21 August 2015

Psychology - Artists/Musicians

Long story very short - I am about to start an Msc Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. Lot's of reasons, naturally, but it turns out to be a progression rather than a leap to the side, and I fully intend to take my art practice with me and out the other side. In psychological features and reports there are always studies where they use classical musicians - psychologists seem to bloody love musicians because their brain activity and responses are so defined and differentiated form those who are not musicians. I can well understand that - the mathematical basis of music, the repeat practising, the training to learn, remember and perform. In fact I started off training as a classical musician myself, and I still know what it did for me, brainwise.

However, although they may well be more diverse, I am interested in the artist's brain and response. I haven't looked much as yet as to what studies have been done, but I start off from a place of believing that artists too have a particular set of responses, and I have ideas to develop and explore about that. Vaguely something to do with an external locus in interpreting the world to self. In other words, an artist has to remake an aspect of the world externally, through making or whatever their practice is, in order to then reinternalise it and thus understand it. Cognition requires this process of breaking down and building up.

The point is, surely, that musicians and artists are people too, and many non musicians/artists go through similar cognitive processes.There is too much overlap between people to separate them out - we all have a relationship to art and to music.

I make art partly in order that I may then see aspects of the world through the lens I have created. For example, I have worked with clouds a lot, and cannot separate my views of them now between nature imitating art and art imitating nature. I always look at clouds and find a parallel between what is in the sky and photographs I have taken, moving image I have made, paintings I have seen, and future artworks I imagine. I look at the cloud artworks, and imagine the places I have been, the cloudscapes I have seen, the feel of wind and atmosphere, the sense of the time. It's inextricably interchangeable and interlinked. This is such a necessary joy for me. It's the same process with trees, puddles, water, bottles, bricks, shadows, windows, and so on.

I feel a life's mission to capture and recapture these reinterpretations, to make new forms for my understanding, to be able to identify and build a library of what it all is, how I see things, and how it all points to what I call meaning. Another great pleasure and joy is that this is shareable and somewhat transferable - in other words, I can share these things with an audience so that they can have their own experiences of meaning through this mechanism or lens. Each artist has a lens to offer - it may take a life to define that lens. It's a necessary joy because that is what culture is and how it is shared - I take in other art and music created by others, and select and add to my repertoire. I create my own art which I show and offer to others. What a marvellous exchange.

The reason I know that this is so necessary is because it is not an unproblematic exchange. That is mild way of saying that it is an enormous set of frustrations and challenges, unhappinesses and difficulties in approaching anything near an equilibrium. Developing and maintaining an art practice, going through the gauntlet and exposure of art education, trying to forge a career while making a living and family life - I know too well these things take artists beyond the edge of their resources in every way. So why, what drives artists to make art, what makes it so necessary, and so uncomfortable to stop.

From here I imagine that there may well be common indicators for artists as there are for musicians. I know anyway about the common experiences, frustrations and joys of artists, which may be a place to start. Such research, when it happens, may of use both to artists and non artists, because everyone shares some creative compulsion and goes through similar processes of frustration and realisation of projects.

21st August 2015