In some ways this book has been written from a position of isolation; not just in terms of having to redefine what might be meant by ‘aesthetic’ and ‘psychological’ against the grain of current preconceptions, but also in the sense that the constituency I am appealing to seems as yet barely visible. I caught glimpses of it in the work of the London Convivium for Archetypal Studies, begun by Noel Cobb and the late Eva Loewe, with its passionate insistence on the links between art, beauty and soul-making; but sometimes this felt too elegant, too well composed. I knew that I was looking for something else; something inarticulate and anarchic that also refused the all-embracing edicts of psychoanalysis. The benefit of this is perhaps a degree of independence from any particular school of thought; the drawback, that some of my own ideas may seem a bit too speculative or unformed.
However, a glance at the contents will show that certain writers have been sources of excitement and challenge to me: Anton Ehrenzweig, James Hillman (in person as well as on the page), Jean-François Lyotard and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. I would also like to salute a recently recognised kindred spirit, James Elkins.
Much of the material in this book derives from teaching the MA in Art and Psychotherapy at the Centre for Psychotherapeutic Studies, University of Sheffield. I am grateful to John Henzell, my collaborator on this course, and above all to the students who over half a dozen years encouraged me and helped me further my thinking before the course was closed down. I also owe a debt to Linney Wix and the art therapy students at the University of New Mexico, who invited me over to talk about psychological aesthetics in 1996. I have also learned a great deal from the patients I worked with earlier as an art therapist in Broomhills therapeutic community.
Other friends and colleagues who have encouraged me or helped me in my thinking, sometimes without knowing it, include: Iain Biggs, Neil Bolton, Peter Byrne, Roger Cardinal, Clayton Eshleman, Angela Heskett, Sean Homer, Howard McGoneghy, Michael Edwards, Michael Ginsborg, Simon Lewty, Stephen Newton, Michael Podro, Genviève Roulin, Rita Simon and Michel Thévoz. Clayton Eshleman and Gregory Corso also need to be thanked for their kind permission to reproduce their copyright material.
Last, but most important of all, I would like to acknowledge how much I have been formed and nourished by the experience of painting, both as an artist in my own studio, as a workshop leader and as a visitor to all kinds of museums, galleries, exhibitions and studios. In a very real sense painting has kept me alive.
The publishers acknowledge permission to quote from the following copyright source:
‘The Circle of Styles’, by Rita Simon, reproduced on p.94, from The Symbolism
of Style: Art as Therapy (Routledge, 1992). Reproduced by kind permission of
the Author and Routledge, London.