Personal Myth, Collective Dreaming
Roz and I have been working together to try to fully understand the process that her art making has taken.
We decided to use a method found in Carl Jungs writings called Active Imagination.
I will talk more about this later.
My involvement in this exhibition is, at Roz's request, to approach the exhibition from the position of dreams.
The difference is that Roz came to the table with images, not from her dreams, but from a collection of scrap books, works of art in their own right. Images that she had chosen from magazines, the internet, and wherever she could find what she was looking for. These images were powerful images that expressed her feelings, her introspection and yes maybe her dreams.
Her decision to do her Masters and choosing the subject, not surprisingly, was influenced by the scrapbooks. She talked about making different houses which would express different aspects, then different houses became many rooms in one house, and then lastly the stage set, the theatre across which the different archetypes, characters, crossed this stage.
So the first strong archetype, is the house, the symbol of the psyche.
The Grand Entrance
In contrast to the grandeur of the front of the house, the back is simple and cottage like
And it was here that we decided to use active imagination to access this wealth of material, this rich imagery.
Active Imagination is not passive fantasy. "Passive fantasy is day dreaming. It stays passive fantasy as long as we don't enter into it, when we don't engage with the images, when it becomes repetitive until eventually they exhaust us or are them selves exhausted. There is no evolution because the ego never confronts the fantasy situation or enters into it as a conscious independent force. "Robert Johnson.
"The essence of Active Imagination is your conscious participation in the imaginative experience. It is active because the ego is prepared to go into the inner world, walks and talks, confronts and argues, makes friends with or fights with the persons it finds there.
You consciously take part in the drama (here we see the relevance of the stage sets, the reference to theatre).
"When Active Imagination is done correctly, it pulls the different parts of you together that have been fragmented or in conflict; it wakens you powerfully to the voices inside you; and it brings about peace and cooperation between the warring ego and the unconscious." Pg 141 Inner Work ..Robert Johnson.
When we do Active Imagination things change in the psyche. The relationship between the Ego and the Unconscious is altered. Robert Johnson stresses "it sets us off on a path toward wholeness, toward ones' larger totality, simply because one has learned to enter into communication with the inner self." Pg 142
This description of what Active Imagination involved for us gives a context to the art Roz is sharing with us.
The House in the Forest
Another thing that is important to know is that Roz has a diploma in Transpersonal
Psychology. She did her training with Barabara Somers and Ian Gordon Brown at the Institute for Transpersonal Studies in the UK .
So we have someone here who is not a stranger to doing inner work, Who ties her art in with the inner journey, who is comfortable with the idea of Ego and the Unconscious and dialogues with all the symbols, and archetypes that appear in her dreams. Remember Archetypes comes from the collective Unconscious, and are common to all people. We share, as the human race, archetypal images and while this is true, there is also an individual and uniqueness about the archetype that appears in each of our dreams. Attached to these archetypal images are invariably strong feelings, in fact it is the strong emotions that inform us of their importance for our transformation in life.
The paintings of the forests is where the house is situated. The forest itself an archetypal symbol. Joseph Campbell says "we enter the forest in the darkest place", but Roz reminds me that her forests are not dark places. She happily enters these woods (her British roots and experience give this noun). The light comes through the trees, and it is a journey and an exploration. Barbara Somers, in talking about the forest reminds us "that the journey through the forest is about the hero on the quest, he is heroic, questing towards the light, day and night and consciousness,. BUT the feminine is the journey itself. What is the journey of our people...it will be there in our story. What is the nature of our own journey?
The feminine is the road: she is the trees on the way, the rocks, the water we cross, the path beneath our feet. ......the feminine is everything that draws us towards the dark night, the moon and the stars...the unconscious, all that's receptive and can act as a womb to the past." Like all fairy tales amazing things can happen in the forest. And guess what....Roz discovers the house an archetypal image of the psyche. If you look carefully into her forest paintings you will see some of the hidden images in the trees. This is not just texture, these are images she has encountered in her house, almost a prelude of what is to come. (Ask Roz what she did to achieve these hidden images).
James Hollis in his book "Through the Dark Wood" describes this journey as finding meaning in the second half of life and provides an essential map for traversing the universal challenges of midlife, such as building genuine relationships, cultivating a mature spirituality, and letting go of old beliefs that no longer serve you. He says "the second half of life isn't about looking for easy answers, it's about exploring the questions that bring richness and value to your life."
And then we see the house .....her description of the house is detailed, the grandeur of the entrance, the door, the black and white tiled floor of the hallway, the staircase.....
The Old Wise Man
The Stick Man
The Young Girl
As we walk into Roz's house and encounter the people, The Old Man, the Stick Man, the young girl, we take time to engage with them, to ask why they are there, what do they have to say to Roz and what do they want from her. The Old Man becomes the Wise Old Man bringing wisdom that Roz needs as she engages with the images in the house (the psyche). The young girl, for instance becomes the young Roz, who needs to have some of her needs met, she encounters afresh her relationship with her own daughter and aspects of her mother and the mother daughter relationship. She takes the opportunity to re-parent herself and in subsequent encounters with the young girl in the house we find her happier, fulfilled and creatively occupied.
The image of the winged feet, Hermes the messenger, accompanies Roz through the forest. It represents the transition between the conscious and the unconscious ,
Now the house and all it's drama brings Roz into touch with a childhood fascination with Theaters, stage sets...a story being played out, being birthed, with rich images, symbols, beautiful people, ......
Look into these stage sets.....besides the amazing construction, drawing and collage, we see images and symbols....ALL of these are what she has encountered
as she has walked through the house. No wonder at some stage she said, " I have to stop.....there is too much here. Let me express the art waiting to be birthed, let me slow down and enjoy the images...."
Act 4. Shows a rabbit....this isn't ignored but is researched by Roz. I too did my bit of research and was fascinated to find "the diffuse light in which the rabbit reveals itself, it's ability to easily vanish from sight and it's lively antics have made it an embodiment of alchemy's Mercurius, the elusive, informing spirit of the psyche that can bring together the mortal and immortal aspects of self." And did you know "the great mother goddess in her maternal aspect is sometimes depicted with giant rabbits, standing beside her, emblems of fertility and rebirth, later woven even into Christian mysteries as the Easter bunny with his basket of colorful eggs."
Robert Boznak in his book Embodiment describes his work with actors and uses this method of Embodiment, for them to embody the character they are playing, the effect of this to present the character with greater authenticity and vitality in the final production. He suggests that on working on a piece of art, such as a theatre performance, we can dream by proxy FOR the work of art. In this context, we take the dream as dreamed by a character in a play, (in Roz's case in her art), the painting on a canvas, her stage sets, The characters in the house; a storyline ....the dream that visits us is not FOR us, it is for the work which uses us to birth itself." Thus suggesting that the dream dreamed Roz as much as Roz dreamed the dream....the painting painted Roz as much as....the stage set plays the drama as much as Roz lives the drama.
Look at the title of this exhibition:
PERSONAL MYTH, COLLECTIVE DREAMING
James Hollis in his book Tracking the Gods - the Place of Myth in Modern Life
says, "Myth takes us deep into ourselves and into the psychic reservoirs of humanity. Whatever our cultural and religious background or personal psychology, a greater intimacy with myth provides a vital linkage with meaning, the absence of which is so often behind the private and collective neurosis of our time. EXPRESSED IN ITS MOST SUCCINCT FORM, THE STUDY OF MYTH IS THE SEARCH WHICH CONNECTS US MOST DEEPLY WITH OUR OWN NATURE AND OUR PLACE IN THE COSMOS. No more central issue confronts us collectively and individually. "
Roz thank you for sharing this journey with us, connecting us to our personal myths, opening up possibilities for our own art and inviting us to enter our imaginations with the same sense of risk and adventure.
Robert Johnson. "Inner Journey"
Robert Bosnak "Embodiment , Creative Imagination in Medicine, Art and Travel
James Hollis "Tracking the Gods - the Place of Myth in Modern Life
Barbara Somers with Ian Gordon-Brown " Journey in Depth - A Transpersonal Perspective"