Keele University, Theme: Critical Stories, 2017

Visualising Unspoken Narratives: Examining Experience Through Reflexive Art Practice

Association of Medical Humanities

In the face of a harsh economic climate and increasing clinical pressures there may be little time and space for creative reflection. In my art practice and in my capacity as an art psychotherapist the use of art-making as a place for expressing, containing and reflecting on subjective feeling states has been fundamental to my practice. This offers an invaluable space for containing uncertainty and ‘not-knowing’ and for connecting me to aspects of experience where words may fail to give form and meaning, both for myself and those with whom I work.

The materials, processes and products of art-making occupy ‘as if’ and ‘what if’ spaces that operate between self and other, objective and subjective experience, simultaneously holding multiple layers of meaning. These offer scope for imagination, wondering and speculation which, in turn, may provide surprising insights into unspoken or unthinkable aspects of experience that lie beneath the surface of conscious awareness. As a form of documentation which captures sensory, subjective experience, the material and aesthetic qualities of an artwork has the potential to ‘affect’ and ‘reflect’ for many years after its making, offering differing perspectives and ongoing opportunities for examining our relational selves, broader aspects of the human condition, and the socio-political, economic and cultural contexts in which we live and work.

Drawing on examples from art psychotherapy and my own art-based research and practice I explore the use of reflexive art-making processes as a way of examining and understanding experience through an investigation both by and of myself.