As mentioned in the coursework it was encouraged to do the Introduction to HE course. Here I expected to learn more about important concepts and practical techniques.
My Starting point:
I chose the Documentary film alphabet, from the Austrian director Erwin Wagenhofen. I did not chose a well-established art practitioner at this time. First, I already wanted to see this documentary, and secondly I wanted to see how the reflective writing and research concepts from this course works for me.
This documentary review the unique capacity in human being for imagination, divergent thinking and creativity. Those are capacities a human has already since birth. Playing is a key activity in learning that leads to new experiences. When we connect to the talents within ourselves in a pressure-free environment than independent thought and growth can happen. According to the film, unfortunately in today’s education systems the economic power dictates standardized approaches and answers. Children lean formula, they function like a machine, and they are living an exhaustive and fearful life. The documentary encourages the viewer to rethink their attitude towards current educational practice. One key example mentioned is the approach of Arno Stern of this invention of ‘painting play’ (‘Malspiel’) that enables children and adults in a safe environment to express themselves in spontaneous and vital painting manner.
Reflection & relevance to my own work:
After reading the first pages of the drawing course material, I found amazingly a few keywords matching from the documentary that I can take along on my further studies:
- Imagination / Creativity / Energy of vitality / Playing / Experience / Expression
I can see that drawing is also a kind of exploring the world in a playful way, making marks, leaving traces, discovering new experiences. With free flowing and moving strokes I can feel the vitality of the action of drawing. As those keywords seem to be also key elements of this course, I wanted to do a deeper research on them to discuss possibly new areas.
I selected one journal and two books for this: An article in a German weekly magazine about Arno Stern (2008) and the ‘painting play’, a book of the psychologist Daniel N Stern (2010) on ‘Vitality’, and a book from the art theorist and perceptual psychologist Rudolf Arnheim (1974) on ‘Visual perception’
Arno Stern (2008): ‘Malspiel’ (‘Painting Play’)
In the safe environment of the studio ‘Malspiel’ (‘Painting Play’) children (also adults) are getting in close contact with themselves. The leave traces on paper in a spontaneous and unintentionally way. The process of painting has a healing effect. A Stern found out that children in early years discover the world with a specific visual language that is true across cultures in the world.
Daniel N Stern (2010): ‘Vitality’
Vitality is to be seen as a Whole (according to the ‘Gestalt’ approach -psychology). It is a dynamic experience and unfolds in five elements: Movement, Time, Force, Space, and Directionality. ‘Each art form identifies for itself dynamic forms and invent marks in order to achieve and translate a desired vitality.’
Rudolf Arnheim (1974): Growth and expression
In the growth of children visual perception develops in a specific and general way. Drawing is a behavior of motion and therefore is a timely activity. The picture-making in early years develops from simple shapes to complex ones (‘Law of differentiation’). And the perception develops from a general to a specific approach. At the beginning drawing happens purely in a two dimensional picture plane. The contour line is the boarder. The flatness is a ‘unspecific and undifferentiated state’.
The artist captures the nature and the meaning of objects and translates these into a pictorial form with his own visual language and conception.
The expression – in the context of the book it is not self-expression – is an ‘inherent characteristic of perceptual objects’. The expressive qualities of an object – or as a special case of a human being – are the means of communication for the artist.
Important key concepts I learned and can use for my future work:
- Playing is an experience for learning. Imagination and observation for expression
- The visual language that an artist will use in a reflective way to translate his perceptions and conceptions into a picture. This develops over time and flatness in the picture plane is an undifferentiated state
- Only with the artistic visual perception, complex structures can be established
- The dynamic forms of vitality that unfolds in 5 elements (movement, time, force, space, directionality).
- Objects have expressive qualities and the artist needs to translate and to communicate that into a pictorial form.
I could practically experience some of those concepts, especially the dynamic form of vitality, while doing in parallel the temporary drawing exercise. I can see that the artist need to learn perceptual and conceptual skills to be able to translate the meaning of nature and objects into a meaningful pictorial form.
- ALPHABET [documentary]. Erwin Wagenhofer, pandora film, Austria/Germany, 2013. 109 mins. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3215346/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
- SCHMITTER, ELKE. DAS ALPHABET DER MENSCHHEIT (THE APLHABET OF HUMANITY). DER SPIEGEL. 23/2008. PP-172-175 http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-57223356.html
- STERN, DANIEL N. (2010) FORMS OF VITALITY: EXPLORING DYNAMIC EXPERIENCE IN PSYCHOLOGY, THE ARTS, PSYCHOTHERAPY, AND DEVELOPMENT. Oxford: OXFORD UNIV PR., UK. PP. 3-17,75-81
- ARNHEIM, RUDOLF (2004) ART AND VISUAL PERCEPTION: A PSYCHOLOGY OF THE CREATIVE EYE. 6TH ED. Berkely and Los Angeles: UNIV OF CALIFORNIA PR., USA. PP.162-217,444-461
At the beginning it was not quite clear to me which topic I address and how to continue the research trail. What helped me was note-taking while watching the documentary and while reading the literature. Writing down keywords and concepts, sometimes citing what I saw or read. Summarizing my learning and short reflections on what I can take for my own work helped me to conceptualize from the experience so far. With mind-mapping I could visualize better what I learned and where I can focus my further research. I chose what is most relevant to me and the course aims. I looked up those keywords either through internet searches of through my own literature that I bought earlier in the context of my interest in art therapy. At the beginning I was overwhelmed by the options for research, but I did take the decision to focus on three to look deeper.
The complete research trail took me about a week to accomplish. Perhaps I was too much into reading different sources. Next time I think I would chose a well-established art practitioner. However, I do not regret what I did. I learned quite a lot and I think I can use it for my future work.
In parallel during the last days I started with the temporary drawings and I felt that this was quite a good complementary activity. I could practice and embed the learnings within the context of my research. I am really looking forward to continue with the next exercises and my further research points. In summary this introduction course was very helpful, time consuming, but now I got more insight on research techniques and writing reflectively on my learning experience. I will return to this material for future reference