What Fires Together, Wires Together

Painting Recovery

A Painterly Exploration of the Pain-Altered Mind-Body Connection

This practice-led project investigates how the process of pain recovery and the resulting alteration of the mind-body connection can be expressed through a gestural painting methodology. Using an autoethnographic approach, I examine my subjective experience of injury-induced pain and subsequent intuitively-developed recovery that I created after years of failure with mainstream medical pain-relief options. I have researched, examined and defined key elements of my recovery as being Agency; Duration; and Unconscious processing. I then contextualised these key elements within the medical, neuroscientific and psychological frameworks, along with the mind-body enhancing processes of Zen, gestural art and associated selected artists, to gain insight into how these various perspectives can explain the success of my recovery process.

The blending of a text-based exegesis and art-based practice creates an armature for this research. Both the mind-body and artistic contextual fields informed the studio-led process of translating my subjective recovery process into an objective art-making process. Key recovery elements become artmaking procedural verbs. Utilising the studio for production of new art provides a generation of new knowledge in a form that moves beyond personal narrative and theory alone. Neuroscientific research on brain wiring and mind-mapping; as well as the concept of ‘flow’ and the Zen-derived ‘No-Mind’ proved crucial in analysing the state of mind beyond conscious thought that underlies both my recovery from pain, as well as my process of gestural mark-making art-practice. Given that the process of recovery sees one transform from restricting injury and pain that is difficult to relate linguistically, I have sought to communicate this experience through the recording of embodied gesture in creating a new visual language that moves beyond the limitations of verbal linguistics.

In my case, art was employed to gain a pain-free, heightened unconscious state, to be used with the embodied creative gesture as a method, or tool, of mind-body connection. This process aligns with centuries of Samurai Artists who trained the mind and body through martial and fine arts accordingly. Unlike Art Therapy, here the painting outcome was secondary to the process of creating. The resultant suite of works was created whilst strapped to my inversion machine, where I delivered unconsciously-produced intuitive lines over successive markings. The durations of embodied marking archives the temporal record of the mind-body connection’s history through alchemical material manipulation, which is recorded in the substrate material’s topography. The interaction between artist agency and material agency underpins the painterly translation of recovery, in which a forced restriction of procedural elements and the restriction of my body in the inversion machine, ultimately has expanded my life’s options and, through this research, my painting oeuvre. I attribute this kind of non-representational gestural art with healing properties, whereby the process of creation and performative gesture produces a Mastery of mind-body harmony that reduces pain and enhances healing. This kind of art offers the possibility of a kinaesthetic response to an intuitive, embodied making—in both making and revealing.