Along with Chloe’s love for collage and oil painting, this interview discusses how the therapeutic approach to viewing and creating art helps her wellbeing.
Tell the readers a little about yourself!
Yasou Verse readers, I’m a visual art student who believes art is the greatest thing before and since sliced bread (and that, really, sliced bread takes a backseat to unsliced bread, which doesn’t concern you with portion control). I love collage, oil painting, and creating little assemblage scenes, and when I’m not working at a cute vegan café, I’m dancing to Irish folk, aimlessly driving around the hills, being with my family and overplaying my 1:2 ratio of Greek blood cells.
Yes, my ‘funky-groovy’ uncle Andy gave me this book called Art as Therapy by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong and it has been revolutionary. It brings a profundity to art that I’ve previously been ignorant to, denoting its centrality in our understanding of ourselves and our external environments. Art, the most genuine and refined expression of humanity, teaches us what it is to be, reminding us of life’s value – what we should abandon and what we should hold on to. The book states that in consolidating everyday experiences, art can encourage us to ‘honour the elusive but real value of ordinary life’ and the ‘legitimate place of sorrow’, as well as emphasising the importance of maintaining hope. With studies proving it can reduce stress and increase overall happiness, art reaches in and reminds us to feel, to love, to think deeply – it taps at our raw sensitivities and ‘saves us from our spoilt, habitual disregard for what is all around us.’ As the title hints, the book has revealed the essential therapeutic function of art to me.
Describe how your relationship with art has developed as you have grown up.
I’ve come to realise that art is more than the projection of beauty. I have an intense love for the aesthetic value of women with parasols and men with chiselled stone pectorals, but the appreciation of visually and thematically ugly art – art that unravels human suffering in an uncomfortable, sometimes relatable, sometimes alien way – allows us to become more empathetic and appreciative of the varied and innumerable emotions that constitute the human experience. If art is to imitate life, it should depict both skin and bone. While I like my work to be easy on the eye (I’m a sucker for classic pink and done-to-death roses) I’d like to think it cuts a little deeper – for we can become numb to beauty if there isn’t some brutality.
You also spoke to me about how art is a reflection of ourselves as it allows for self-understanding and growth. Do you think you learn more about yourself every time you create something?
Art as Therapy remarks that making art builds self-knowledge, and I agree. I’m always revealing myself to myself. It can be uncomfortable uncovering thoughts that may be morbid or lustful, causing me to question myself: what is this thing I have just visualised? Does it deserve a face? Should I have been an impulsive freak and put it up so quickly? Although I may not always see depth in fleeting expressions, I see truths. My favourite vocalist, Scott Hutchinson, said that the process of writing an album was ‘the equivalent of being sick on yourself and then picking through the bits of carrot and sweetcorn to find interesting shapes and tiny colourful items that you didn’t know could exist in the bile and lining of a stomach.’ When I create I spill my overly emotional guts, but I always feel better – having some deep self-realisations in the process.
How does art (both in the making and viewing) help you become content with your feelings?
We deny our humanity in thinking we don’t have the time or energy to deal with our emotions. It may seem ridiculous, but when I become a fool to my feelings, sitting and nursing them neck deep in melancholy tunes and shrouded in incense smoke – it’s like I’m in therapy. Sometimes I just end up just having a good cry and sometimes I produce art. Like a diary, I can look back at old work and laugh, like ‘oh lord I can’t believe I was so upset that that guy never returned my call… so much so that I did a piece featuring a bleeding heart’, but ultimately, contentment comes with the realisation that these feelings were strong, I paid heed to them, and they’ve passed. Viewing art is just as healing; a reminder that life is both beautiful and terrible, but it’s happening now and we must be present enough to notice it. In the film Some Kind of Wonderful, the protagonist declares, this gallery ‘is my church, I come here and what anybody says about me doesn’t matter.’ I love this. Like religion, art reassures, telling us you’re not alone – everything you feel now has been felt before. It’s important – for its hanging in grand gold frames on the walls in front of you.
Tell us about the pieces you have created and how they’ve helped you become more aware of your own wellbeing.
Cutting up paper and laying it to rest with glue, making art is a coming-to-terms with my emotions and experiences. Although their meanings aren’t always apparent, my collages consider sentiments of love, loneliness and angst, as perfectly valid and worth expressing. They demand faithfulness and then they suck the spirit out of women who are so fucking spirited symbolises a woman being stripped of her character by a controlling man. Fruit won’t ripen with a fistful of spit comes from the experience of kissing, but exchanging nothing more than spit. He’s the trash, you’re just the fool is about opening up to somebody, only to realise you’ve foolishly over-estimated their character. Made of blood, sweat and tears is an embrace of womanhood, in all its forms, and I believe it epitomises art’s positive role in a healthy reclaiming and redefining of self.
How I feel about art varies when I create it and when I view it. I imagine this goes the same for others as well. I also imagine viewing art might be different for those who don’t make it as opposed to artists viewing someone else’s art. Would you say that there are different benefits between the making of art and viewing art?
While one is expressing, and the other is receiving, I think what’s highly beneficial to both the artist and the viewer, is the unveiling of their innermost desires and inclinations. As Art as Therapy explains, while the act of creating draws on the artist’s feelings, the viewer can encounter ‘works of art that seem to latch on to something [they] have felt but never recognised clearly before,’ as if looking at a mirror reflection of an inner experience. Many human sensations are ‘not readily available in language’ and so art can give us, with complete clarity, a legitimisation of our sometimes intangible but universal emotional states of being. An engagement with art, in either form, can help restore our sense of self.
As self-expression can be made in numerous ways, I am sure this doesn’t only go for visual art and that other Verse contributors and readers can relate to this. Do you have any words or advice you would like to suggest to others?
You need to express. Whatever you are inclined to do, you should consider it the primal impulse that it is, like eating and drinking and breathing. Expression is easily trivialised. They’ll say, you’re not saving lives, and that’s understandable, but remember they’re never talking about yours – and are likely dull idiots. Expression is a saviour. Capitalist societies demean creation which doesn’t contribute economically, labelling it a ‘hobby’ – but only a lunatic would say that for van Gogh, art was something he did ‘on the side’. Money is important, but don’t be so hell-bent on success, be hell-bent on the art – you and your mental health will be all the better for it.
Words by Sascha Tan
Art by Chloe Manglaras