Capsule Books - Interview - arthousevk.com
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Capsule Books – Interview

ArthouseVK and a boutique publishers from Melbourne, Capsule Books are collaborating on the next issue  Curatorial Volume.3, Leaders in Contemporary Art

Whilst the next issue is still in making Veronica talked to the editors of Capsule book about her next project Outsights dedicated to the emotional stories and struggles Veronica came across during her career as a psychologist and how fine art has helped her and her clients to deal with rather complicated situations. We could not resist to share a few extracts from the engaging interview.

 

Hi Veronika, we’re looking forward to talking with you today and finding out about your work. Please can you introduce yourself and tell us how your relationship with art began?

I grew up in a small town. I remember how jealous I was of my classmate who had attended local art school, the only one we had in town. It seemed to me as something impossible and unreachable. I was even afraid to tell my parents that I wanted to learn to paint. Art seemed divine and untouchable.. Then life took over: university, family, kids, work. I was so overwhelmed that my only connection with art were the books of reproductions that I used to buy anytime I had a chance to. Eventually the priorities started to change and I realised once again that I wanted to paint. My first passion was aquarelle painting.  For a few years I’ve been fascinated by the transformation of colour on a paper. It was a hypnotising experience and I could dedicate hours and hours to it. The teaching of Anthroposophy really helped to shape my understanding of light and colour. I got inspired by the teaching of Steiner schools where instead of focusing on reflection of the image, the kids learn about art through focusing on the emotion of colour, movement of hand and ability to capture forms. This method permits the freedom of creation and establishes connection between the inner state and image on canvas. Eventually I started to share my experience with my students and during art therapy sessions. At some point I found myself curious about oil painting. It was truly “love with the first sight”. I love everything about oil painting- the smell, consistency, the density of colour. To this day I am in awe of the lifecycle of oil on canvas.

Your career as an artist and a psychologist led you to your latest series, ‘Outsights’, that documents your use of art as a means to communicate the stories and experiences shared by 20 clients you have worked with over the past 15 years. Can you explain where the idea for the project came from? 

During the lockdown, as most of us, I lost the ability to travel, to move and to work. I didn’t want to put my clients under unnecessary risk of infection. On the other hand I didn’t want to run therapy sessions online. It is important to me to see my clients, to spot the least noticeable reactions. So I found something I’ve always missed – time. Time to be with myself, to reflect on my life, to understand who I am.

It’s not a secret that psychologists are subjected to professional deformation, partly from the emotional experience and empathy that remains on a personal side that gradually deforms the understanding of the world as it is. Eventually all the issues, insecurities, phobias that people share become a new normality. Which is why I passionately took advantage of the solitude and dedicated myself to art. I could finally reveal all my worries through art. Project “Outsights” has a double meaning to me, on one hand it is about isolation, on the other hand it is about observing and processing my own feelings, situations, memories.

Through the series of this works I hope to transmit the positive idea of being alone, ability to grow through admitting and understanding yourself.

Each piece in the project describes a different scenario, can you share the background to a couple of your favourite pieces? 

My clients come to me with their stories that are often tragic or heartbreaking. Sometimes they return after many years not being able to move or detach themselves from their issues.

One of the most common subjects is the relationship between parents and children. The origin of an issue, in my opinion, is related to the lack or excess of attention within a relationship.

I often hear from women “I hate my mother” “She ruined my life” “She never loved me” “She annoys me with excessive attention, she should have cared for me before”. The closest people so connected to each other turn into enemies.

Once I talked to a woman who complained about her teenage daughter for being too chubby, not pretty enough. Or women would complain about their mothers not being as cheerful and active as they used to be.

There was a teenager from a family with many children. She stopped eating in an attempt to attract attention from her parents.

Another common subject, of course, is loss and how to deal with it. There was a man whose son was murdered. He locked himself in his grief, his life was on pause as he focused himself on a monotonous, exhausting and useless job.

There were refugees. Living a trauma of escaping a war, a person often divides life in two. The real one that remained in the past and the forced one, a fake one, a transitioning one-that is commonly the only reality. During the sessions quite often a refugee would return back to the condition of fear, awaiting for another escape. It is difficult in such circumstances, for a person to get a fresh start.

In any problematic or difficult situation a person instinctively would try to escape but quite often instincts create a pattern of thinking. A person can easily force him/herself into a dead end, like a fly in spider web. And the harder they, try the harder it is to get out.

I think that “Outsights” is about the intention of a person to get out of the problematic situation.

 

Your job as a psychologist has seen you incorporate art therapy as part of your client’s treatment for over 15 years. Can you share a memorable experience of how art therapy has benefitted a client? 

People tend to get confused about the role of psychologist. I am not a doctor, I work with healthy people. In fact, in my daily work I don’t really ‘treat’ people,  I help them to resolve the questions they come to me with. I support them by taking a subjective but active side. I try to be very non-intrusive and allow people to make their own decisions and therefore take responsibility for their actions.

I really enjoy using a ‘spontaneous drawing’ technique developed by Betty Edwards. In 15 minutes (15 sketches) a person can resolve a problem with very little external intrusion. Usually on minute eight, a person can find a visual resolution to the question. After that all you need is to translate the conclusions into a rational plan.

It is quite common for a person in a difficult situation to form what is called “tunnel thinking” , to form one and usually not the best way out, and the greater desire to resolve the problem, the more likely it is for a person to repeat the patterns that complicate the situation further. When we draw, we give ourselves a chance to look at the problem from the outside, from a different angle, transform the way we understand the problem and therefore find alternative solutions.

One of the memorable cases I had was related to fear of exams. A young man constantly failed any form of examination, even though he was very well prepared. He drew himself rolled in a carpet. Then drawing after drawing he released himself of it. He graduated university with excellent grades.

I have noticed that women that find themselves in complex situations tend to draw themselves as young girls. Through transformation of the drawings from a child to an adult helps to realise that age gives resources and possibilities to look at the problem from another angle.

A young woman, very skinny, saw herself as an infertile beast which she revealed in her drawings. Through adoption of a human form we could discuss sensitive subjects such as maturity, sexuality and then move onto projections of the future and ambition.

There was a man who for almost a decade could not choose between two women, he would live with one or another and wasn’t happy with neither. His drawings of women brought this situation to absurdity but that helped him to accept the reality.. He did make his choice in the end.

Everyone has a ‘wish list’ of projects they would love to participate in, is there a dream commission you would like, or an area of interest you would like to do more work in? 

For now I am just curious to see how we will evolve after almost a year of isolation. How would 2020 affect our ways to interact with each other, how would affect families and children, whether our understanding of relationship and communication would reform? We are on the verge of a new life. I would like to be creative about that. I would like to dedicate more time to graphics. A line has a strong power of ‘pre-verbal communication’. I would like to grow in that direction.

The full interview is available here

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