Is it possible to look at art objectively?
How art affects the psyche
How does art work? There is an amazingly simple answer to this simple question. Art works like medicine. If someone takes it on an empty stomach, it has a much more intense effect. Applied to art, this means that art works most intensely when it is viewed without disturbances, expectations and stresses. That sounds easy, but it turns out to be difficult to implement. Because everyone has a certain idea of what art should be and how it should work. Perhaps it helps not to declare art as such; without the label, art could be part of reality. By looking at it without prejudice, art can stimulate very different areas of consciousness.
Look in the mirror without prejudice
Art, especially painted art, has a noticeable effect on the viewer. But this effect does not actually come from the work of art itself, but more from the viewer. Looking at a picture is like looking in the mirror. The mirror shows an objective message, an evaluation is only added through the thoughts, feelings and expectations of the viewer. It's the same with a work of art. A black picture can make the viewer sad. Instead of lamenting how sad the black picture makes, the question could instead be asked why the viewer feels this way or why the painter painted the picture this way. The saddening effect is not a problem of the picture, but results from the experiences and expectations of the person looking at the picture.
Martin Klein's acrylic pictures, for example, have something abstract about them. The picture “Bent houses” overrides the statics rules. It is aimed specifically against uniformity, against architectural and geometric accuracy. The houses look lively, as if they are dancing and are reminiscent of comic drawings. Art is a special way of dealing with reality. How does this effect come about? Does the picture have its own charisma? Or is it the visual experience of the viewer that gives rise to these impressions?
Art therapy - expressing feelings without words
However, art cannot influence people just by looking at them. Art can be an opportunity to be creative and to find a way to express feelings, to deal with conflicts, to build self-confidence or to cope with difficult times in life. Art as a form of therapy is always used when people reach their limits and simply cannot put traumatic experiences into words. Art can also become a form of expression in the treatment of psychiatric illnesses. Examples are depression, eating disorders, anxiety disorders or cancer. Here art becomes a form of expression for the incomprehensible. It is used both in pediatrics and in the treatment of old people. Psychology has been researching art for a long time. Irene Daum describes this in great detail in her article “Psychology and Art”.
Creative therapy - what is the difference to art therapy?
Art therapy and creative therapy, many use the two terms as synonyms. Some therapists want to use the term creative therapy to relieve the patient of the fear of having to make something demanding. The creative activity can bring the unconscious to light. Only then are analysis and treatment possible. Design therapy is a psychodynamically oriented form of therapy in which the designed work plays an important role as a third element alongside the patient and the therapist. The sessions during art or creative therapy treatment do not follow any set rules. This therapy usually also begins with a conversation, which can be done in a small group or individually. It is about the worries, desires and problems of the patients. The therapist then makes a design proposal. During the creation of the work of art, the therapist tends to stay in the background, observe or provide assistance. Then the participants present their works, explain what they felt during the design or why the design was chosen exactly that way. Everyone can then ask questions and comment on the work, as well as explaining what impressions were made when looking at it.
Psychological problems influence the work of the artist
Many artists have been shaped by psychological problems in their lives. For example, Michelangelo, Wassily Kandinsky and Edvard Munch suffered from depression. Isa Genzken, a contemporary artist, suffers from bipolar disorder. The work and lifestyle of Henri Tourlouse-Lautrec and Jackson Pollock are characterized by long-term alcohol consumption. The triggers for the problems are usually stressful life events, self-doubts or negative feedback from artist colleagues or the public. In modern times, constant media exposure and the pressure to live as a person of public interest add difficult challenges.
Dementia is a neurological disorder that can alter brain functions. The works of Dutch artist Willem DeKooning impressively show how dementia influences his artistic work. The works are becoming increasingly abstract. The stored visual knowledge becomes more and more blurred, the inner images emerge in a different way. The Weimar University Library has put together examples of abstract art in its digital collections.
Art and enjoyment of art in perception
A work of art can trigger a variety of feelings in the viewer. The facets range from disgust and joy to liking and interest to fascination. Several factors play a role here. On the one hand, these are of course the content and motif of the work of art, but also the mood of the viewer, their experiences and the fact that they are familiar with art. The level of awareness and market value of an artist also influence perception. Average viewers prefer representational art. However, the more you study abstract art, the more you learn to appreciate it. In this context, the psychology of perception has recently taken influence.
A prominent example is M.C. Escher who creates mathematically inspired work. At first glance everything looks naturalistic. At second glance, the images have a surprising, sometimes disturbing effect. For example the impossible triangles. Structurally, they correspond to the norm everywhere. However, as a three-dimensional whole object, they are impossible. His works overwhelm the human visual system, which tends to generate three-dimensional objects from two-dimensional templates.
(The article was created in collaboration with the external author Daniel Theiss., 11/24/2017 -)November 24, 2017
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