Stuff happens. That’s life. Some days are great, some days are rubbish… and all points in between.
Whatever your opinions on art as therapy, some days, it’s the only thing that hits the spot.
Talking from the artist end of things, I can’t not make art. I can’t not have something close by that I am making. I am thinking about where the concepts came from, working them into my psyche, my view of the world, and my place within it, all the time. When I have had jobs or other parts of my life that take up too much time and the balance is out, I go a little mad, or a lot mad if it goes on too long. I don’t see things properly any more. I become somewhat paranoid, snipey, prickly, angry… self-esteem goes down the toilet. These days, sometimes, I have insight, and I (mostly) see it coming.
Immersion is the only answer. Repetitive manual tasks. Haptic reward. Totally engrossed in a task, I disappear, time stops mattering. It can become a little out-of-body… another set of eyes watch my hands in wonder. On days such as these, sometimes, it is physical pain that brings me round again. Six hours straight doing nothing but hand sewing has terrible effects on my tendons. But even then, the euphoria of that mental state makes me want to continue. Addictive behaviour.
Despite that… as I slowly emerge from this trance-like state, I do feel healed, balanced, calmer, re-set. I feel it as a rising back to consciousness, slowly awakening from being hypnotised almost. I feel it physically as well as mentally. There is an element of self awareness, proprioception….
I don’t know how I feel about applying “art” to someone else in the name of therapy. But I do know that jobs such as fence or wall painting, brick laying, digging, knitting… all have that haptic reward, the repetitive task that allows the mind to wander off, whilst still being totally engrossed and concentrating on the physical task, these jobs do us good. Many years ago, I worked in an occupational therapy department of a psychiatric hospital. At first, I mocked some of the “creative” projects that people were given, but actually, they had/have value. Concentration, repetition, physical activity. Providing opportunity for the individual to discover in themselves the ability to find that state and heal some things independently, is invaluable.
So that’s what I do on the rubbish days. Immerse myself in the mindful mindlessness of the repetitive, the comforting, and the satisfying.
When I look at other artists’ work it is this that I love to see… signs of obsession, the detailed, repetition, pattern, the physical, visual signs that they found it hard to stop.