mark-making and psychiatry


……………………The Transcendentalist tradition includes Thoreau and Walt Whitman. My understanding of art making is based on the foundational process of meaning making. Walt Whitman in his great long poem “Song of Myself”, catalogs the many extensions and manifestations of the life force he perceives through the fog of his experience. Walt Whitman had been a nurse or orderly during the Civil War and had witnessed the trauma of the “real” world. His ability to nurture a sense of wonder in a life that included exposure to great trauma is instructive. In “Song of Myself”, he lists the many activities and old world occupations in the same way he describes the power of Nature to instil awe and wonder.

Thoreau describes the wonder and peace he cultivated in himself by living in the woods. In “Walden”, he lives in simplicity and lists the subtle changes in the ecosystems around the lake. The meaning of his life emerges from these days he spent away from the crowd. He died soon after leaving his stone edifice on the edges of the lake.

For me, art making is like this : being awake to the numinous lustre of Nature, the inspiration of sincere people, the integrity of honest creativity, the possibility of escaping the hierarchies of the narcissistic society we have inherited.

This is how what I do in the therapy room is similar to what is done in the studio. I am hoping for meaning to emerge out of the detritus of our lives. I go further and act as an instigator of meaning. Textures of paintings are like the rough edges of my patients’ narratives. Colours are like the nuances of mood as they flow and fluctuate in the lives of my patients. Structures in a painting are like the cognitive formations and relationship systems in the stories my patients tell.

This is how psychiatry and art inter-integrate into a single experience.


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Countdown to solo show

Just a week to go but life doesn’t stop, it doesn’t even care.

Last chance to see how the textures and the surfaces work, and also to choose the paintings that will be hung in what order…

only thing left is to choose the type of varnish, matte or gloss or epoxy.

then we are done.





Days before the show

A week before the show, you start to bring out the little extra creativity and that means all kinds of last minute experiments can happen. It’s also an interesting time because people buy paintings pre-show…..and yesterday, one of the big diptyches sold. More interesting, the visceral reaction to paintings that helps me select which pieces will go into the show.








the last stage….not great in the high humidity and heat of the Australian summer. However, I had my 2IC to assist. Here are a few spots…

Half my paintings will have a gloss finish, half a matte finish.






we have a yellow series it seems

It’s fascinating as a psychiatrist to see how people react to particular paintings in an immediate, visceral and nonconceptual way. That’s an indicator yet again of how the Unconscious reacts to something instantaneously and the Conscious Mind plays catch up, trying to verbalise and analyse what is causing the sense of attraction (or repulsion). This is the link between art and psychiatry / neuroscience.


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Another Yellow King


There are at least two paintings in my show that explore the yellow hues. When I bring people through my studio, these colours seem to have a very powerful effect. Even a mood enhancing effect? I wonder why? In Asia, Buddhist monks wear golden or ?yellow robes. When I am at the art shop, I find myself attracted to the yellow hues, especially  cadmium yellow. I think this is a more intense yellow. This is a favourite mood elevating yet calming colour for me. I believe this is because it is strong in intensity (meaning emotionally energised) and not worn out or drained.



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the art world

It’s easy to criticise the art world out of a sense of injustice. I tend to advocate for my artist friends who I perceive as “true artists” or “the real deal”. It’s unrealistic though to expect the special zone creative activity brings you into should be perfectly reflected in any industry. An industry is a commercial activity. And that’s okay.

It’s possible to keep one’s sense of the sacredness of art and still be a commercially successful artist. Maybe the challenge is to find the right line between the sacred and the profane. Sometimes we can take ourselves too seriously. It’s not Heidegger and the understanding of Being ALL THE TIME….