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Jung's Relationship To Art - It Was Never About The Finished Product

Jungian psychology has a strong emphasis on art and how the psyche both develops and responds to it. In the commentary of 'The Secret of the Golden Flower', Carl Jung says “It is as if we did not know, or else continually forgot, that everything of which we are conscious is an image, and that image is psyche”. This fluidity of thought aligns with the importance of accepting a creative outlet. While all forms of art are critical to the development and expression of the psyche, it’s visual art where we most see Jung’s relationship with art.

The Quest For Self Revelation In The Personal Unconscious

For many years, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung sat around the same fire and the personal unconscious theory is one of the many things the fathers of modern psychology have in common. For Jung, repressed memories played a big role in the development of the psyche and releasing these memories was critical to overcoming the turmoil they caused. In many instances, art was a critical means to an end and even for Carl, therapy often meant taking to the canvas to unravel the hidden parts of his mind.

Jung had a theory that the collective unconscious played a role in psychological development as well, and that a virtual image forms part of every human being at birth already. This image is a picture of ancestral and latent memories of the ancient past. For Jung, visual representations of the psyche were instrumental in understanding the various responses people had to their environment and this meant that some responses relied heavily on these latent images. Images that often related to these thoughts included mandalas, surrealism, and abstract art. Today, artists are still inspired by the collective unconscious where their art is concerned.

As A Form Of Balance

The artistic experience is the constant back and forth between the completion of the expression and on the other, the artistic expression is incomplete and devoid of meaning. As a psychologist, Jung experienced the glorious task of unraveling his psyche on a canvas and with that the opportunity to self-analyze. As an artist, he experienced the misery of not being able to fully capture his thoughts and the constant striving for perfection became part of the personal voyage of self-discovery. The ability to fully capture thoughts on canvas does not always come naturally and often further artistic study and practice are required.

The Artistic Impulse

According to Jung, art had no meaning. What the artist strived for in the process is artistic meaning, which has a far greater consequence to the psyche. The artistic impulse was often likened to a sort of madness that the impulsive artist simply couldn’t ignore, and through the development of the art facets of the psychological condition experienced temporary relief in the abandon of the artist.

While Carl Jung often encouraged his patients to paint, it was by no means as a judge of their work or character. For Jung, it was that personal voyage of discovery as the colors and forms took shape on canvas for the patient that assisted in the breakthrough.

~Jane Sandwood
Freelance Writer

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