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how are artists affected by using dreamlike symbols?

Hi this isnt a dream as such, but I was just wondering, as an artist, how using archetypal and dream like symbols in your own paintings would affect your subconcious? If you are familiar with symbolist art you will recognise what I mean. They are not neccesarily symbols from dreams, but symbols connected with beauty and nature, or also similiar to symbols on 'primitive art' which are 'totemic' and encourage something to happen.

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Re: how are artists affected by using dreamlike symbols?

oh wow claire, this is a big thing for me!!! i'm a lifelong artist, and around 20 years ago came to realize that my serious compositions were personal symbols, or my non-verbal understanding of my reality which pushed itself into my conciousness. i could talk forever about this, but will keep a lid on it somewhat for this forum...

(check my posting from a few weeks back, "dream images stuck in my real world")

i'm not familiar with your term, 'symbolist art,' but will look it up. however, i would like to share my thoughts with you on personal art symbols in my life. by the way, you might really be interested in schlepping through Rudolph Arnheim's "Visual Thinking," R.L. Gregory's "The Intelligent Eye," and John Berger's "Ways of Seeing". i would be happy for any recommends you might have.

20 yrs back, in an art group in london,ontario, i noticed the group director was giving my works some thoughtful eyeballing. of course, i thought it was because i'm just so good...but one day he looked at a self portrait and said " i like the detail in the room." later he made other comments, and i realized that he was 'reading' my paintings. this guy was really a 'door opening up' for me. the detail in the room was metaphorically the new details in my life, and i was in front of a mirror, doing some reflecting, etc... since then i've never looked at my paintings without 'translating' them; what are they saying about my current state? and i find that as time passes i get quicker, because at first i had to think about how they realted to my feelings. now i'm pretty quick at it, even as i begin to paint. and yes, when i've had some very depressing compositions, and i read them, i toss 'em babe. i dont go to those ugly places. in that sense i manipulate my life with those symbols. i read 'em, realize what i'm doing to/with/about myself, and then let go of that. yes, i think it really works for me.

some compositions, as i'm sure you have experienced, seem to 'speak' to me more than others, and compel me over a period of time to paint them, because they won't go away. i've come to understand that these are strong messages from my subconcious/unconcious? language.
for example, i have done a series of paintings of my daughter over the years, and as i looked over them it was like a journal: the images of her i felt compelled to paint were really expressions of myself. one of these was of her contemplating in a cross-legged pose, and in an X composition with a round table behind her, on a square shaped canvas. in western symbology, circles=feminine, square=masculine; the X comp reflected to me a crossroads, decision to be made; and i added a long pheasant feather in her hand. this was a few years before i left my long term marriage, and reflected some deep soul searching for me. thats just one example.

another i've recently done was of her descending stairs; the painting i did of that compostion (which demanded i paint it) morphed the steps into water, which she reaches down into towards a golden orb. behind and above her is the sky, framed by lush and non-representational flora, which include two very amorphous faces (which could be friendly or threatening). i have begun a story about this painting at the suggestion of a friend; and another painting i've started of my daughter going up the stairs has her placing the orb in the sky. to me this is a resolution of the first painting, which i see as the beginning of both a quest and of discovery.

so, your interest was how arranging symbols might affect the artist? "descartes error" (another good read by neurologist antonio damasio, about a decade ago?) rewrites the famous rene descartes line 'i think therefore i am' with 'i am, therefore i think'; that is, our mind doesnt support our body, our body IS our mind. our senses perform concept formation before the info is fed to our brain per se (this is arnheim's contention, also, in'visual thinking', but he notes that he is only exploring one sense, and that the same could be argued for all of them).

so our eyes take in a ton of information that we do not process because we dont need it all and cant absorb it all, and we are organisms geared to survival with minimum and efficient effort. so our eyes sweeping our personal landscape 'read' quick and dirty what is essential to our personal survival. theres a lot more to it, but i understand it as recognizing forms (as an artist, i sub 'composition') in the landscape. the forms that are important to us are fed to our brain for further processing. however, we know that sometimes we can turn quickly because we 'sense' perhaps a snake about ready to strike--we can call this premonition or we might say that we have this information in the ton of stuff our senses relay to us but which we arent aware of having become, well, aware of.

i believe that dreams/art/music/nonverbal communication are like dream catchers, they sift through and catch the extra knowledge that we have, the nonessentialtosurvival knowledge, and re-place it in our conciousness in a nonverbal form. as artists, i think we catch that 'premonitional'/too much to deal with in a quick and efficient way/ extra knowledge, and translate it into one of the senses which can better handle it, becuase its introduced to a non-overloaded intake....and i think our manipulation of the symbols is connected to our understanding of them, and yes affects our lives.
(okay, getting there and thinking how much i'll have to edit here...)

the pics of my daughter which are becoming a story: i am pushing myself to complete both the paintings and the story, but i am exploring them as i go. they simply are, and i'm trying to uncover them as i go. however, by uncovering them and revealing them, i am learning about myself (trite but true). i feel that i'm rending that famous veil that hangs between our mortal knowing and nirvana, or maybe cleaning up that mirror which we look through darkly. when i am done with them, i will be in a different place, which has already been opened up for me. how well i choose the compositions, the attributes of the paintings, the information and background i choose to include, will determine how completely i 'see' this peripheral conciousness i have of this situation.

if you check my post on 'dream images stuck in my real world,' it goes in a different direction but same idea. i 'know' something in my subconcious which my concious for some reason cant verbalize (because we associate 'verbalize' with 'know', which as arnheim notes 'is not the case'). i've spent the summer with my bedroom (attic) torn apart as i reconstruct it. 'you make your bed, you lie in it'. ditto my clothes, lying about everywhere; i am unsure of my image, its changing. so i had the final 'composition' of the room in mind, just dragging my feet. so last week i laid the last bit of flooring, put away half of my clothes and tossed a bunch, and have a basically finished composition/room/dream image--i equate them all equally, because my images have come to bleed in and out of dream and physical world, as i learn to read them better.

simultaneously, i'm in the throes of finding a new career and changing a long term relationship. did the impending changes in my life drive me to change my physical world, or did the unhappiness with my physical world cause me to rearrange my life? i'm not sure. maybe they feed each other. i'm not sure, but i'm positive they are interwoven.

i am sure that the symbols in my art and in my life are intertwined. its like sometimes i cant see all the landscape, because its not neccessary to my everyday survival; but my subconcious has all this info that is nonverbal and which when it is laid out in front of me tells me about all that extra knowledge that my senses have picked up on. this is probably also partly due to the way i was raised, often pushing feelings and realities into the background. however, it was always an ambition of mine to be an interpreter and my interaction with symbols also stretches to literary interpretation.

your post also makes me think of a term, not totemic, which means that an object 'calls to you', vs. you being attracted to the object...but maybe totemic is another way of framing it.

thanks so much for your post, i havent discussed this much with other artists. what do you think? am i way off of your query?
sincerely, p.t.

Age & Gender & Location {Required}: 56; Plymouth, MI

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Re: how are artists affected by using dreamlike symbols?

actually, doesnt feng shui (sp?) address this? rearrange your environment with universal symbols/visual compositions and it improves your well being. even though you might not conciously understand why, unless you've studied feng shui, the recreation of your environment is perhaps archetypically understood on an unconcious level and resolves some blockages in your life.

Age & Gender & Location {Required}: 56; Plymouth, MI

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How Did You Find the Dream Forum? not before this one!

Re: how are artists affected by using dreamlike symbols?

Thanks for your well-informed and detailed response!
It will take a while for me to respond to it all, but I will try, piece by piece...

I have read "ways of seeing" and similiar texts whilst an art student. I tend to read less whilst working (I am a teacher) but now Summer holidays have arrived (yaah!) I have more time to contemplate and 'feed' and restrengthen my own intellect and understanding, after giving to others.
I always find in the summer holidays that I move away from language, communication etc and that side of my brain/self and focus more on the 'artist' persona and non-verbal imagery and communciation.
However, as I am posting loads on here at the moment and using much language thats maybe a paradox in itself lol!
I also read your post about organising your living space etc and agree with Gerard that what you do to your own room/house etc (which symbolises you) probably needs doing in real life.
I'm currently in the process of selling a small flat and buying a bigger house in another area, so goodness knows what they symbolises!



Re: how are artists affected by using dreamlike symbols?

great, i have my own issues with houses, and also find summer is rightbrain season. feel free to respond to my personal email. p.t.

Age & Gender & Location {Required}: 56; Plymouth, MI

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Re: how are artists affected by using dreamlike symbols?

Hi Calire and PT

I am not an artist as conventionally described, but I do view my everyday work (mostly) as art ,,, what is 'art' ,,, for me how we life, and behave, and what we 'create' in the broadest sense are our expressions of what / who we are - we are always revealing and portraying our real Selves ,, if only we and others could see / read the script.

Is the question, how do our own symbols affect our subconscious? I think it is like a positive feedback loop; 'seeing' something external that manages to express what is inside sets up an inner harmony ,,, and we feel in sync

Great topic for discussion
Enjoy
Justin

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Re: how are artists affected by using dreamlike symbols?

Justin - think you've got the point right there - yes it seems to be a loop. I search for beautiful things, but also find beauty in 'ordinary'things the more at peace with myself I am...

Re: how are artists affected by using dreamlike symbols?

Also, Justin, do you think visual syncronisity
works in this way>?

Re: Re: how are artists affected by using dreamlike symbols?

Hi Claire

wow - you have a knack for asking the big ones ,,,
Is there a difference between visual synchronicity and other synchronicities ?
My feeling is that we only see the tip of the synchronicities that are happening all the time in our world. If we could see through the eyes of the Divine perhaps we would see the overall patterns.
Destrcution / death as returning home; and offering the potential for a new expression of Divinity.

I'll keep my eyes peeled
thanks for drawing my mind's attention to these things
Justin

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Re: how are artists affected by using dreamlike symbols?

I agree Justin, maybe we only 'see' what we are ready for at the time?
Any more thoughts on syncronicity from anyone?


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