Dreams and nightmares are the royal road to the Unconscious, Freud said. I pretty much concur with our coke-snorting leader. I had a disturbing dream that had an epic quality and a conceptuality that defies definition. I will just define it’s parameters. “Home” was deep in a forest. I returned to find the Significant Other missing. Maybe too many horror movies or too many apocalyptic scenarios in the news lately….but there was a sense of loss. Dream morphed emotionally into nightmare as no one seemed to be reacting to the loss. I could not go into problem-solving mode. Strangely, even within the dream, I could see a parallel with work. Before I can do my thing, my much appreciated receptionist will essentially hand over my task : a referral, a patient, a time limit. My work involves the trigger of my receptionist preparing all the legwork and organisation, then literally I press a button and the glass door slides across. My work then starts. In the dream, I could not start problem-solving this sense of loss because….no one else in the dream seemed to hand the problem over to me. Disconcerting.
With the sun came relief from the strangeness of what looked to me like a grief / loss dream. This very large diptych could be finished (almost) as a paeon to the Sun.
My fellow artist Travis D. Hendrix has recently completed an amazing portrait of a relative. To me, as someone who has walked the corridors of hospitals, this drawing powerfully captures the haunted look I have seen on many a patient’s visage as they face illness. There is a quality of both the deep knowing that comes from pain, as well as the look of a hunted animal, something at a more visceral level. The unravelling knitting is a great metaphor reflecting how illness and age unfolds the sense of self knot by knot. Having followed his work for a long time, and a bought a lot of it, I feel I can say that this is one of the best works he has ever done.
Unfortunately, it didn’t win the drawing contest it was in. I am used to seeing Travis’ stuff not win (although he did win best painting at the end of his fine arts degree). I am used to seeing many great artists never get the recognition they deserve. We could get into a meaningless discussion about objectivity in the appreciation of art vs opinion. All I will say is that I’m thankful that the magic of creating art can keep many artists going. It’s often enough to have a following and to sell your work. What still shocks me, however, is that hard-working artists who produce amazing work can be “forgotten” by the industry. It is just another reason I have A LOT OF TROUBLE taking the art experts and the art industry seriously. What I do value is the commitment of an artist to realising their vision. I for one will try to support artists who haven’t got the limelight.
I dream about the Trauma-Givers in the late morning just before waking sometimes. I am trying to escape them. These I interpret as archetypal malevolent figures that represent all the pain the world dishes up to us, especially the sensitive souls. A more sophisticated interpretation is that they also give us wisdom and experience as we move through trauma in a mindful, contemplative and active way. Sometimes you and I are the givers of trauma, even by accident.
In the minds of many psychotherapists out there, as they try to make sense of the narratives they have heard in their work and in their lives, sometimes an overarching theme takes form. It is meta-explanation for all the dark material their patients and clients have expressed to them in the near-sacred space of the therapy room.
For some, it is biological : dysfunction of brain chemistry. Or it could be social : illness resulting from poverty, social exclusion, unemployment, often generational. This series of paintings is about Trauma as the overarching and central concept of mental illness and it’s cause. This is not limited to post traumatic stress disorder. This is the use of Trauma as an explanatory and descriptive concept covering most illness of the mind, from anxiety disorders, depression and even psychotic illness.
Most experienced psychiatrists use the bio-psycho-social-spiritual model of mental illness, which covers the concept of trauma as well as social factors as well as biological dysfunction of the brain. What I am painting here is Trauma as a concept that overlaps with philosophical traditions which are premised on the ubiquity of suffering and pain : Buddhism, Existentialism, Pessimism, Realism and others. These paintings are about the personification of trauma in these wraith-like figures that crowd the canvas, ready to impart their pain and suffering. To state the profoundly obvious, humans often traumatise one another. We live in cycles of trauma. Our workplaces are platforms upon which trauma is generated and imposed. Life is trauma-filled.
I must do a series on the Kindly Ones or the “better angels of our nature” that oppose the power of trauma.