|Hot Summer's Afternoon in Bruges - Judy Adamson|
I’ve just unsubscribed from a daily email, ‘Thought for Today’, that a friend passed on to me years ago.
Its constant, well-meaning exhortations to be ‘pure’ and ‘radiant’, ‘sweet’ and ‘peaceful’ were getting me down – especially when my life seems particularly difficult or painful! I’d tried just not opening the emails but the subject lines were there, staring at me, filling me with shame at my inability to live up to all these positive traits. And then it suddenly occurred to me that I could unsubscribe - so I did!
Somehow these emails seemed unbalanced. They didn’t take into account the reality of being human, with all the messy, negative thoughts and feelings, the ‘shadow side’, that entails. So when I happened upon Jill Badonsky’s blog post about ‘the gifts of the dark side’, it felt somewhat like coming home. Just as a painting needs the shadow to make us aware of the brightness, we need to embrace our ‘dark side’ and even use the creativity it contains, if we are to be whole, authentic people.
I sometimes think that perhaps too much emphasis is placed on ‘beauty’ in art. So often we read that an artist is inspired by the Beauty of Nature. And yet, in reality, Nature is also ‘red in tooth and claw’, the ‘Shadow’ side. Can we just brush that under the carpet?
To me it is one-sided to focus only on the ‘beauty’, as one-sided as those ‘Thoughts for Today’ that irritated me so much. It leaves something out, something that can add depth and authenticity to a piece of work and often it’s that ingredient that has the power to move us.
I grew up with various old art books around the house, mainly with black and white reproductions as printing wasn’t as advanced as it is today. But one colour painting that always drew me to it was this one by Goya: it’s hardly what I’d call beautiful and yet it’s certainly powerful:
|The Third of May, 1808 - Goya|
The same could be said of a print that hung in my childhood home:
|'When did you last see your father?' W .E. Yeames|
Later I discovered Picasso and his absinth drinkers – again, far from beautiful in the usual sense of the word.
|One of Picasso's Absinth Drinkers|
|Detail from Hogarth's Beer Street and Gin Lane|
As in the paintings above, a work of art may horrify, sadden or even disgust me and that is perfectly valid. The ‘great’ painters, as opposed to the ‘good’ ones, have not been afraid to create from their Dark Side.