Blue-sky thinking, finding the inner you; if you look up ‘creativity’ on the internet you’ll be bombarded with sites to help you get in contact with your creative potential. I blame Joseph Beuys, that modern art guru of fat and felt, who claimed “everyone is an artist”. Now we all feel we have something to say. But do we? Of course Beuys didn’t mean everyone has the potential to be a Picasso. Motivated by utopian beliefs, culled from Romantic writers such as Novalis and the anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner, he believed in the power of universal human creativity to bring about revolutionary change. The psychoanalysts had a slightly different take. Hanna Segal saw art as an expression of the depressive position and the task of the artist as the creation of the world. Great art could be defined by how well it created another reality. In this world the artist mourns for lost relationships and experiences that have given meaning to life. Segal cites Proust who, on meeting some long lost friends, saw how frivolous they’d become. Realizing that his former world no longer existed he set about re-creating that of the dying and the dead. Art, therefore, becomes a form of mourning, where loved ones are given up in the actual world and re-created in an inner one.
Melanie Klein took these ideas further. For her art was a form of reparation for destructive infantile rage against the abandoning mother. While for the psychiatrist Anthony Storr reflective solitude was an essential component. The cliché that genius is akin to madness is not so far off the mark. Artists, particularly poets, are known to suffer from a high rate of depressive illness. So no, creativity is not about ‘blue-sky thinking’ but about destruction and loss, transformed into art through the arduous creative process.
Sue Hubbard recently published ‘Adventures in Art: selected writings 1990-2010’ (Other Criteria). Join The School of Life’s Eureka Tour on Saturday 25 June. Visit The School of Life at www.theschooloflife.com/weekends