The word therapy comes from a Greek word therapeia which translates to “to be attentive (Malchiodi, 1998). The guidance to art therapy is being in attendance to a personal therapeutic art-making process and its healing power. The qualities of art materials and the possibilities for therapeutic treatment in relation to art materials are as broad and endless (McNiff, 2004). In this paper, I aim to unpack a present moment experience of a therapeutic relationship with an unconventional art material. Included in this paper, is a reflection of my experience and the process of an unfolding dialogue with a media, including the presentational knowing of a phenomenological approach of “being with” the art. Indeed, my process supported Mcniff (1998, p.15) suggestions that a process is a series of actions, changes and fluctuations whether anew or repetitious regarded anew within the unique context of the moment. There is also an inevitable consideration of self-absorbed reflections of individual conscious awareness and an atmosphere of suggestibility of being a part of a group exploring different art therapy resources.
A present moment and its application as an access point to an enquiry This experience was no exception, the rules agreed upon required no verbal communication, or communication with anyone in the space. I hasten to add that I can appreciate the need of silence this process to be able to engage to ignite a spark of energy and curiosity to take the world into my consciousness, certain of real powers of body and soul to be a match for reality (Richards, 2005). After having a love-hate relation with textas, marbling, collage, clay, painting and pastels, my experience with natural found materials instigated a self-reflective evaluation questioning technique to use and the meaning to derive from the process. I refused to be stuck in conventional traditional art studio setting and I challenged myself to be open to the therapeutic potential of natural materials found in the environment I now dwell in. The qualities of the art media and how these influenced my experience
My level of consciousness became heightened at the smell of “nature”, a symbolic representation that guided me into the unconscious. “By consciousness, I mean a state of being “awake” to the world throughout our organism. This kind of consciousness requires not closets by an organism attuned to the finest perceptions and responses. It allows experience to breathe through it as light enters and changes a room” (Richards, 1964, 16). I became mindful of the journey I had taken to where I was. I closed my eyes trying to hold back my emotions, I encouraged myself to the feel the sensation of my back resting into the chair, paying particular attention to the feeling of the carpet beneath my feet. A constant stream of sensory input evaded me but I gave myself an opportunity to be lead by the item before me, drawing my attention to the instability of truth and the multiplicity and complexity of self and identity (Grushka, 2005, p. 365). I found myself with a piece of dry bark, a string of wool and green ovate leaves noticing the different textures, weight, smell. A clear tactile exploration was in command, and fully enhance the sensory qualities of media experience, I focused more on what I saw happening when I brushed my fingers lightly on these objects before me tactile stimulation helped me focus on an external sensation that leads to the realization of an internal state or emotion (Hinz, 2009). A response to what I experienced as the insincere attempt at finding closure to an internal feeling of sadness of being displaced from my roots.
There was an embodied endless possibility in reviewing a range of qualities of art the media materials and the feeling evoked in the states they were presented. I hastily took a piece of dry brown bark and arranged four leaves parallel to each other inside the bark. I chose a lemongrass stem, broke it into pieces and in no order, placed them on top of the leaves. Unsatisfied by what was before me and initiated another art piece, without cleaning or discarding my primary art piece. I made a cross with two lemongrass stem, one shorter than the other and tied the two sticks in heavily braided wool. I took another stem then used braided wool and tied it in parallel to the longer stem. Reaching for the last part of the stem I heavily tied it in adjacent to the last stem attached to the art piece, and there I had it” I had relieved myself in substance and form in a secure and controlled environment. Art within a natural Working with organic elements Andy Goldsworthy and Farrelly-Hansen
I hesitated from quickly jumping phenomena to theory not to fall short of the mark and become theoretical (Naydler,1996, p.85) and not to be absent from the room (Seeley & Reason, 2008, p.35). I received a “surprising and unpremeditated imaginative impulsive” (Seeley & Reason, 2008, p.35) I am drawn to cutting up the long stem into four variable sizes pressing down on the stem breaking away pieces until the size of the stem did not intimidate me anymore. At that point, I suspended, “a process of allowing non-intellectual both for fundamental, wise, right essential knowing to distil from complexity and, at the same time for fundamental, wise, right, pluralised knowing to multiply complexity” (Seeley and Reason, p.36).
I tried not to attach premature meaning to a moulding process. I held back a flooding sense of sorrowful emotions and help myself from weeping. I drew myself into a yarn and imagined I was braiding my grandmother’s hair. I braided the yarn and lost in the softness of the wall. I opened my mind to receive inspiration and to be receptive to my emotions and culture and allow myself to be fully present. I became responsive to the wool and to the state this wool had become a braid. I experienced an epiphany that my body’s response became malleable to the art materials the same way the wool was malleable to my handy work.
I had only been accustomed to art materials malleable by another tool to change its appearance, consistency and feel and using natural materials was a new way of expressive medium. To give an example, paint malleable to brushes, sponges, and fingers and as clay is malleable to engraving and cutting tools. Working with natural materials had its own unique spirituality and personality to it that deepened my phenomenological therapeutic approach to art therapy. The materials led me into a trance of memories that had become unknown experiencing feelings not accessible in spoken language. “individual imagination is needed when an engaged configuration evokes a response (McNiff, 2004 p.142).
Overall, then, my experience with this medium was neither frustrating nor demeaning but challenging and enriching. When my cognitive and sensory involvement were heightened I noticed a release of tension and began to a precedence became articulated to the representational capacity of the items that lay before me. The materials raised playful regression was as there was a childlike sense of playfulness as the materials evoked symbolical recreation of early childhood connection and opportunities of nostalgic memories of my late grandmother. The experience of being embodied and reclaiming my identity in foreign territory and being __- this art piece before me examined, uncovered and presented a way of understanding newly created meaning and identities.
Phenomenological experiences can inform the creating forces of self, and one is referential when constructing intersubjective meanings that define an individual (Grushka, 2005) Intersubjective relationship capturing the principle of “drawing within” (Malchiodi. 1998.4). I began to question the meaning of intersubjectivity and its essential intent in therapeutic work and two elements that rose in me was shared emotion/intention and attunement. In a studio set up there was shared emotion of reminiscence and nostalgia of unconscious events that we had all forgotten. The memorable attune intersubjective when there was a shared sense of tactile, auditory, visual and olfactory shared anticipation of the art process, a focused on individual experience (attention) and the feelings evoked by the art station we had found ourselves in. I experienced myself as grounded, understood and valued. that art is the nature of dialogue (Buber & Smith, 2006).
How had this experience given me insight to what I (subconsciously) wanted to make? I realised that through my presentational knowing, my experience was a bit sweeter confrontation of having not given sufficient room for settling in a foreign land, honouring and acknowledging and accept the change and tradition of my new environment. My personal subjective experience to be contained in a larger framework that allowed both collective experience and dialogue. A person’s license to create is irrevocable, and it opens to every corner of daily life. But it is always hard to see that doubt, fear and indirectness are eternal aspects of the creative path (McNiff, 1998) in my life. I questioned myself of the significances of the qualities of the medium and the spiritual significance this item held. What spiritual qualities did these items have? What significance did the bark, stem, leaves and wool have before I embedded them my cultural and emotional baggage? What was distinctive about my art-making compared to the experience my peers had. My phenomenological account of my art making revealed my internal world and emotions. The insight gained from that moment was immeasurable. The sensory stimuli had the power to connect me to my own individual past (Kahn-Denis, 1997). The significance of my resonance symbolised in felt attunement with the world and the primary meaning embedded in my enactment of its appearing (Heron ; Reason, 1997). My process of destroying the art work became a part of the relationship I had fostered with the art material. My intentions in destroying the art-work were a result confrontational memories and emotions that arose from the image created (Hinz, 2009). I refused to place any initial hierarchies of importance upon the two items of description (art process and destroying). Personally, I did not put any judgment or meaning to destroying the artwork, setting aside beliefs, assumptions explanation but instead arrive at a more adequate and incomplete knowledge of being with the art. My art experience of stepping into the unknown was transformative especially experiencing this art material for the first time.
“the art studio transports art therapy beyond the containment of the interior studio space, which is separated from the unpredictable influences of the natural world, such as weather temperature and sounds”. (Whitaker, 2010, p.131)
As I set about reflecting on that process, I constructed yet another piece of art, in a different scenario than before. The process of reflection and introducing conventional art material (glue and paper)
Image 1. Gonde, K, A. (2018) ‘Bellisimo’ wool, lemongrass stem. Brisbane
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