In this article, we begin a series on the exciting collaboration between depth psychology and art. What results from this collaboration is greater than the sum of their parts. I am working intensely in this area now with abstract artists.
Why abstract? For two related reasons: 1) The Images created by an abstract painter, for example, do not depend on memory or perception — they come from the deep interior, from the symbolic, archetypal realm. 2) And so these symbolic images can be loaded with the psychological and spiritual power to heal and transform us and the world we live in.
Abstract art is ancient. In essence, it is ageless, as is its Mother — the Imagination — the source of the Images that animate human life. We all have a wired-in need to create and be enlivened by the Imagination and its Images. Unfortunately, today, this need goes unrecognized and unsupported.
The earliest human Images, some hundreds of thousands of years old, do not represent outer reality; they symbolize the goings-on within the human mind and heart. An abstract prehistoric rock drawing from India has been dated as far back as 300,000 to 700,000 years old. And a “younger” abstract work of art, a drawing of England’s oldest art at Cresswell Crags, is estimated to be 30,000 years old.
Western art, particularly Renaissance art, yet created realistic-looking images, and in time, representative outer art became mistaken by many for art itself. The church banned Images other than those depicting the Trinity, and artists depended on church patronage for their livelihood and so conformed to the church’s views. As public funding replaced church funding, artists became more free to follow their uncensored Imagination. And abstract Images came forth freely once again.
Throughout history, varying levels of abstraction have been more the norm than representative realism. The latter in part resulting from attempts to chain the Imagination to fixed views and dogma, including the view that material reality is ultimate reality.