Art and therapy

Dutch art weblog Suds and Soda tells us about an interview the Dutch publication Vrij Nederland recently conducted with British artist Tracey Emin. The interview is not available online, but the author of Suds and Soda gives us one quote:

Last week I went back to my therapist (Tracey says). I told him how happy I was. Yet, at the same time I was afraid of what that happiness might do to my art. Do you know what he said? “Woman, just go home and be happy!”

I found this profoundly intriguing, especially after I had read On the couch with Tracey Emin, an analysis of Emin’s psyche by psychologist Geoffrey Beattie, published in The Guardian.

Now, Tracey Emin is/was one disturbed woman, and for good reason apparently, but should artists bother other people with their own misery? Or is their misery so universal that others can find solace in it? Are artists interesting only because they are suffering, presuming, of course, that all artists suffer? You do not have to take Emin as an example, lots of Romantic writers and plenty of other artists fit the bill perfectly well too. Are we, when we are honouring our precious famous artists, simply elevating mental disorders to the lofty status of art? If so, what does this say about us? If all of us were sane, would there still be non-decorative art? From the last Guardian link:

From Lord Byron to Dylan Thomas and beyond, the famous philanderers of the art world may have had a touch of mental illness to thank for their behaviour, psychologists report today.

Some questions to ponder while all of us here at AFOE are busy weathering the silly season. I know these questions are as old as humanity itself, so try to be creative in your answers 🙂 And, obviously, I am not talking about analytical art and other more intellectual endeavours in the huge field of the arts. As a one-time experiment and bonus, I’ll give you something concrete to analyse for yourselves. Is this art or therapy:

Bonus number two. Weblog Dutch Diary provides the ideal fodder for another perennial discussion, the one that pits art against craft. To summarize that discussion: if you cannot paint, you are not a real artist. Well, in her post After Nike shoes, it’s Van Goghs writer Sue points us to this article from the English-language version of Der Spiegel. One quote:

In just a few years, Dafen (China, ed) has become the leading production center for cheap oil paintings. An estimated 60 percent of the world’s cheap oil paintings are produced within Dafen’s four square kilometers (1.5 square miles). Last year, the local art factories exported paintings worth €28 million ($36 million). Foreign art dealers travel to the factory in the south of the communist country from as far away as Europe and the United States, ordering copies of famous paintings by the container. (…) Some five million oil paintings are produced in Dafen every year. Between 8,000 and 10,000 painters toil in the workshops.

Fire away, art lovers and art bashers alike.

This entry was posted in A Fistful Of Euros, Culture and tagged , by Guy La Roche. Bookmark the permalink.

About Guy La Roche

Dutch translator and subtitler living in Brittany with his three cats. Has also lived in the Flemish part of Belgium. Speaks English rather fluently and in a former life used to have a decent command of Spanish. Knows swear words in German and Russian. Not quite francophone yet, but slowly getting there. Vaguely centrist observer of the world around him, extremely naive and, sometimes, rather proud of it. Writes Venale Pecus.

4 thoughts on “Art and therapy

  1. Of course, suffering is an important source of meaningful art. Still, as long as we’re concious of the fundamental questions surrounding our existence, Camus aside, in my opinion, happiness remains a necessarily rare, probably non-concsious biological state of un-awareness. But I suppose there’s a chance this kind of externalisation would not be needed as a relief in case humans were happy orgasmic Bonobos all the time.

    And we may be on the brink of finding out: I heard a team of doctors accidentally (they were researching devices to bridge spine ruptures) developed a device that can give women orgasms literally by pushing the button. Then again, that may lead to an unheard of amount of suffering-inspired male art ;).

  2. “Then again, that may lead to an unheard of amount of suffering-inspired male art”


    “Of course, suffering is an important source of meaningful art.”

    Yes, I agree, but why should we look at “art” from a screwed-up person if we could, say, just as well watch a psychological thriller?

    Do we, or some of us, enjoy the art of the suffering just because we see parts of ourselves reflected and not because of any presupposed higher value that is supposedly inherent in art? If so, is love for that kind of art then no more than a mental jerk-off?

    What about artwork made by people who are, by medical standards, truly insane? Link:

    I have seen some of that stuff, and it is awesome. One example, John the painter:

  3. Meaningful art is as concrete as beautiful women. It’s all a matter of opinion.

    I, for one, think the piece you posted is crap. It lacks any sort of design sense and it’s colors are bland. It may be therapy, it may be art, but it’s not very good whatever it is.

    I am a practicing artist. I believe your not a real artist unless you can reproduce reality accurately. If you can and then go on to produce some abstract art, then you have all my respect, because you’ve done the hard part.

    Any fool can splash paint on a canvas and claim ‘This is my representation of patriarchal oppression juxtaposed with the emotional pain of the abortion I had 10 years ago’ etc., just as anyone can strum a guitar and sings their heart out.

    Case in point, Tracy Emin. She actually framed this and this and put them up in a gallery. The first one is horrible. My 8 year old nephew can draw better than that. And is she serious about the 2nd? ‘No, No I didn’t say that. I swear’? That’s art?

    After perusing her art, and many other terrible artists, I can say that if people want therapy through art, fine, but don’t subject the rest of us to it’s mediocrity.

  4. Thanks for your honest answer, Rupert. That is one clear vote in favour of craftsmanship.

    Any more comments?

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