I have been busy making a new studio habitable. It has pinboard on the walls ready for action. Working on a upright surface is psychologically important to me. My giant table packs away easily when it's not required. It's good to get space for it again.
It's a really bright room that is easy to make warm and cosy. All I need now is creative company to share the space. Who would like to join me for a light-hearted weekly session of imaginative and intuitive art making?
A little sojourn into my inner sanctum.
Recently I heard someone make a bible reference. Bible quotes usually pass directly over my head. This one hooked me in because one word struck me and resonated with an image that has become a recurrent theme in my work. I had called the theme ‘oscillation’. An angel ‘troubles the water’ of the pool at Bethesda in John 5:4 but the version that ‘troubled’ me had the angel stirring up the water. The simple phrase, ‘stirring the water’ pulled threads to connect disparate things, like a tuning fork linking through its specific vibration.
Art therapy is grounded in this pre-metaphoric equivalence of like-with-like. New meanings are discovered for images and actions that neither discount nor replace previous understandings; they deepen perception and broaden the work’s significance.
One of my journal entries last week included a zen-like shape that I had dismissed as insignificant. Strangely, a client employed the same shape repeatedly later that same day. The following day I added words to my image related to a need for the cessation of pushing myself to write an article for my webpage. It reads ‘a bowl of murky water needs time to settle – leave it alone.’
I stopped beating myself up for not writing (again...) and today I played with ‘stirring the water’ in the studio. I took some photographs. The shape morphed, becoming analogous with my actions and I was drawn back to write.
My desk faces one of my oscillation images. A woman is about to stir the still water of a deep pool. I began to look at it differently.
Christopher Day in his book ‘Places of the Soul’ mentions how the rhythmic oscillation of dirty water enhances that water’s life-bearing characteristics; a natural mountain stream is able to cleanse itself from biological pollution. Flowforms have been developed to revitalised rivers.
My exercise in stirring the water began to clarify my understanding of the nature of free-flowing intuitive art forms.
Numerous creation myths have emerged from the combination of dust with water. From Prometheus to cosmic soup, mud has provided mythical matter for magical creation. Such stories might be helpful if you are in the right frame of mind to encounter them. Most of us are however caught in the maelstrom of everyday chaos or stuck in the mud of obligation, responsibility and commitment. The dust needs to settle before we can make sense of disruptive life events.
Once the murky water settles then it is possible to revitalise ordinary life and to begin to make sense of the changes wrought through traumatic change. That’s when one might recognise the hand of an angel in the troubles sustained when life got stirred into confusion and madness.
My oscillation painting was created immediately before I began my studies. I graduated nine months ago. The dust is just beginning to settle enough for me to begin to make sense of the cataclysmic changes that occurred in the interim.
If you are in the turmoil of dramatic life events it might be useful to anchor yourself through tiny daily actions that can build a rhythmic oscillation amidst the havoc. Mindfulness meditation is invaluable but difficult to begin and to sustain. Art activities offer easier ways to be fully alive in the present moment.
Here is my mandala for today.
Ceri McKervill PhD
Artist, researcher, art therapist, pragmatist: intent on making life changes with the help of art materials.