The creative process in people with mental diseases

“Still Life with an acquarium” by a schizhphrenic artist Bruce Doyle

(Bruce Doyle
Still Life with Aquarium, 1988)

This work involved a multi-staged printing process and a high degree of organizational skills, suggesting the work was created with a relatively calm state of mind despite the artist’s diagnosis of schizophrenia. This highlights the problematic nature of correlating artworks to an individual diagnosis, rather than understanding them in the context of the artist’s precise state of mind at the time.

The creative process in the case of people suffering from mental diseases perhaps reflects the state of their minds .But not in all cases. In the above case the painting does not show any unusual or abnormal perceptions of reality.

When you look at the painting you get a feeling that the perception of the artist is no different than any other person’s. There is a certain order which is instinctively felt within a normal person when he sees a similar arrangement which we may call “normal” and any deviation from this arrangement may result out of a distortion of perception. On the first look one does not feel that any distortion has taken place .For example there is just one chair but four cups and the chair is out of alignment with the width of the table.But this does not mean that no conscious desire is in evidence to reproduce reality .For the sake of verisimilitude the handles of the three cups are made visible from the angle from which the picture is laid out and one cup’s handle is turned the other side making it invisible in this perspective.There are four fish in the aquarium ,all of which are swimming in the same direction as they do in real life.

Let us see how the artist has dealt with the problem of space within the painting.This is not a surreal painting where distortions from real life take place in the way objects are laid out. The depth of field is indicative of the relative spaces between objects as they are seen in real life. For example the size of the aquarium is less relative to the size of the flower vase giving one the impression that the depth of the location of the aquarium has not been adequately built in the space.

But all this does not mean that there are perceptual errors arising out of the mental state of the artist.A perfectly “normal” artist may choose to do away with detailed scale-mapping of the objects. So there is nothing in the painting which would suggest the working of a person with a mental health problem.


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