we lower our eyes and close down, whereas interest and happiness open us up to the world’ (Greenberg & Paivio, 1997: 17).

In a therapeutic context, it’s important to help clients attend to their own bodily-felt experiences, drawing attention to their breathing, signs, posture, vocal quality, and facial expressions. Enabling clients to adopt this internal focus, rather than focussing on changing their environment, can be self-empowering (Greenberg & Paivio, 1997: 17).

 

References

Damasio, A., (1999), The Feelings of What Happens: Body, Emotion and the Making of Consciousness, London: Vintage

DEEPER MIND, (2011), The Search for Basic Emotions, Available at: http://www.deepermind.com/02clarty.htm, (accessed: 19.10.14)

Greenberg, L. S. & S. C. Paivio, (1997), Working with Emotions in Psychotherapy, New York: Guilford Press

Imgkid (2014), Limbic System and Emotion, Available at: http://imgkid.com/limbic-system-and-emotion.shtml, (accessed: 14.11.14)

Liebmann, M., (2008), Art Therapy and Anger, London: Jessica Kingsley

 


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