The Connection between Art and the Individual.
I have had the opportunity of meeting a couple of art therapists – both before and during my time as an undergraduate in psychology – and found that the connection between the visual arts and psychology an interesting one. The essence of psychology is the study of the mind, of thought and thinking, and of behaviour. The visual arts could then be said to be, to some extent, the expression of thought and thinking. To borrow a term from Annie Vought, a California based artist who does cut paper art, a piece of work from an individual could be considered as an ‘emotional artefact’.
Calling every single piece of art an ‘emotional artefact’ is debatable – almost as debatable as the big question of, ‘what is art?’ asked by many individuals throughout their lifetimes. Of course, not all artworks and art pieces can be considered as an emotional artefact. Some merely constitute trials (and errors), ‘practice’ pieces, or simply just ‘skill tests’, which is, on a side note, what the KIS Foundation and Elementary programme exercises most of the time. I mention ‘most of the time’ because sometimes the programme calls for a more personal expression of thought, skills and creativity from the children.
In fact, it is these particular pieces would provide a more insightful expression of the individual’s mind. This is because, the thing about producing a work of art is that it requires the presence of a human being, a person who, upon observation, thought, or idea, decides to manifest these observations, thoughts, and idea into an art piece.
That said, while the child’s practice work and skill tests are not art pieces per se, they do hopefully contribute to the child’s ability to control and thus, effectively produce a particular art piece. You can teach a person to fish, but teaching and learning requires time, discipline, and many of the mundane repetitive tasks in between. But, it is with this ‘training’ that such a person would be able to catch any fish that they want, as many as they want, whenever they are so inclined to go fishing.
The key here is confidence. The need to express ourselves by engaging in drawing, painting, colouring, sketching, etc., is not something new – artistic expression goes back to the Stone Age. While I may agree that confidence and skill sets are not pre-requisites of art for various art forms and artistic media, sometimes it all comes down to whether what an individual wishes to express is expressed in the best manner. And sometimes, in order to express a particular thought, emotion, or idea in the best of ways, adequate skills are required – even in abstract art.
If it all sounds pretty vague or superficial, I invite all to ask and discuss among yourselves – teachers, parents, and students alike – these questions: (1) what is art? (2) who is an artist? (3) what constitutes an art piece?
Or to take it to a personal level, ask yourself, what does ‘art’ mean to you?
Contributed by Nurul Wahida.
Wahida is currently doing her Master's in Psychology in NUS. She is also our teacher at our Tampines branch every Saturday and Sunday.