Artists in Isolation

IMG_0041Cody C. Delistraty, https://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/13044204/ recently shared an interesting blog post in which he discussed the link between creativity and loneliness. Vincent Van Gogh (among others), and his struggle to find balance between fits of “unproductive hallucination and extreme visionary ecstasy”; isolation and social engagement, was used as an example.

I often wondered if Van Gogh’s “gloomy, cold and sterile youth” (as he described it himself) wasn’t the root of his depression? Could it be that the young Vincent was so disappointed by his surroundings, circumstances and the people in his life that he trained his imagination to go on fantasy flights and in the process create mind-pictures of a less dense, more flowing, fluxing world, with colours more brilliant than those found in reality?

The trouble with painting mind-pictures is two- fold. Firstly it takes time. Time, which is difficult to find, between daily routines and social bonds that need to be sustained. On top of that, productive thinking cannot be effective in distractive social situations, therefore the necessity for isolation.

It is however possible to change gloomy, cold and sterile circumstances, environments and relationships into acceptable ones, in the seclusion of a thought-world.

Secondly a brilliant, developing mind, capable of “extreme visionary ecstasy,” like that of Mr.V, shouldn’t dare share his mind-creations with anyone who does not understand, simply to avoid the risk of being called crazy, hallucinating, or less harsh: “the different one.”

Finding someone with whom to share a weird and wonderful inner-world is never easy. Finding someone interested in, and willing to have meaningful conversations about the impossible possibilities that spring from a personal frame of reference is rare. Most people don’t want to go too deep.

When there seems to be nobody that can satisfy the need for discussing novel ideas; when everybody else condemns alternative ways of looking at reality, it leaves the artist who “sees things the way others do not see”, (Nancy C. Andreasen) with little other choices but to withdraw.

The “thinkers” of this world are usually also introverts because extroverts prefer social endeavours above creative pursuits. Although introverts are mostly shy they also have the desire to stand out like everyone else. Extroverts, with their excellent verbal-and-body-language skills, have no problem to satisfy this need for acknowledgment in social situations.

Introverts are also very self-conscious because of their social incompetence. They therefore tend to turn to alternative pursuits like cognitive or creative projects and stop caring about finding someone with similar interest.

I therefore want to propose that artists who withdraw into isolation are not necessarily social outcasts; they may well have chosen to rather be alone for the lack of finding someone to share their passions. Isolation may lead to self-discovery. If the person discovered is likeable, loneliness ceases to matter, but if that person is despised, depression is likely to set in and drag an artist down into the darker realms with it. The need for company may return but once again company may criticise, steal away creative thinking time and/or may not fully satisfy the need for mental cognition.Vincent may have got trapped in similar cycles.

As Cody pointed out in his blog, balance is the key because artists and introverts, just like everybody else, need periods of inspiration, periods of isolation as well as periods of social interaction.

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9 thoughts on “Artists in Isolation

    1. Hi Martafrant,
      Thank you for the nomination! I am new at this blogging thing and have no clue how to create direct links to your blog for example. I will try to do as required but cannot guarantee that I will be able to get it right! So, I accept and thanks again.

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  1. Hmmm. As an artist I am intrigued by your blog and works. I want to say that this article in particular has truth to it. Though these extrovert introvert titles are loosely given and often self prescribed. I believe artists are creators who achieve flow as if in a state meditation. Using only themselves as an “antennae” to recieve and transmit inner, general human archetypes. I wonder if you have heard that disturbing periods of madness in someone who is in deep trauma can cause them not to heal. Perhaps artists are in a state of existential trauma (german word for dream is traum) and in this state of madness we must leave them. Dali was another fine example of your point.
    It interesting on your bio you said you like to hang out with people who know secrets, yet if you are aware of knowledge being all accessible as your other posts state, you know there are no secrets. Good read. Thank you for the follow.

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    1. I have respect for those who self prescribe, because every person should have the right to perceive things in their own way. I do have a problem when perceptions are being forced upon others or human beings are being used as guinea pigs, in order to prove a personal interpretation, under the umbrella of psychiatric theories. As far as I know, and I may be wrong, Dali was never depressed. Some people may have thought him mad but that is just another example of people interpreting and perceiving his behaviour from their personal frames of reference.
      Yes, I like to hang out with people who know secrets because to me secrets include everything that I don’t yet know. And yes, I agree that knowledge is accessible but secrets are not accessible to all only to those who seek. I appreciate your comments Kayla, now please tell me how is it possible that you can say that: “I know that there are NO secrets?” Is it because you happen to know more about the topics that I have written about since everything is openly available on google or is it because you know where to find all my secrets? I think Socrates defined my feelings on this best when he said “All I know is that I know nothing.”

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  2. I feel my meaning has been misinterpreted. For this abruptness in my responses, I apologize. Again, Google is not a source of mine. I have read books on these matters both directly and indirectly. As this is a semi formal site I would like to keep it casual. I find your blog to be resonating. In this moment I responded to you; perhaps you are seeing this passion as challenging you, which I am not! I am merely trying to have a dialogue with a clearly, open minded person.
    You are correct, I know nothing! In this knowing of nothing I am free to lose prejudiced. This is of course an idealized version of life. We all must use a “system” of writing that we “know”. What I mean to say is that all humans are able to relate to other humans. Just as now I can relate to you! I truly am being friendly. This is a lively discourse, which I do not get often.
    As for Dali, he was not diagnosed, I see your point! I can learn much still, from Socrates as well as yourself.

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  3. Dear Kayla, try not to take any of my replies personally. I found all your opinions interesting and intelligible. They made me think and that is what my intension with this blog is. Please read my responses again and you will see that I am merely responding on what you said based on my own understanding of your words none of which was seen as a challenge. Also I did not imply that google is your source, I was trying to make a general point that could apply to all readers including myself. If I offended you in any way I am sorry, I never meant to!

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  4. Dear Celia, I am very much enjoying this! I am so glad we were able to share with one another. I hope other readers can see this as well. I hope to share again in the future.
    I hope for all the best for you. I have also looked at your artworks and I do enjoy your paintings. You’re vision is unique yet not unfamiliar. I like the way you bring so much color into your work. You are also a very logical writer. No offense was taken, as a probing conversation is necessary for growth. I am glad we talked. I wish you great luck and success! I am still finding my way for the flow of my blog. I hope to leave you with “thank you” as my sentiment. This is my final comment, as I appreciate the hour that is at night too. I left the other comments with a smile on my face in thanks to you for honoring me with intellectual discourse.I leave them humbly for, you are a friend if you make art.

    All the best, Kayla.

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  5. Pennie Busetto, a South African author on psychiatry: “I’m deeply troubled by contemporary psychiatry, that is true. However I’m not against psychiatry. I believe there is a point at which mental functioning breaks down, and at moments of extreme crisis it is only the psychiatrist who is willing to step in. But I think that psychiatry tries to heal and manage mental distress often without examining its underlying assumptions about what it means to be a human being, and that is a problem.

    By treating mental distress as if it were simply a result of chemical imbalances in the brain and body, and treating it as you would a disordered organ like the heart or liver, you exclude the question of meaning, of history. Mind, which is made up of memories and aspirations is being reduced to matter. And that is dangerous to my mind. As human beings we suffer from loneliness, and meaninglessness, and hope and the fear of death, and mourning – they are all part of who we are. Something is lost if we see them as merely symptoms of a disorder.

    I am very interested in psychoanalysis and depth psychologies which explore the unconscious meanings of our actions. They account for so much of the human dimension. However I am bothered by the hubris of knowing in both psychiatry and psychology, the conviction that the individual person, the singular, can be known through general theories. Anna P, like Anna O, does not talk, yet the doctors think they can explain her. There is a problem of agency here. (from: thisisaerodrome.com)

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