Throughout my time at university I had no idea what I wanted to explore in my dissertation, until the time came that I had to start my research. The first thought that came into my mind was ‘Art Therapy’.

The issue regarding wanting to write about art therapy was it meant a lot of research so that I could learn about the aspects involved in therapy. I started off by reading a number of books that I found in the university library, but also I ended up buying some of my own. I found it quite difficult to find the books I required because I didn’t know how to start and what direction to go in or even what I needed to know. The first book I found in the Library was The Handbook of Art Therapy. This was incredibly helpful to give me an idea of what I needed to learn more about. As well as this book I wanted to research psychologists such as Jung so that I could get a full grasp of the role of the art therapist.

During my early research into art therapy, I discovered an interesting fact about Outsider Art. I read about how the art work of mental patients led to a diagnosis of their mental states. Thus, the art work was used as a way of analysing the mind- a start of using art in terms of the person’s unconscious in a medical way. This was a particular interest to me because one of the first books I borrowed from the library in my first year was the book I borrowed again for further research; Outsider Art Raw Creation. It appeared that I had been gravitating towards art that has therapeutic links my whole time at university without being aware.

As part of my field projects, I studied ‘Art and the Conscious Mind’ and this affected my thought processes and ultimately my own practice. This project informed me about perceptions, how the physical world is seen in our mental world, and how complex our consciousness is. Within this project, I had a seminar about mindfulness which was interactive and enlightening. This seminar opened my eyes to realise how important being mindful is to our practice and how we make decisions, perceive and live. This whole project made me consider more areas of the art work I was creating; in my work I wanted to express the idea of consciousness and how there’s so much more to an art piece and to a person than meets the eye. Whilst creating work alongside this field project, I felt more awake to what I was creating and I was able to read into my work on a more personal level. This meant I was discovering parts of myself in my work that I didn’t realise I was expressing

This links me to art therapy. Art therapy teaches and encourages clients to become more mindful of their internal and external world, it uses creativity to inform the client about who they are and what they are unaware of about themselves. In art and our own creations, we can uncover more of ourselves than we originally thought.

Looking back at my proposal for my dissertation, I haven’t followed the plan I created. As I discovered more about the subject, I struggled to decide what direction to go in. There was so much information about psychology but I couldn’t find many books about Art and psychology (that wasn’t specifically aimed at a certain type of application). I think my main problem was I wasn’t 100% sure what I was looking for in the Library, and I didn’t fully understand what I was writing about until quite far into my dissertation.

Alongside the research and writing of this piece of work, I was also researching artists and doing my subject work. It was during this time that I found some more inspiration for my dissertation. I researched artists that use photography to express their stories and their lives; Jo Spence and Marion Milner. This gave me encouragement to let go of my confusion with the psychology involved in art therapy, and explore the experiences of the client in art therapy and ways that creativity is explored in the therapeutic session.

Following this new attitude of my dissertation, I got some of the previous books I had borrowed and re-read the information I couldn’t quite grasp before. After learning all the background knowledge, I understood the aspects of art therapy a lot better.

I tried to start an art journal to experience what I was learning about as well as using photography to express my inner thoughts. I have always been interested in artists that portray inner emotions in their work such as Tracey Emin, Louise Bourgeois.

There were times where my tutorials were helpful and times where I didn’t feel like I was getting the information I needed. My tutor helped by suggesting a few books at the beginning and questioning what I was planning to do, I also felt more confident after having a tutorial. However, there were times where my tutor explained he didn’t have the background knowledge in particular areas of art therapy. Overall, I found the experience of researching and writing my dissertation complicated but beneficial. I learnt a lot about my own practice and it has effected my future plans – I am keen to continue my research into art therapy.

Dissertation Proposal Reflection

The lectures informing us about the dissertation were helpful as a starting point. At first I was very apprehensive about choosing a topic because of its importance and the fact we have to still enjoy the topic in a year to come. I didn’t jump straight into deciding, or reading because I wanted to make a decision that is right for me and not just a quick and pressured choice. As I started picking out topics that I am passionate about, it became obvious what I should be writing about; Art Therapy. As soon as I started with this, I was given a few suggestion books to find in the Library. I didn’t know much about art therapy- I have a psychological background knowledge but never applied to arts, so I was a bit nervous about not knowing anything. The books I got out were very helpful to give me a relatively good understanding of the ways in which art therapy is performed and the requirements therapists need to bear in mind when dealing with creative arts. However, when I’ve gone to find more books, I’ve struggled. I found that most books I was looking for were only available at Cyncoed or just weren’t there.

There are many different ways and opinions as to how therapy should be performed, in my dissertation I’m going to explore these and explain why I believe certain techniques are most successful for art therapy. I have always had a deep interest in psychologies and in particular the Unconscious mind. My mother is a psychotherapist so I have been brought up being aware of how psychology is omnipresent, and always wanted to learn more about peoples stories and how they express themselves. However, art and creativity is everywhere too. I’m applying my keen interest in the unconscious and psychological knowledge to art and how this can be portrayed by using visual art.

I also studied art in the unconscious mind for my field project. I really enjoyed this project, and I think that what I have learnt not only can be applied to my dissertation but it has affected the way I see and think about everyday life.

For me this subject is important because I have first hand experience of being unable to openly speak about things- art therapy is different to other therapies because it doesn’t solely rely on talking. The act of creating art is therapeutic but also the therapist can observe body language, their art style, the changes in material, the final product etc. There are so many aspects in art that can explain and explore the mind of the client.

I think self understanding is the most important part of therapy and I think using art is the best way to achieve this. When a person is creating an art piece, they have a whole new experience which only they feel. They can reflect and learn upon this experience but also learn after with the therapist. In my dissertation, I am going to be using dreams analysis to explore the unconscious mind and how it manifests itself.

I have found that since researching art therapy, my own art work has started to change slightly. I have become more consciously aware of my unconscious showing itself, allowing me to reach deeper.




First term:

Looking back at my experiences in constellation, it has had its ups and downs. There were some seminars that I found very helpful and beneficial for further works however there were some that I found weren’t that relevant to me or my course. A few of the seminars were going over existing knowledge – this made it very tedious to sit through, however on reflection, it was still good to refresh my memory.

One of the seminars that stood out to benefit my work was Caths Columns. I found this seminar to be informative, well organised, and I felt like it linked in with the Controversy assignment more obviously than the others, which made me feel a little more confident about making a start to the essay. We learnt how to use images/ objects in constellation, and how to analyse them. I also learnt about theoretically underpinning ideas, which is basically about providing lots of evidence for your analysis. Before this session, I didn’t realise quite how much evidence we had to show.

Another seminar that I felt helped me was the ‘What is a question’. I learnt that you can ask a lot more questions about something than I thought. I think, in the past, I would overlook a lot of possible questions because I’d think they were too obvious. However, this lesson pointed out that questioning as much as possible and pushing boundaries is important. I also learnt about the common abstractions within questioning and relevance, which I found to be very useful. Although, I didn’t find this lesson particularly thrilling, it was informative and it has helped with my depth of analysis.

There were a number of lectures that I struggled with, not because of the content but because I didn’t find it easy to understand the lecturer. Unfortunately this lead me to write unclear notes and therefore didn’t benefit me or keep me interested. However, there were some that I found to be a lot more interesting and easy for me to understand. I preferred the lectures to the seminar because I felt like I got more out of them on whole; but I also found the organisation of the seminars (having different times and room each week, often with large spaces in between) to be confusing and quite tedious.

Overall, I felt the whole first term experience of constellation to be quite scatty. I feel like a lot of it, although allowed me to see how other areas of art work, didn’t apply to me and my area (Fine Art) enough. I am glad I had that experience though because I think it was a good way to open my mind up to all the different aspects that I may not have been aware of but also those that needed refreshing, in terms of essay writing.

Second term:

There were a few options that I favoured, but i chose to go with After Modernism. Not only did I find that Jon was one of the easiest, most approachable and clearest lecturers but I also felt that this option related to my chosen area the most – therefore I thought I would be more enthusiastic and it would be more beneficial for me in the future. I am very happy with this decision as I have enjoyed this terms constellation a lot more. Looking back, I have learnt a lot from this terms constellation and this was one of the things I would look forward to in the week. At the start of these lectures, I was quite nervous to speak however I realised how much it actually benefited me to speak and how much it helped my learning to discuss the art. It was very helpful to have the work on blackboard so organised too, there were occasions where I had to leave early due to illness or wasn’t able to make a session but I didn’t feel like I missed out on too much because I could access the PowerPoint and lecture notes. I feel confident about all the new knowledge I have acquired from these lectures, and have a nice basic understanding of the key movements through the transition between modernism and post modernism.

I thought the trips to London and Cardiff museum were very effective. It was a nice way to back up what we had learnt and also to really see and appreciate the different types of art. Sometimes it’s difficult to see what the art is really like from just a screen, it really put it into perspective by seeing it in a gallery. Also the Cardiff museum showed me a lot about what I have been overlooking in the past; the building structure and the monuments surrounding it. I found that very interesting to learn about all these things that are right in front of me but I had never questioned. Also it was nice to get out of the lecture room and to experience and meet new people. I felt like it was easier to get involved as well; as I am quite a shy person, it was nice to be in a less formal setting and I felt more comfortable to voice my opinions and ideas.

As I look through my notes, there wasn’t a lecture that I didn’t find interesting or beneficial. However, I have noticed that I didn’t do enough individual research on each area whilst it was fresh in the mind. I think in future I should follow up each lecture with further readings. Compared to first terms constellation, I was able to select the key points and explain them in my own words as opposed to trying to write down too much and missing important details. I have also noticed that I was able to use this terms notes and powerpoints a lot more in my essay. Although, I still don’t feel I completed the essay to my full potential. Unfortunately, I was lacking the motivation and ability to focus and apply myself to it.

Abstract Expressionism & Greenberg

In this seminar, we talked about the causes to the rise of abstract expressionism and what was involved in different types of art.

We looked at Cubism, Surrealism and Émigrés. I, personally, found the surrealism to be interesting because that is the one that stood out to me most. However, I didn’t know much about cubism or émigrés, so I found it beneficial to be explained some of their properties and to see examples of them. After this seminar, I feel more confident in the understanding of cubism and would like to look into it a bit more. We mainly looked at examples from Picasso; (INSERT PICTURE).

We also looked at the philosophy used by Kant. I’m quite interested in philosophical ideas and so this is something I would like to look further into.


The literal phenomen in Art & Design

I found this lecture quite confusing; it was very philosophical. It took me a while to understand what the lecturer was explaining but I think I got it, in the end.

I noted down these definitions:

Literal– True to fact; not exaggerated; actual or factual: a literal description of conditions.

Phenomenal– Philosophical study of the structures of subjective experience and consciousness (Hussler)

Boundaries– Something that indicates bounds or limits; a limiting or bounding line.

Existentialism– Holds that the starting point of philosophical thinking must be the experiences of the individual.

The example used to demonstrate the literal and phenomenal was a ‘smile’. I thought this was a really good way to explain it and I found that it has opened my eyes to the different ways in which one subject/object can be seen.

IMG_5785.JPGAll completely different meanings, but all fit under the term of a smile.

This idea pointed out that there is more to something than what you may first think; it emphasised the metaphor of thinking outside the box.

Thought can only advance by freeing itself from the shackles of its own subjective conditions.  –  Immanual Kant

We were shown a movie of The cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

I struggled to understand this part of the lecture – I thought it was about some murderer. After, we were told that it is about forms but our attention goes to the figures (which I proved, as I was focused on what the people were doing) because we watch it literally.

It was a logical meaning that was presented in an illogical manner- we perceived it, however, in a literal way. We immediately apply logic or literal ways to things. The movie is phenomenal but we project it literally, so it combines them both.

We also read a poem, which showed that the words are literal but they are going on in a phenomenal manner.

    It is at this stage that I struggle to understand the term phenomenal.

Is the literal phenomenal and the phenomenal literal.

I think, although, I find it slightly confusing – it’s very interesting and I would like to read more into this.

Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) Being and time on the phenomenology of place.

Understanding Arguments with Jon Clarkson

In this study skills lesson, we started off by reading articles and looked at what the arguments were.

We went through 3 different articles and deconstructed them in terms of their story, source, language, the perspective of the journalist.

An argument – is an attempt to persuade.


After going over the definitions of arguments and claims, we went back to the articles that we read. Analysing the claims and arguments that were made, including their implications and logical fallacies.

The separate arguments were set out
This made the breaking down of the structure a lot easier to understand and analyse.

Some notes towards constellation

DEFINITION: prolonged public disagreement or heated discussion.

The grid

The baby cage consists of a diagonal grid – this makes it intimidating and scary for the child. That’s controversial because its putting them in an uncomfortable position and its similar treatment to an animal/prisoner.

Its intimating because….

Mona Hatoum (artist) shadows of lines creates a creepy space


It was ok then because they didn’t have as many rules as us now, Health and Safety, but also moral rules,

Would they have put these in affluent areas, would rich people have put thier kids in them….Would rich people have needed them as they had gardens.

Research Michael Jackson holding his baby over balcony in LOndon about 10 years ago , and the reaction.

Are these cages actually good though, were there ever any deaths? Did it give fresh air? Could this fresh air have been acheived just by opening a window, what was the benifit, Its nothing like a substitute for a garden.

It was seen as a good idea- because it gave the child air and sunlight! And gave the family space

People have flats these days, may not have gardens – doesn’t mean we’re gonna put our children in a wall mounted cage.

Having a lack of space doesn’t justify putting them outside in a cage

Presumably it was safe, and so they didn’t see it as a dangerous thing

Social times have changed which means that somethings that we do today would have been controversial then, it doesn’t mean that it is wrong to do those things. It just means that we accept or disagree with different things.

It was the fashion- it was seen as a very smart thing to do


Its treating the baby like an animal – putting it in a cage

And outside

Links to plastic surgery de huminising which is also controversial


Babys life in the hands of screws

Open to everything outside – the weather, the nature, above flats

However there were some health benefits – it did give the baby fresh air and sunlight. It was a crowded city and so it would be difficult and therefore parents didn’t take their babies out much.

Linking with the different social times, straight away for me, would be the media. How women are represented is a big one!