Emotional Integrity in Art
How we view and react to art says a lot about ourselves, and how we create and present our art says a lot about who we are and what we stand for (our values) as artists.
I wanted to write a blog about emotional integrity in art because I feel sometimes on a personal level and in general, art that expresses a raw emotion- be that anger, sadness or overwhelm for example, is often interpreted as art that doesn’t have self awareness or wisdom in it, and is say, naïve. Furthermore, it may perhaps be considered to have been created by someone with mental illness or spiritual illness. Although the latter may be true, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there isn’t emotional integrity, awareness of self, a positive and strong spiritual element or wisdom, in the work.
I have personally experienced judgment, including of my mental state, and questioning of my integrity, based on artworks that I have made in the moment that helped me process feelings and difficult emotional states. I made this work intuitively as a form of therapy for myself, and I consider it deeply personal, but I usually feel willing to share deeply personal work. I did consider whether or not to share it knowing that it may or may not be interpreted as brave, real, "normal" or healthy etc.
The thing that comes to mind in this instance that I’ve been reminded about in various therapy sessions, is that my shadow side (referring to Carl Jung’s assessment of the human unconscious/dark or negative aspects of self) is similar if not exactly the same as most other people’s. Yes some people “do the healing work” more rapidly and consistently than others, some people aren’t doing it at all, but that doesn’t mean that all these people don’t share the same shadow aspects in some way. Another little point I want to slip in here is that you can't judge or hurt another person without hurting or judging yourself. Most people are yet to understand let alone integrate this concept.
Also, it is a feature of the shadow side of a human being to think that you are ahead of somebody else spiritually and emotionally speaking. Visual art in particular painting and drawing, which are very kinaesthetic and tangible mediums to use, offer an extraordinary outlet for the processing of the shadow side i.e. painful emotions, negative thoughts and so on. What matters the most is the congruency between what a person is feeling and thinking and how they are expressing, for example, if you’re holding a lot of feelings down by masking it with a people pleasing behaviour (I did this for years and am still working on it) you’re not in alignment or congruent within yourself. Other people can feel this, and they will experience it in your art whether that’s painting, drawing, music, whatever.
I’m not desiring to come from a place of defensiveness here, I’m aware that it could seem like that, and maybe in some way, I am in defence of art that is real and raw and truly showing what’s going on in an artist’s heart. Yes it can be hard to look at or listen to art that is raw and real, and delivered directly from person’s emotion, but I do want to pose
the idea that a response may or may not be revealing something about you as the viewer - in the process of looking at it - such as taking it in, shying away from it or judging that person/artist.