Updated: Nov 21, 2021
A blog about my experience of training as an Analyst during the Autumn 2021 semester at ISAPZurich and which also acts as an introduction to Jungian concepts and ideas which I hope inspires you in whatever way works for you.
It has been a while since my last blog. I committed to blogging at least once a week but work, training and life just gets in the way. It is not easy to train as an analyst and work at the same time. It would be great to drop everything and focus on training only but that is just not feasible nor practical for me. In fact, it is the last thing I want to do. I am really keen to ensure there is some balance in my life. However, it is quite a challenge to find that ‘sweet spot’ that brings all my commitments and interests together. Nevertheless, I am still keen to blog on a weekly basis.
I am back in Zurich after spending a few days in London for some face-to-face meetings with a client. I will be back in the UK next month, this time for a whole week. I am really excited about that. It is really great to go home, see friends, catch up with my client and have a different appreciation for the UK. Having said that, I want to spend some time in the Swiss alps this Christmas and New Year. I am looking for a nice secluded chalet in the mountains and a Land Rover Defender to boot. My fantasy is to be ‘snow bound’ for a couple of weeks, high up in the mountains. I hope to find somewhere nice.
I have attended quite a few lectures and seminars since my last blog. However, I am going to focus on one seminar in this edition of my blog. I attended a lecture called The Favourite Picture of My Childhood by Marianne Peier. The lecture was about the personal aspects of the child becoming aware of pictures [or artists] at the parental home and with the emotions connected with these images. We explored a picture at the lecture by asking why the picture was chosen as the favourite one. We discussed elements of how to look at and interpret pictures, biographical and developmental, as well as working with creative resources, including case material.
After the lecture, some of us joined a follow up seminar also of the same title. In the seminar, we were asked to share our own examples of favourite pictures. We were asked to bring and present pictures, photos or sketches which we, our clients or other people in our environment became aware of in their homes as children or youths and to say why the pictures were chosen as favourite ones. It was difficult for me to remember any pictures in my childhood home apart from family photos. Given my commitments outside of ISAP it was also difficult for me to find time to speak to someone who could provide a favourite childhood picture. But I do remember some of my favourite pictures from my teenage years. I decided to present those pictures instead which met the requirements of the seminar.
Vincent Van Gogh's Sunflowers
Sunflowers are my favourite flower. I usually have a bunch of sunflowers in my home throughout the summer. I like nothing better than going out for a long run on a Saturday morning in the height of summer. I am a former marathon runner so I used to spend a lot of time training. I typically run up to 10 miles. I would finish my run and go straight to the supermarket to buy some sunflowers. They brighten up the home and creates quite a nice ambience. Sunflowers have also featured in my active imagination so they have personal and symbolic meaning. I love the vibrant yellow colours and hues in the picture. There is a preciseness to the drawings which also appeals to me. It is full of details and looks very realistic. I like the bold colours used, it seems so energising and expressive. Sunflowers are like a life-giving force and a spritz of energy. It is an incredible feeling to walk through a field of Sunflowers. Vincent Van Gogh was a prolific painter. He painted most of his pictures during the last few years of his life. He suffered from depression and committed suicide at the age of 37. His painting ‘Starry Night’ reminds me or rather is symbolic of the unconscious with its starry sky and spirals. It stands in an opposite position to Sunflowers which to me represents consciousness. Sunflowers certainly reminds me of my preferred functional attitude Extraverted Sensation.
Salvador Dali's ‘Muchacha en La Venta’
Muchacha en La Venta or Young Woman at a Window is a beautiful find from a museum in Madrid. I studied Spanish at university so I used to travel to Spain a lot to practice my Spanish. I stumbled across this picture in a museum in Madrid. Young Woman at a Window is a 1925 oil on paper realist work by Salvador Dali produced in his youth. It shows the painter's sister Ana Maria, seen from behind in front of a window at Cadaqués. It is now in the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid.
I was really struck by the image and was surprised to see that it was drawn by Salvador Dali. I like the vantage point of the painter and the woman in the window. I love the fact that she is staring out of the window, staring out into the sea. It seems like a seaside town, mid-afternoon and you can see a boat or yacht in the background. The woman seems relaxed, like she doesn’t have a care in the world. The picture often got me into a state of intuition, visioning, imagining, looking forward to my future, my hopes and dreams. I feel like there is a cool breeze and it is like the perfect day. I bought a replica of the drawing and placed it in my bathroom. I would stare at it every morning as I brushed my teeth. It certainly made me feel contemplative. If I was to give this drawing my own name, I would call it ‘Inside looking out’. It is quite a visionary drawing, I perceive of it as an inner part of myself looking out. But most of all, I like the vantage point of the painter.
Chris Ofili's ‘No Woman, No Cry’
This is my favourite painting from adolescence. Chris Ofili won the Turner Prize in 1998 for this painting. The title of the painting is a nod to a popular and well-known song by Bob Marley and the Wailers recorded in 1974. I saw this painting at the Tate Modern in London at an age when I was beginning to have a growing awareness and appreciation of art and paintings. I loved the painting mostly because it was painted by a black man and comes out of a non-European culture.
The painting is held up by elephant dung, and painted using resin and oil paints. The long neck of the woman looks incredibly and I love the beautiful fiery red, orange and green colours. The woman seems to be chained or behind some chains. The chains, on closer look, are circular images. There is a kind of earthiness to the painting, it seems quite grounded, proud and majestic. I like the painting for it’s ‘African-ness’. It resonates with me given my own heritage. As I said I like the colours in the painting. It is a very large painting, standing well over 10 feet. Chris Ofili is also of African heritage, born and bred in the UK. I think the use of elephant dung is inspired. The figure is crying, there is some sadness. The woman’s top is a vibrant red, orange colour, almost alchemical and there is a yellow glow around her body. The chains are look like a fence perhaps a cage, symbolising strangulation, a disturbing motif from the deep South of America.
The painting is actually inspired by the mother of Stephen Lawrence, a young black man killed at a bus stop in Eltham, London by five white men simply because he was black. His death was badly handed by the Police and sparked an investigation into racism within the Met police. The investigation found that the Met was institutionally racist. Each tear includes a collaged image of Stephen Lawrence and whose mother, Doreen Lawrence led a campaign in 1998 for an inquiry into the failed murder investigation; the campaign for the inquiry was successful, with the final report declaring in 1999 that the police department conducting the investigation was institutionally racist. The painting is sometimes described as being a portrait of Doreen Lawrence. The painting is Chris Ofili's tribute to Stephen Lawrence. Chris Ofili was inspired by the dignity of Stephen's mother, Doreen Lawrence, in the face of her personal tragedy. He also intends it to be seen as a more general portrayal of melancholy and grief.
This is my absolute favourite picture and I didn’t realise it until I was asked to consider my favourite picture from adolescence. The painting for me symbolises the experiences of black men in places like Europe. Just leaving your home can be dangerous. The painting is a wonderful homage to the melancholy and sadness of Stephen Lawrence’s mum but it is also a beautifully vivid, fiery and energising image of a black woman.
So how do you interpret such pictures from a psychological standpoint. Well, find a favourite picture, painting, or drawing by an artist. Then ask yourself the following questions:
'What do you see concretely?’ describe the picture in your own words.
'How would you describe the atmosphere of the picture?’
'Which feelings arise, when you look at the picture?’
'Where could this be as a landscape?’
'What can you observe about the composition of the picture?’
‘Which materials were used by the artist to paint or draw the picture?’
Once you have your responses to these questions, the idea is then to consider what associations come up. An association is a spontaneous linkage of ideas, perceptions, images, fantasies according to your responses to the questions listed above. These associations can lead you back to childhood memories and experiences which were deeply felt, valued or experienced. There is no right or wrong way, just let your psyche wonder and explore what meaningful associations come up. Presenting my favourite pictures to participants at the seminar was very useful. They asked questions and came up with useful insights about my favourite pictures and associations.
It was a really interesting seminar. Lots of food for thought and it has definitely peaked my interest in this topic. I will look into some references to find out more about how to interpret pictures from a psychological standpoint.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Please do get in touch if you have any questions or if you have any insight into my favourite pictures that you would like to share with me. I'll be back next week with another edition of 'What's it like to train as an Analyst? What is Jungian Psychology?