This paper explores the way representational images can be used as a symbolic visual language and can be a means of integrating conscious and unconscious thought. Artwork and creative narratives are constructed in a way that is similar to dream-construction by the unconscious mind, which is by association and not as a linear or logical narrative.
While the term representational is sometimes confined to art where the artist’s primary aim is to represent accurately in paint that which the eyes perceive, the purpose of this paper is to look at the way figurative images can also present ideas. The unconscious draws its images from the physical world, then manifests itself in the things we make in the world. Representational images can be projections of our mental processes, and our psychology is embodied in the things we create
Freud, Jung, Fromm, Bergson, Bettelheim, Lakoff (and others), have explored the nature and use of this symbolic language in dreams, metaphor, and unconscious ideation. This symbolic, metaphoric and essentially pictorial language is common to dreams, fairy-tales, myths, and art in all its forms. I will explore this symbolic visual language, particularly as it relates to artistic creativity and imagination.
The house or home is a common dream image that can be seen to represent the emotional and psychological aspects of the psyche. I will look at the way the house can be contextualized as an act of portraiture, and at the way this image is used in film and in contemporary visual art practice, as a means of exploring the self or psyche. The basis of this idea is outlined in Gaston Bachelard’s influential text The Poetics of Space (1969). By looking in depth at the metaphors and associations around the house image, I will attempt to elucidate the many ways that a recognizable concrete image can expand and deepen our understanding of complex emotional, psychological and metaphorical concepts.
The works of Edward Hopper, Gordon Matta Clarke, Do Ho Suh, Rachel Whitread, Yayoi Kusama, Gregor Schneider, and others are discussed in relation to this central metaphor. I will also consider the way the house metaphor underpins the works of surrealist painter Rene Magritte, and the contemporary German painter Neo Rauch.
The global house metaphor throws up many interesting relationships, unresolved dualities and complex actions involving the self such as facade and interior, public and private space, attic and cellar. Building a house can be analogous to the construction of the self, and actions like cleaning, renovating can be seen in relation to remaking the self. The home’s sites of interface: doors, windows, stairs, and hallways, can be seen as a way of exploring ideas around transforming, balancing, synthesizing relationships between internal and external narratives; between the private world and the world of the other; between understanding and expression and between the conscious and the unconscious self.
Finally, I consider cultural tropes of leaving home, seeking home and the hero’s journey in exploring ideas around the search for meaning and the quest for the authentic self.
Catherine Kennedy is a painter and installation artist who lives and works in Sydney and the Blue Mountains, Australia. Primarily a practicing artist, Catherine also teaches adult art classes and works with Sydney University engineering faculty on the Creativity in Engineering program. She enjoys taking part in the cultural exchange of artists’ residencies and recently returned from a residency in Uttarakhand, India. Additional interests include the nature of the creative process, psychology, philosophy, and metaphysics. Catherine recently (2015) completed an M.F.A. by research at UNSW Art and Design. Previously she gained an M.Art from the College of Fine Arts (UNSW) and a B.Art (Ed) from National Art School/Alexander Mackie CAE, Sydney.
Catherine has exhibited extensively, been a finalist in numerous art prizes, and her work is held in private collections worldwide.