For many artists, the “what-to-paint-dilemma” is, at best, haunting, and at worst, it threatens to derail our creative pursuits altogether. Gleefully, I have found answers and inspiration in one of the unlikeliest places—in what Carl Jung calls a “confrontation with the unconscious.”
In letting go of conventional methods of thinking about what to create, my experience has instead led me to surrendering to a process that can best be understood as an excavation of sorts—a diving into the depths that characterize the unconscious. Here, of course, describing the process becomes tricky, murky, vague—in other words, precisely what we encounter as we plumb the depths of our selves and our psyches for inspiration.
Once again, Jung, himself an accomplished artist, offers clarity and even validation for a process which can be at once daunting and ecstatic: “I…can affirm that one can paint very complicated pictures without having the least idea of their real meaning. While painting them, the picture seems to develop out of itself and often in opposition to one’s conscious intentions.”
For me, the result of this process– that is, my artwork– is not necessarily abstract, but my creations are often dream-like, in that they may be interpreted to reveal aspects that surprise and inform about the Self, the Unconscious, the Divine and their interrelationships.
Elie Wiesel has observed that “An unexamined dream is like an unopened letter from God.” My corollary to that is that whenever I avoid creative self-expression (by not prioritizing studio time, for example) I am, in effect, hoarding—or squandering—these unopened gems.
The optimistic side of this is that by allowing my creative process, and then sharing the results, I, as an artist, am opening a channel for others to access that inspiration which is inherent in the art.