Jung and the Arts in the Champernowne Studio
Making and looking at visual art, and the opportunities in the Champernowne art studio.
Art can be defined simply as the expression or application of creative skill and imagination, especially through a visual medium. Amongst C G Jung’s many attributes, he was a dedicated draughtsman, painter and sculptor. For Jung painting and art-making represented an engagement with the unconscious, and a central feature of his individuation process.
In Jung’s Liber Novus, the Red Book, there are a great number of Jung’s paintings, and these illustrations have contributed to this becoming such an astounding best seller… the eye is drawn to colour, design, and symbol.
Whatever form a visual image takes, whatever medium it is made in, it is symbolic because art is a medium of the soul. By conscious effort, sometimes by struggle or sacrifice, and trusting chance (which is the unconscious) the artist or maker may either turn outwards to examine and depict the world, or may turn inwards to engage with their own sensations, emotional and feeling states, and intuitive imagination, or do both simultaneously! When we make an image, we make a container for that experience. What the maker preserves in aspic, so to speak, is the material outcome of those fleeting experiences, transforming them into sustaining and orientating qualities; so making art is a healing activity, helping us to become more complete in ourselves.
Art expression emerges in the meeting place of two worlds, between the flatlands of rationality, and the sublime realm of the divine. Freely playing with art materials (in abundance at the Champernowne studio) provides that space or meeting place, where the symbol can materialise through visual imagery. It offers a way to win back the sacred, so that we are not isolated in narrow rationality. In art we can sometimes glimpse the radiance of the divine. Art-making opens the way to our own true nature, and through looking thoughtfully the viewer may find a way to their own nature too, and transcend ego boundaries. We can return to the ocean of being and be restored. Similarly by looking at art in tranquillity, our need for non-rational experiences of transcendence can be met, so that we can glimpse what Wordsworth calls “home”.
All sorts of art methods and techniques can be used to express our inner world, on paper or other materials. In the art studio at Champernowne for instance, the opportunity is given, simply to play and explore. Whether making art, or looking at art, it is good for the soul, and opens access to what Jung called the mythopoetic realm of the unconscious. In CW6 Psychological Types, Jung mentions Schiller’s theory of the “mediating aesthetic function” and “the aesthetic disposition”. Jung suggests this might equally well be rendered “religious devotion”, calling it equivalent to our “symbol-forming activity” or “creative fantasy”. He says “the creative mind plays with the objects it loves” and the play instinct is the long-sought “mediatory activity” or “mediatory creative state”.
At Champernowne the art studio is a quiet haven, for the private dialogue between each of us and the materials before us; through looking, day-dreaming and mark-making, or clay-modelling, we can work out something of who we are. If lucky we can expand our self-awareness, visualise our dreams, and depict our demons. By the attention of our imagination, we can animate the image before us. Art points to something alive – that is its paradox. Jung called this doing “active imagination”.
Such art-work is the serious expression of those journeying on the path of individuation, as markers conveying the dimensions of the individual soul and its connection to the collective unconscious, to the archetypal realm, and to the natural world as metaphor. Out of the darkness, via the art, comes forth light, and shadow, and colour, and form,and image, and meaning.
Lindsey C. Harris