Art as most of us know is creativity and beauty. But beyond that is an intrinsic and subliminal value that is embedded in art. Thus art and the practice of art is also seeking to connect mankind with the essence and meaning of life and existence; it seeks to entrench a sense of harmony and the attainment of inner peace. Art is able to heal us all and our entire society.
After all, the whole man-made world is art. The buildings all around us - architecture of course being a fine art; the motor cars and the likes; textiles and fashion wears, etc. Take a look at the landscapes and skylines created by man. And of course – nature, the art of God; they are all works born out of creative thoughts and imagination. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s dictionary of current English defines art thus: The creation or expression of what is beautiful, especially in visual form. Beauty and creativity have therapeutic essence which gives rise to mind and body equilibrium.
It is important to go into these details in understanding art in its entirety, in order to fully appreciate its usefulness and relevance in the act and process of attaining wellness. But in the first place, what is the function of art? Art being as old as man, has always therefore been functional, be it for its spiritual core value, social or domestic, etc. But embedded in all of these, is its untapped great and hidden power to heal. Now, let us take this from the perspective of colour application and colour psychology. Colour, be it in painting, design or sculpture, etc, is used to enhance or beautify a work of art apart from being a medium of expression.
For a better grasp of this artistic essence, we shall delimit this discourse to the analysis of painting and colour. Thus before any colour is applied or used at all, the artist as well as most ‘conscious’ persons would understand the fact that there exists warm and cool colours, as well as neutral colours. There are also combinations that will turn out to be hot or cold, violent, rioting, noisy, and even harmonious. Colour usage also can result in balance, heaviness or lightness of mood, as well as the depiction of temperament and character, etc. Sometimes we react to colours or certain pieces of art works without knowing it. We know quite alright that we are feeling something but not knowing what, or why.
We can actually feel heat or cold physically, or even an alteration in the state of mind, due to colours we see around us. Most people would for instance reject the idea of having their rooms painted red or black. If anybody does otherwise, you would want their head examined I suppose. One would want to ask why this is so? Why do most men refuse an all bright red outfit, for instance, unless of course they are engaged in professional entertainment or showbiz? But ladies will gleefully act on the contrary, and it is normal! In fact a baby was known to have cried out hysterically when placed in a room painted with a strong RED; while we also know an all black surrounding can as well evoke a sombre feeling.
The above cited situations are just diagnostic bits and analyses that could be used in the approach to touching and affecting the human mind. Leonardo da Vinci once said that “the eye is the window of the soul”. He was here explaining the basics involved in artistic expression as well as perception. Thus, I would advance also that since a window is an open channel, it follows therefore that the mind could also be positively or negatively affected by what is thrown into that window through artistic expressions or visual consumption as it were.
The great psychoanalysts, and surrealists spearheaded by Salvador Dali and others, have been known to carry their experiments far enough as to compulsively work on the mind of people. But these have not necessarily been by any conscious efforts or arrangements perhaps. Sometimes it entails the adaptation of the researches carried out by the fauvists who emphasise just the juxtaposition of colours, with less regard for composition.
Dali and his colleagues would rather employ forms and objects of visible reality in a smooth rendition, to relay to the viewer a Freudian dream picture. Let us also consider the researches into the possibility of psychosomatic structural changes in animals and human beings, with a view to ‘altering’ their behavioural pattern. Here, we can look at the works of Viktor Vasarely for example. I even believe also that sometimes the works of the artists themselves would also probably affect them too!
The renaissance great masters also did utilise this wonderful attribute of art, also again rather unconsciously or loosely; and in collaboration with their patrons and, or clients which was mostly the church, they also inculcated this practice. The church I dare say could have been aware of what they were doing. Examples of these are evident in the grandiose religious paintings and sculptures of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, etc. These works depict the life of saints, teachings and doctrines, injunctions and visions. The solemnity and grandeur of these works alone, against the backdrop of classical hymns and Christian anthems, I think were enough to deliver healing.
By Morgan Nwanguma