Symbolic Forms & Fits of Tears: What's in a Drawing?

Discussion of Joseph Campbell's work with an emphasis on the personal creative impulse as well as the sociological role of the artist in today's global community.

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Symbolic Forms & Fits of Tears: What's in a Drawing?

Post by kewing » Thu Apr 17, 2014 5:13 pm

This week, my brother had another student - his third this semester - break down in tears in class. There’s something about trying to draw (he often teaches an introductory undergraduate course) that seems to tear the lid off the vulnerability of some students. Interestingly, they’re always female, which begs the question as to whether an equal number of men experience the same emotional overload of sorts but handle it differently due to some inherent, biology-based gender tendency, or the effects of cultural stigma imposed on men to restrain their emotions, or both. Campbell, in his essay, “The Interpretation of Symbolic Forms,” references Mandala symbolism, interpreted by Jung “as grounded in what he identified as the four basic psychological functions by virtue of which we apprehend and evaluate all experience, namely, sensation and intuition, which are the apprehending functions, and thinking and feeling, which are those of judgment and evaluation.”
The cruciform diagram [see The Mythic Dimension, p.193] makes it evident that in this view of Jung’s “four functions” we are dealing with the claims and forces of two pairs of opposites; for as feeling and thinking are opposed, so too are sensation and intuition.
People aware only of the information of their senses, the most obvious actualities immediately present, may be disappointed or undone by unrecognized implications; whereas others, intuitive always of possibilities and implications, may be knocked down by a hard and present fact. In Jung’s view, based on his work with patients, each of us tends to favor in the shaping of his life but one of the two functions of each pair – sensation and thinking, for example, which would leave intuition and feeling undeveloped; and any activation of the unattended functions tends to be experienced as threatening and is resisted. Moreover, since the resisted functions are undeveloped – “inferior,” as Jung terms them – they are alien to the subject’s understanding both of himself and of his world, and whenever they do break through, they overthrow controls and with compulsive force take over: the individual is “beside himself,” out of control.


While I appreciate the value of the four functions as represented in the diagram, I react intuitively (!) to the implication of opposition between the pairs: it’s just as interesting to note that “feeling” and “thinking,” for example, while at opposite poles, are indeed connected by the line between them – drawn towards each other as much as away - and, indeed, it strikes me that whatever may be represented by the entirety of that line is perhaps worth considering. Also, it’s simple enough to embellish the mandala by circumscribing the “functions;” in other words, by drawing a circle through them, thereby linking all of them in an unending round and otherwise assuaging the opposing energies established by the two pairs of opposites.

Would this affect the aforementioned interpretation? Why is Jung convinced that we favor two of the four functions and not one or perhaps three, depending on the individual? In any case, the idea that the “inferior,” otherwise undeveloped functions are capable of breaking through and overthrowing our controls, such as they are, resulting in one’s becoming “beside himself” is a compelling explanation for why a non-artist - a student taking an elective course for instance – could become so frustrated, ostensibly by way of the unexpected dynamics of a creative schism, to resort to a fit of tears. And what in particular is it about the act of drawing that makes the frustration so acute versus, say, even painting or sculpting? Writing, conversely, never brings people to tears and nor does one find an incompetent musician breaking down in front of his instrument. Mathematics is perhaps the closest competitor to drawing in its ability to un-center the psyche into such a threatened, stymied condition. Does mathematics have anything in common, therefore, with drawing? Anger is another possible manifestation of such acute frustration and I’m not sure how much of that my brother has noticed in his students: it’s a good question for him.

Still, given the well-established therapeutic nature of visual imagery (which ultimately begets mythology) - the power to release, retain, arrest, synchronize, ground or otherwise balance one’s psychology - and the even more intensely dynamic subconscious and unconscious power accessed through the craft of creating visual imagery oneself, be it especially illustration or painting, one is perforce driven to acknowledge the particularly enervating, effective and intense dynamism of this creative act over perhaps all others. Writing perhaps releases psychic energies more gradually, more easily, with less demand placed upon the mind-body-spirit (or substitute intuition or inspiration for spirit) dynamic; one can write, after all, as one talks. One can even experience athletic activity as ineptly restorative (observe the glee of any clumsy child kicking a ball or an incompetent duffer hacking joyfully away at his golf ball). Visual art, conversely, requires, as my brother, himself an accomplished professional artist, has said, "a different form of communication" and it’s a far rarer skill, let alone talent, to be able to render images on paper with one’s hands. Photographers and filmmakers have a distinct advantage here and in the end as their creations are not completely, as is the case in drawing, the act of their own efforts. In drawing, it’s perhaps the challenge of rendering three dimensions into two that unleashes a surge of unconscious or subconscious energies. I can ask my brother if simpler, two-dimensional exercises – drawing geometric shapes and lines for example - ever evokes schism in students, or if it’s only during more intuitively difficult tasks whereby one’s mind is challenged to funnel and flatten the world onto paper that the real problems occur? Could it be that a student occasionally finds it an impossible shock to realize her once familiar pencil and paper, so benignly obedient day after day to her incidental scribblings and scratchings, have transformed into a seemingly intractable pair of threshold guardians at once denying entry to the acceptable completion of an assignment, (many students, after all, make their way successfully through academia by way of merely rote regurgitation of an instructor’s instructions), and inviting entry into heretofore unrecognized dimensions and depths of experience within and without?

One is compelled to ask what characterizes the students that come to wits end over the experience versus those that don’t; if every student came apart at the same point every semester, then we’d have an easy time discovering the cause. Perhaps my brother sees a pattern? And one wonders how close to the edge so to speak other students of equal artistic ineptitude (for lack of a more compassionate phrase) may be during the experience, during the attempt at assigned work; how much duress are they suffering in the same classroom, at the same tasks, confronting their challenges, their demons, be it on the paper or in their heads or both, perhaps only outwardly coping with their anxieties with more aplomb?

Another question: is it predictable then, from my brother’s experienced vantage point, observing as he does an endless cycle of artistic initiates enter his class more or less broadly dispersed between the poles, on the one hand, of enthusiastic, un-self-conscious self-awareness, self-compassion and sense of adventure, (regardless of skill level) and, on the other, dread and advanced defensiveness? And can they switch places at some point? How long does it take and by what particular means does it occur (what degree and duration of chemical heat for example?) whereby each type (and we’re all types) of student distills out, so to speak, according to their veritelos – according to their true nature - exactly as do the organic components in a chemical distillation column, each individual type boiling off, (with the potential to be effectively condensed and collected now in their purified state), at higher and higher temperatures, according to the laws of their molecular composition?

And what of Jung’s four “functions?” I’ve not attended one of my brother's classes, but I’m sure he must somehow negotiate the dynamics of sensation, thinking, intuition and feeling that likely begin to percolate from his students within the first few moments of each new class, each new admixture about to undergo creative and mythological distillation. After all, it’s not far-fetched to reconsider Jung’s mandala in mythological terms, by way of analogy with Campbell’s four functions of myth; namely 1) Awe = Intuition, 2) Cosmology = Thinking, 3) Sociology = Sensation and 4) Psychology = Feeling. Syncretizing in this way, one can perhaps begin to perceive the magnitude of life energies put into play in the introductory art classroom, (to say nothing of other creative experiences), and to recognize the volatile human biochemistry thereby established in the form of the Central Excitatory Mechanisms (CEMs), more or less dormant in each student, and the Innate Releasing Mechanisms (IRMs) presented, more or less capably, by an instructor.

It’s often tedious and of little lasting interest to tease apart, by way of historical linguistics or philology, the architecture of words with an eye towards a more deeply rare or compellingly archaic meaning, but I indulged myself with the word “teach” as it’s defined in my Random House Collegiate Dictionary and there I find a reference to an OE word, tǣcan, described as akin to TOKEN. Campbell has oft repeated the idea that there is no mythology without symbol; symbols are a mythology’s inherent aspect. Interesting, then, to find as part of a lengthy definition of “token,” the oft-occurring word “symbol” and, at its compelling terminus, the phrase: “See TEACH.”
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Post by Cindy B. » Thu Apr 17, 2014 7:15 pm

Hi, kewing.

While it would be impossible for one to determine why your brother's students display their frustration with learning a new skill without knowing them personally, a bit about their psychosocial backgrounds, and about their individual learning styles, for instance, what I can offer is more information on Jungian Typology/Psychological Types if you're interested. Please go here: http://www.jcf.org/new/forum/viewtopic. ... 0013#60013

This might interest you, too. Symbolization: Symbols and Signs: http://www.jcf.org/new/forum/viewtopic. ... 3913#63913

:)
If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s. --Jung
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Post by kewing » Fri Apr 18, 2014 5:01 pm

Cindy, thanks - I'm no scholar of Jung, but your links have provided a great immersion experience. Yes, I'm sure from your professional standpoint there would be many personal and sociological aspects that require consideration for an analysis. Still, the strong energies engaged by drawing are a compelling study, at least for me. Likewise, the idea of a teacher/instructor/professor becoming (without the advantage, in many cases of any training in psychology) a symbol (versus sign, thanks also for that link!). Of note, there have been cases in my brother's classrooms where the emotion was directed, not in the form of SELF-criticism or disappointment but, with considerable hostility, at my brother. He read my essay and responded at length with his own analysis and, curiously enough, with an outpouring of what I would call his own personal mythology; such is the power of the creative aspect, right? An interesting counterpoint to the tears of frustration, are the tears of release or perhaps wholeness that he's experienced:
I have had kids break down and cry because they surprised themselves at how good they were at drawing, or even that they simply got better - from lousy to less lousy - the exact opposite of crying because they sucked, or maybe it's the same thing, I don't know. They don't bawl, but they tear up, sometimes their hands will shake, you can see them being overwhelmed with emotion. I have had kids hug me, give me presents - like bringing me art supplies, making me food - yes, one made me an entire meatloaf dinner with the sides and brought it in aluminum tins to class.
Receiving criticism of one's work (all work containing some aspect at least of creativity) can be especially painful and difficult in visual art and drawing (the return threshold being the most difficult part of the journey as we know). As such, I feel confident, given your experience, in conducting this small experiment regarding your "types mandala" - the one you colored (and which I was encouraged to see circumscribed!): namely, that in terms of symbolic color, the more artistically accepted "color-wheel" idea of opposition is red-green and blue-yellow pairs. Making such a change may render your mandala perhaps even more potently effective.

P.S. I'm impressed and envious of your ability to include images in your dialogue! How do you do it?
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Post by Cindy B. » Fri Apr 18, 2014 9:57 pm

Hey again, kewing.

I have a couple more things to share with you, but today my concentration and typing well are out the window. (Life with Cindy.) So please look for me again soon. Later!

:)


P.S. I use Photobucket for images that I want to post on the board, but any similar site will do.

Also, something here might interest you, I bet. PsyArt: An ONLINE JOURNAL for the PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDY of the ARTS (Peer-reviewed)
If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s. --Jung
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Post by kewing » Sun Apr 20, 2014 3:28 pm

PsyArt is indeed a worthwhile site, thanks.
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Jung's Typology Mandala

Post by Cindy B. » Wed Apr 23, 2014 7:56 pm

Hey again, kewing.

kewing wrote:...your "types mandala"...in terms of symbolic color...
Just as there are color systems based in art, science, and culture, color can be considered within a psychological context, too, such as Jung’s Types Mandala. “Colors express the main psychic functions of man” is a well-known Jung quote. He was referring, of course, to the four psychological functions common to all yet uniquely expressed by the individual and identifiable as a particular conscious type. Ongoing study and exploration of unconscious material, too, via dreams and art work of self and others plus alchemical studies led Jung to observe that from within the Western psyche, anyway, the unconscious tends to associate these colors--red, blue, green, yellow--with archetypal images representing the four functions and their processes: thinking and feeling (opposite rational processes), and sensation and intuition (opposite perceptual processes). Relationships between the four dominant functions and their auxiliary functions are displayed in this Jungian types mandala.

Image



Also, as an example of the natural development over time of ego and consciousness from unconsciousness, and inclusive of the psychological functions, is this from a post that I made elsewhere. (James and Andreas, recall the ego-Self axis, too. :) )
[In] reference to...developmental processes, the emergence of mythological ideation, and the inherited archetypal roots of the psyche that can be observed early in life:

Image

I apologize for not being able to provide the source for this painting; it's one that I've had saved for a long time, and it came from analytical psychology text of some sort. What the viewer needs to know, though, is that a three year old girl was presented with an array of fingerpaint colors and instructed to create anything that she liked. And I'm about to state the obvious for most here: the circle and the cross are basic archetypal images*, and the mandala, of course, is a spontaneous creation of the unconscious. This sort of mandala can be found in mythological-religious-spiritual traditions throughout history and across the globe, and this goes without saying, but no way, of course, was this young child privy to knowledge of such things. All I can recall of the girl's own interpretation of this painting is that it was "a picture of her." A Jungian interpretation also includes the mandala as an expression of Self or of the God-image, while the colors reflect the young girl's developing consciousness in terms of thinking (red) and feeling (blue) which are rational functions in Jungian typology.

*The five basic archetypal shapes include: circle, cross, square, triangle, and spiral.


Last, consider this painting by Van Gogh, for instance. If any have looked into his work, letters, or biographies, it will be evident that this painting is a reflection of his natural psychological type as feeling with intuition and including a volatile psychic life.

Image



:)
If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s. --Jung
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Post by kewing » Thu Apr 24, 2014 7:50 pm

Hmm. If Jung acquired data on this, then there you have it in terms of an observation of archetypal interest after the work is created. But when Van Gogh painted, can we say (and I don't imply that you are) that every one of his paintings reinforced the functional relationship of his psychology? And it lends another tilt to the question of what is meant by "opposites." Matter and antimatter, for example, demonstrate the idea of opposites cancelling each other out, as does the resulting neutrality (gray-brown) of mixing red & green or blue & yellow paint - the energy of each cancelled by the other. Whereas in Jung's functional-type mandala, everything within it, by way of it being circumscribed, is able to relate inclusively, blending just as your colorized version indicates, versus the perhaps axial push-and-pull or even neutralization that Campbell's cruciform diagram in The Mythic Dimension implies. In the end, archetypes interest me because they challenge the idea that everything (color value, etc.) is relative.

All good fodder, this color stuff and yet, to my original idea: what's in a drawing (which do not require color)? Why the emotion generated from that act? The idea of archetypes of shapes (and colors) lend something to the argument, but exactly what? I'm still intuitively, or perhaps yellow-y, vexed. Thanks again Cindy B. for the Jungianosity.
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Post by Cindy B. » Sat Apr 26, 2014 5:09 pm

kewing wrote:And what in particular is it about the act of drawing that makes the frustration so acute versus, say, even painting or sculpting?
I'm curious, kewing, about what led you to conclude that learning to draw particularly elicits "frustration so acute" as compared to learning new skills involved with painting or sculpture. I'm not so sure, in that it seems to me, anyway, that individual differences come into play here, and including individual learning styles and any inherited talent (or not) for artistic expression of these sorts. Thanks.

:)
If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s. --Jung
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Post by kewing » Sun Apr 27, 2014 6:08 pm

Hey, Cindy B., thanks for being curious. My tentative conclusion is intuitive - I keep poking at this topic because it keeps poking at me - and perhaps also I have the influence of having a twin brother who has all the visual artistic talents I completely lack, thereby exposing me to this interesting world (of visual artists) I would otherwise remain mostly ignorant of. So I have some evidence, but I'm only now trying to dig into it and sort it out. As such, I asked my brother - let's call him "Kev," about our topic and whether "fits of tears" were ever a part of his art-college days as a student. I also suggested that perhaps sculpture and painting were more intuitively therapeutic, even like child's play, whereas drawing might be technically or otherwise perceptually, in the success/failure sense, challenging:
I never experienced breakdowns in my classes as a student because I went to art school and everybody - in theory - was good at drawing to begin with, at least in a general sense. Most of the students I have now have never drawn before, other than as children, and don't consider themselves, nor care to to be, artists. (There is no prerequisite for Basic Drawing 1). Why do some of them care so much that they suck so badly? And particularly, why get so dramatic about it? I never threw a fit in Algebra 2 even though I was a C- D+ student and it was as frustrating as hell and even a tutor didn't help (only humiliated me further) but I never blew up or fell apart about it. But drawing is a different activity entirely, just as art is a different language entirely. I guess you could say math is a different language as well, but it doesn't reveal us to ourselves in the same way. Yeah, math exposed me to myself that I suck at it, but when these people find they suck at drawing, or have gotten better at it (again, just a percentage, not most) they get emotional, they "react".

You are right about sculpture and painting that it is more playtime I guess. But also I think most people don't expect to be good at sculpture or painting. I could be wrong about that. Maybe they don't expect to have to "see" the world in a specific way. Painting and sculpture - unless you're in a class that demands realism - seems to allow for a more interpretive view of the world at the most basic level. Most importantly, sculpture is also 3D, just like the real world, so there is no obstacle between seeing the 3D world and trying to replicate it in a 2D world (paper). Everybody can make a pinch pot in ceramics class. But it's mind blowing how many people can't draw that pinch pot with any sense of veracity. The simple idea that the circular shape of the bowl has become an ellipse is almost impossible for them to grasp. They want to draw what they "know". I try to teach them to draw what they "see". I think this is the difference - it's that difficulty of transferring one world into another that creates such frustration, and sometimes, shock and dismay. Why can't I see what others are seeing? Or, I "I see the world in the wrong way". If you make a student with no skill try to paint realistically, which is also transferring 3D into 2D, they don't get as frustrated - I've taught Basic Painting at Wayne and at Ohio U. They just accept the fact they suck at it in a way some can't accept when they draw. I can't explain that other than they either perceive painting to be the realm of only gifted, "real" artists so they don't expect much out of themselves, or maybe the playfulness of the medium, and maybe also the opportunity to rely on color as a crutch to distract from the lack of "correctness" in the draftsmanship relieves the tension. I don't know.

I have found many professional sculptors, or 3D artists, cannot draw either. Many of my teachers at Wayne who were sculptors could not draw, yet I could sculpt. Many people (not all) who can draw can sculpt as well. I find a weakness in sculptors as artists as many seem to have chosen sculpture simply because they can't draw, or see the world as I see it.

Ironically, a genius like Picasso was one of the few painters and draftsmen I know of who sucked at sculpture for a very long time, and remained, arguably, mediocre, or at least inconsistent, at it. Willem De Kooning was another. Picasso was jealous of sculptors as they could show all sides of a subject where in drawing and painting you have to choose which side to depict. This is why he (along with Braque) invented Cubism. He wanted painting to function in the same way sculpture does - he wanted to show all aspects of a subject at once. In this way painting could seen as superior to sculpture in a way as it was an instantaneously complete view of a subject - you didn't even have to move to see the whole thing. Show the profile with the backside with the front and top and bottom all at once. Picasso drew and painted what he "knew", not what he "saw". Genius, actually, as an adult. That's why kids, by drawing what they know, are really quite sophisticated - they just don't know it. The problem arises when as adults they want to draw what they see and can't. Some cultures, Inuits, Africans, Aborigines, for example, don't value this ability to see things as they actually appear. They are only interested in making images of what they know, or want to know about a subject. Today, photography has rendered useless the gift for being able to replicate things realistically. But we artists do it anyway and people still react to it positively. Quixotic? Not sure. But that is another huge ball of wax....

Again, ANYWAY, oddly Picasso struggled as a sculptor for a long time, and only ever really made successful sculptures when he started to take found objects like bicycle seats and handle bars and make them look like the head of a bull, for example. Which was less of a sculpture, and more of an idea. Matisse, on the other hand, his "competitor" in painting, was a brilliant sculptor from day one.
I find lots of compelling stuff in what Kev says here, not least of which are the mythic image implications, albeit mine, of creating what one "sees" vs. what one "knows" and whether either act can be seen as more or less mythologically significant, sophisticated or otherwise important? Of course the artist is free to cross back-n-forth across the realms of seeing and knowing at will, commensurate to his skill and inspiration. Kev has lent, I think, some credence to my intuition regarding drawing as an emotionally provocative activity (and I have to remember it's not always frustration that's expressed, as he's previously indicated) perhaps unique among the arts. The mythology of course speaks, as always, to the psychology, and here we are again at "what's in a drawing?" I have the sense of nudging my way towards something and I must say I appreciate your help. Here are some "quick" examples from Kev:
ImageImage
ImageImage
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Post by CarmelaBear » Tue Apr 29, 2014 7:24 am

I look at the drawings, above.

The seeing is an observation of experience.

The knowing is the dream.

~
Once in a while a door opens, and let's in the future. --- Graham Greene
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Post by kewing » Wed Apr 30, 2014 12:12 am

Indeed, C-bear. Thank you for tugging at the knot of this. Yet observation may take place in dream and dream in observation of non-dreaming experience; can they not interchange in this way? Can one person’s “seeing” be another person’s “knowing?”

So that, for example, (and this brings in the idea of context), the “see cup” and the “know cup,” the “see table” and the “know table” are bound to each other in a form of overlapping experience or expression; drawn (pun perhaps intended!) to each other (arguably by way of Jung’s functional groups) inclusively, synergistically and not in terms of pairs of opposites. Recall Campbell’s example of “framing” any collection of objects and thereby re-servicing or otherwise re-contextualizing them in the service of proper art. In other words, the artist can just as well draw the “see-cup” or the “see-table” with metaphorical intention and somehow open it, arguably, to transcendence, (at least within the cultures, as Kev has pointed out, that don’t disregard realism in their creative works – a compelling topic on its own btw). Likewise, the artist can render the “know-cup” and “know-table” observationally (I’d never say objectively), as Kev has, with earth-bound, practical, pedantic emphasis and context, designed to instruct and to demonstrate a technique, and not (at least intentionally) to reveal anything in a more mythological sense, by way of something much less than Campbell’s “aesthetic arrest” let’s say.

I’m pretty sure I’m risking a plunge into a mythological hole with this, a rabbit hole perhaps, and also maybe I’m just reiterating what better minds than mine have already worked out, so I’ll check myself up a little. By the way, thanks again C-bear & Cindy B., if you’re still with me, because my intention is not to lecture, not to hold forth (for what the hell do I know?), but to explore this stuff and you’re both helping me.

Northrop Frye, the renowned Canadian literary theorist whom I consider a contemporary of Campbell’s, (strange that these two never seemed to get together at all), nonetheless tips his hat to J.C. and tugs at the knot of our discussion when he writes in The Educated Imagination:
This story of the loss and regaining of identity is, I think, the framework of all literature. Inside it comes the story of the hero with a thousand faces, as one critic calls him, whose adventures, death, disappearance and marriage or resurrection are the focal points of what later become romance and tragedy and satire and comedy in fiction, and the emotional moods that take their place in such forms as the lyric, which normally don’t tell a story (CBC Enterprises: 1963, p.21).
It makes sense to me that where Frye uses the word “literature” we can substitute “art” (or the phrase “proper art”) because the aspirations of the creative language are the same in all the fields of expression. The artist, then (the one engaged in so-called “proper art”), renders, more or less expertly, masterfully or otherwise successfully, the expression of the world division – the window opening to transcendence, taking us up and past the metaphors – (as Campbell of course has so effectively described) and likewise he or she helps to shatter and reassemble us (or just shatter or just reassemble us as the case may be) and otherwise provide a means or guide for our psychic reorientation (in terms of Campbell), our individuation (in terms of Jung) or the regaining or reintegration of (in terms of Frye), our identity.

It’s worth pausing here to acknowledge that any competent artist will tell you they don’t do any of this on purpose of course – they’re not gods and the good ones never aspire to be; it’s an after-the-fact-of-creation kind of thing - it’s the boon we critics receive from the artist’s more or less demanding journey and adventure and our more or less receptive reception to it. Which is not to diminish, conversely, the effort nor impact of the creation, especially as the proper reception not uncommonly lags behind the proper art. For as Frye declares, “Literature,” (and here again I insert the broader idea of all proper art), “is a human apocalypse, man’s revelation to man, and criticism is not a body of adjudications, but the awareness of that revelation, the last judgment of mankind” (44).

We’re all critics, or can be, in Frye’s perhaps more egalitarian sense of the word, so that when we’re not bogged down in begin merely critical, merely adjudicative, we’re open to what the artist has to say, even if it’s not anything much or anything particularly compelling.
The reader or critic, then, has a role complementing the poet’s [artist’s] role. We need two powers in literature, a power to create and a power to understand.
In all our literary experience there are two kinds of response. There is the direct experience of the work itself, while we’re reading a book or seeing a play, especially for the first time. This experience is uncritical, or rather pre-critical, so it’s not infallible. If our experience is limited, we can be roused to enthusiasm or carried away by something that we can later see to have been second-rate or even phony. Then there is the conscious, critical response we make after we’ve finished reading of left the theatre, where we compare what we’ve experienced with other things of the same kind, and form a judgment of value and proportion on it. This critical response, with practice, gradually makes our pre-critical responses more sensitive and accurate, or improves our taste, as we say (Educated, 43-44).
It’s what Frye suggests an “educated imagination” does for us. And perhaps I’ve finally stumbled my way back into the classroom and the knot of our topic, tugged at today by C-bear: the problems of symbolic form and metaphor. Carveth, by way of Searle, (in an essay “Metaphor and Psychoanalysis…” from PsyArt – thanks Cindy B.!) suggests: “[J]ust as the schizophrenic is unable to think in effective, consensually validated metaphor, so too is he unable to think in terms which are genuinely concrete, free from an animistic kind of so-called metaphorical overlay" (p. 561).

I’m willing to abuse, as a psychological layman, the word “schizophrenic” by putting quotation marks around it and suggesting that we’re are all capable of behaving schizophrenically, or perhaps just neurotically. As such, when we’re in possession of an under-educated imagination, so to say, at least in terms of visual art, of symbolic form and metaphor that hasn’t prepared us for the possibly challenging task, for instance, of drawing a cup or desk as we “see it” versus as we “know it” (I’m pretty sure going in the other direction isn’t painful) we might find the experience apocalyptic and we’re beside ourselves, our controls overthrown by our neglected psychological functions, and I think we’re all understandably, temporarily at least, made a little crazy by the experience; our identity is, after all, threatened and we’re in an ontologically perilous situation perhaps. (Am I making any sense with this mish-mash?).

Anyway, I’m pondering whether the person unhinged by struggling to draw what they “see” instead of what they “know” isn’t also somehow stuck in the aforementioned animistic kind of so-called metaphorical overlay, indeed initiated by flattening 3D reality into 2D – the problem of perspective in draftsmanship – otherwise un-assuaged, as Kev suggested, by the comforts of color. Carveth illuminates some of this by way of his own citations:
If, in their metapsychological writings at least, Freud and his followers have frequently appeared to be in the grip of a metaphor of the mind as a steam engine or an electrical apparatus of some sort, Kohut and his students sometimes seem to regard "the self" - with its qualities of cohesiveness or vulnerability to fragmentation or disintegration under various circumstances - as something resembling a delicate ceramic artifact which may well have failed to harden properly in the kiln constituted by the early selfobjects. Such divergent guiding metaphors, particularly when literalized, are bound to significantly influence our ways of approaching our patients [or perhaps students!]: one may occasionally take a hammer to a machine, but seldom to a piece of fine china, particularly if it is already cracked.
And yes, I think it’s funny and a lighthearted relief to allow the informal use of “cracked” here as a metaphor for students and anyone else suffering significant but temporary, non-life-threatening duress – no permanent harm done (I hope) and no insults intended (this rant of mine could certainly use some more humor). If attempting to draw what we “see” invokes psychic disorientation, emotional apocalypse and temporary disintegration of the self – the smashing of our cup, so to speak, whether already cracked or otherwise - and, conversely, thankfully and at least occasionally evokes aspects of personal reintegration, re-assembly and reclamation of identity by way of assaulting one’s apparently habitually rigid metaphorical thinking, intuition, feeling and sensation (stay with me here), I hereby ask if drawing, therefore, is a method of running the dream, that is to say the metaphor, backwards, like rewinding a film clip and approaching life, fascinatingly, astonishingly and informatively so, from some sort of other (but not necessarily opposite) direction and dimension, namely that of monochrome 2D? If we’re asked to draw what we “see” in a mirror, for example, what would happen? I’m guessing those of us who can’t draw would rely on what we “know” and still make a mess of the assignment.

Kev, like many visual artists, occasionally makes an effort to draw sculptures; that is to say, he sits down with his drawing materials in front of a sculpture, classical or contemporary - what have you - and renders it as a drawing, an illustration. He has his reasons and they are perhaps another interesting discussion. To me, this sort of activity doesn’t seem particularly odd (artists have always learned by copying the masters), until one begins to ponder the idea of creatively rendering a work of art – a work of creativity – creatively, so to say. The sculptor looks at the world and “sees” and “knows” and creates his piece. Then another artist comes along, somebody like Kev for instance, and draws that piece, “seeing” and “knowing” what he himself “sees” and “knows.” Thereby doing exactly what to the original work besides producing a 2D snapshot of sorts?

ImageImageImageImageImage

Naturally, as Frye suggests, we view these images directly and pre-critically on first observation, then consciously and critically, commensurate with the aptitude of our educated imagination. Campbell, in “Mythological Themes in Creative Literature and Art,” leans on the aesthetic architectures of Joyce (proper art is “static,” improper, “kinetic”) and Aquinas, established through the perception of “wholeness,” “harmony” and “radiance,” as a basis for critique (Mythic Dimension, p.235), reminding us of the magical way archetypal images are washed clean of their baggage of meaning when we “re-experience” and not “reinterpret” them. Which compels me to ask, Does anyone else see a goddess in the abstract image?

Anyway, what is Kev doing to the sculptures? Is he reinterpreting them? Is he copying them? Is he simply, as C-bear perhaps suggested, rendering an observation of his experience when he draws what he “sees”? Or is he rendering what he dreams, what he “knows,” at least a little bit? I insist there is more to these illustrations than draftsmanship because they are compelling in their own way, even though Kev might tell me otherwise – he might just call them practice or auto-therapy, or honing his skills for other, as he says, “more creative” work. And what happened to what the sculptor dreamed or “knows” by the way? Or what if Kev asked his students to draw drawings of his drawings, which are drawings of sculptures – to illustrate his illustrations – would students have any easier time of it? I certainly wouldn’t....
kewing
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Post by kewing » Mon May 05, 2014 10:34 pm

Ouch, my brain hurts: Orthographic Projection, Hyperspheres, Impossible Objects & 3-D Mandalas - Fits of Tears Continued:

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A representation of the process of stereographic projection, the above image is a work published originally in 1613 (François d'Aiguillon "Opticorum libri sex philosophis juxta ac mathematicis utiles" (Six Books of Optics, useful for philosophers and mathematicians alike), Anvers, 1613) by Rubens.

Continuing with the theme of “Symbolic Forms and Fits of Tears: What’s in a Drawing?” I have these concerns:

1) So-called Euclidian space and especially the idea of so-called high-dimensional spaces: what are we referring to?
2) The implications of the unsettling nature of so-called impossible objects and by extension the perhaps equally unsettling experience, for some of us, of negotiating between two-dimensional and three-dimensional objects when we draw: the challenge of transforming what we “know” into what we “see,” which in the most dramatic cases can result in a fit of tears. What energies are we dealing with and how?
3) The mandala as a compelling demonstration of projecting (or perhaps imbedding) higher-dimensional (higher than two-dimensional) concepts (cognitive intuitions) in two dimensions, e.g. Time, Veritelos-space (v-space), Mystery-space, Spirit-space or Mythology-space. So that what we “know” about a two-dimensional mandala is somehow accessible by what we “see;” in other words, how the mandala implies more by way of less, so to speak.
4) The arguably more complex (and therefore arguably higher performing) three-dimensional mandala and its questionable ability to indeed add psycho-spiritual or psychological or personal mythological value. First, because a 3D mandala (as a form of sculpture, for example) is very difficult to create and secondly, because it’s not clear that additional information is presented over and above its two-dimensional counterpart; thereby reinforcing the compelling nature and potentially unique power of flattening, and in an arguable sense concentrating, higher-dimensional – hyper-spherical – “images” into two dimensions.
From the modern viewpoint, there is essentially only one Euclidean space of each dimension. With Cartesian coordinates it is modeled by the real coordinate space of the same dimension. In dimension one this is the real line; in dimension two it is the Cartesian plane; and in higher dimensions it is a coordinate space with three or more real number coordinates.

Once the Euclidean plane has been described in this language, it is actually a simple matter to extend its concept to arbitrary dimensions. For the most part, the vocabulary, formulae, and calculations are not made any more difficult by the presence of more dimensions. (However, rotations are more subtle in high dimensions, and visualizing high-dimensional spaces remains difficult, even for experienced mathematicians.)

Below is a 2-sphere wireframe image as an orthogonal projection:

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Note: Orthographic projection (or orthogonal projection) is a means of representing a three-dimensional object in two dimensions. It is a form of parallel projection, where all the projection lines are orthogonal to the projection plane resulting in every plane of the scene appearing in affine transformation on the viewing surface.
Spheres can be generalized to spaces of any dimension. For any natural number n, an "n-sphere," often written as S^n, is the set of points in (n + 1)-dimensional Euclidean space that are at a fixed distance r from a central point of that space, where r is, as before, a positive real number. In particular:

S^0 : a 0-sphere is a pair of endpoints of an interval (−r, r) of the real line
S^1 : a 1-sphere is a circle of radius r
S^2 : a 2-sphere is an ordinary sphere
S^3 : a 3-sphere is a sphere in 4-dimensional Euclidean space.
Spheres for n > 2 are sometimes called hyperspheres.
Impossible objects:
An impossible object (also known as an impossible figure or an undecidable figure) is a type of optical illusion. It consists of a two-dimensional figure which is instantly and subconsciously interpreted by the visual system as representing a projection of a three-dimensional object.

In most cases the impossibility becomes apparent after viewing the figure for a few seconds. However, the initial impression of a 3D object remains even after it has been contradicted. There are also more subtle examples of impossible objects where the impossibility does not become apparent spontaneously and it is necessary to consciously examine the geometry of the implied object to determine that it is impossible.

The unsettling nature of impossible objects occurs because of our natural desire to interpret 2D drawings as three-dimensional objects. This is why a drawing of a Necker cube would be most likely seen as a cube, rather than "two squares connected with diagonal lines, a square surrounded by irregular planar figures, or any other planar figure." With an impossible object, looking at different parts of the object makes one reassess the 3D nature of the object, which confuses the mind. Impossible objects are of interest to psychologists, mathematicians and artists without falling entirely into any one discipline.
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Necker cube (left) and impossible cube (right).

As additional examples, Waterfall, 1961 by M.C. Escher (left) and the Penrose Triangle (right) are demonstrations of so-called impossible objects:

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Escher’s lithograph shows an apparent paradox where water from the base of a waterfall appears to run downhill along the water path before reaching the top of the waterfall. While most two-dimensional artists use relative proportions to create an illusion of depth, Escher here and elsewhere uses conflicting proportions to create a visual paradox. The waterfall's leat (artificial watercourse) has the structure of two Penrose triangles.


Mandalas:

We’re most familiar with two-dimensional mandalas (left), although three-dimensional mandalas have long been created for perhaps just as long (before the advent of computer technology):

Image Image

Below are two examples of orthogonally projected (three-dimensions represented in two), computer-designed mandalas, which perhaps demonstrate an advantage over the sculptural mandalas by way of their semi-transparent, spherical nature:

Image Image

I’m compelled, then, to recall my concerns (3 & 4 at the introduction of this post) regarding what, if any, additional informational value is provided by a mandala otherwise rendered in three-dimensions (orthographically or as a sculpture). Intuitively, I find the three-dimensional images no more compelling than their two-dimensional counterparts and, in fact, they can arguably be said to obfuscate the cognitive-structuring – the metaphorical power - of the 2-D versions. For example, in the case of the above computer-designed images, if one were to draw the left-hand image flattened orthographically, the image would be rendered aesthetically and metaphorically (mythologically) far less compelling as all the information so to say is piled on top of itself (this is a side view):

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Alternately, discarding the requirements of orthography and thereby freeing us to unfold, as completely as possible – Picasso-style, so to say – the same image, without regard to any Euclidian correctness, what we “see” into what we “know,” we’d get something spread across the page (the 2-D plane) more or less aesthetically, commensurate with the talent of the artist, with all the information previously imbedded in the 3-D version , as Kev has said, available all at once. After all, whenever we change our perspective towards a 3-D object – walk around a sculpture for example – we lose as much information in the visual field as we gain (how much cognitive hyper-dimensional accumulation occurs in our heads when we “process” or “map” a 3-D object in this way is another matter).

So, this is at least one indication as to the mythological, metaphorical power (and perhaps cognitive challenge for many of us) of rendering what began as higher-dimensional images into two dimensions. For if we live most often, at least visually, in a 3-D world, we’re indeed missing a great deal of information available to us. The artist, then, when he or she draws, unfolds, more or less compellingly and perhaps unsettlingly, hyper-spherical reality, so to say. In the most compelling, unsettling examples, we are therefore captured in aesthetic arrest and we are either released into a kind of expanded wholeness or shattered and forced to look away or psycho-spiritually regroup. I’m reminded of Arjuna’s difficulty, in the Gita, in withstanding the terrifyingly complete aspect of Krishna; requesting as he did that Krishna mercifully return to his human aspect.

All this only serves to address the predicament of transforming hyper-dimensional space into 2-D of course, still begging the question of why it appears psychologically easier to paint it versus draw it. Is there is something in the geometrical rigor of drawing that is perhaps assuaged by all other mediums?

Regarding impossible objects: it strikes me that while their unsettling nature doesn’t preclude our sort of back-n-forth apprehension of them, so that we’re capable of existing at least somewhat comfortably within the perceptual paradox of them – allowing both their fact and illusion to exist at once – it indeed can prevent or otherwise hinder our ability to reproducing these images, to draw them. Everyone can “see” and “know” the paradox, but not everyone can reproduce it graphically. There is the talent of an Escher, say, or any other capable artist, to “see” not only what they “know” but what they imagine is the case, what they dream, which in this sense is absurd. Surrealists capture the absurd contextually most often perhaps, while leaving it to others like Escher (below is Drawing Hands, 1948) to capture the geometrical absurdities capable of human cognition.

Image

I’m left even more impressed with the cognitive ease with which some artist’s minds transmit to their hands what for many, if not most of us, is an impossibility. What orthographical cognition takes place and then, perhaps just as remarkably, is successfully transmitted to their physiological extremities (hands of course, but some otherwise physically handicapped artists can draw with a pencil in their mouth or between their toes) that does not in the non-illustrator? Or are they successfully eliminating information where the non-illustrator cannot? Is drawing what one “sees” a process of elimination or perhaps an ability to segregate two aspects of perception, two aspects of knowledge of the world; two forms of communication? I’m also left fascinated by the magic of two dimensions; its ability to absorb and effectively render hyper-dimensional space; of how explanatory it can be, how helpful, psycho-spiritually, psychologically and therefore mythologically, in the form of mandalas, for example, not to mention all other 2-D art. Rather than being made obsolete, so to speak, by three dimensions, 2-D seems as vital as ever to our experience of the world. Why is it for example that people seem to prefer movies – a 2-D experience - over theater (or even over so-called “3-D” movies)? Is there some value-added “magic” added to the experience in 2-D? How much of the appeal of 2-D is based on contextualization – of selection of perspective, say, on behalf of an artist – and how much is based perhaps on the all-at-once visual field advantage – the immediate optical availability of the information?

Citations: Euclidian, orthographical and impossible object technical information via wikipedia.org; graphics via wikipedia.org except computer-created 3D mandalas & 2D side-perspective viakyuhashim.com; Rubens illustration in the public domain.
zoe
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Post by zoe » Tue May 06, 2014 12:51 am

Just as there are color systems based in art, science, and culture, color can be considered within a psychological context, too, such as Jung’s Types Mandala. “Colors express the main psychic functions of man” is a well-known Jung quote.
You might find Kandinsky to be of interest.

http://ekaterinasmirnova.wordpress.com/ ... dinsky-44/
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Post by CarmelaBear » Tue May 06, 2014 12:47 pm

kewing...wow!

8)
Once in a while a door opens, and let's in the future. --- Graham Greene
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