An Interesting Stopping Place

A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be. ~Abraham Maslow

Recently, I had the delightful opportunity and privilege to visit Amira Behbehani in her studio and workplace. Amira is a Kuwaiti artist, and the driving force behind a number of ventures including “Peace One Day,” which I attended last September. Over coffee in a sunny, quiet room Amira and I got to talk about a lot of different things, working on solving the world’s problems as women do when they get a chance to really talk. Along the way, we talked of art.

A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art. ~Paul Cezanne

One of the things that has always fascinated me about art is the process by which a piece is “born.” Amira described how for her, the germ of an idea becomes a force within her – agitating and slightly uncomfortable. The drive to paint begins to build, and eventually, nothing else will do but to flee to her studio, shut the door, and begin. And once begun, she continues until the muse has fled. Though individual, this is similar to what I’ve heard from others whose inner world is framed by the imperative need to create.

What fascinated me was the discussion about how this process goes awry.

When life intervenes, and Amira is simply not able to get to her studio, she experiences a sense of angst and of longing. She described it as “being pulled.” Others I’ve spoken too have said they “…feel torn.” The responsibilities of life prevent them from giving rein to the fluttering vision and they experience this dissonance emotionally. Eventually, without expression, the idea dies, the artist is left with a sense of loss, and sorrow is a constant, if temporary companion.

I paint in order not to cry. ~Paul Klee

Amira B2Behind us against the wall, three of Amira’s latest pieces were leaning, in various states of completion. As we chatted, she gestured at the paintings as evidence of the evolution of her style, and of the current theme of her work. Then she said, “I don’t talk about it too much.  I’ve learned when I talk too much or too long about what I’m painting, the inner drive I have to continue …to express myself, goes away.  I no longer have any interest in continuing. I think to myself, ‘I’ll paint tomorrow.’ Eventually, I look at my half-finished work and I wonder what I was thinking when I started it.”

This thought really resonated with me. Amira succinctly summed up the essence of the therapeutic process in the context of art. When my clients, in a safe and supportive environment are able to talk through the agitation and angst of their inner landscape, they come to the place where they have no interest in continuing. They no longer have internal spaces they need to avoid which frees up mental space for other, more creative pursuits. It is not uncommon for a client to say something like, “I can’t even make myself think like I did when I came to see you. It feels strange.”

Paul Gardner said, “A painting is never finished – it simply stops in interesting places.”

The same could be said, I think, of therapy.

Amira is one of the primary forces behind the “Peace One Day” initiative here in Kuwait. We had the privilege of attending last year, (great interview HERE) and we are looking forward to this year’s expanded events, including an art show and sale for unknown/little known young artists. More info here: PeaceOneDay2013

3 thoughts on “An Interesting Stopping Place

  1. Talented family, the Behbehanis. Two younger members are ballerinas. I do like the idea of stop-start, the change in momentum being the fuel for further creativity. I write like this – sometimes, but not all the time, a spark gets fanned into a flame which flickers momentarily, then the words get stuck, an obstinate old tractor in a sea of mud. At other times the whole consciousness stream overflows like molten lava, undiluted and without redaction. You feel like you could write forever.

    1. I experience the angst of having a piece of writing ‘birth’ in my mind whole and entire. If I don’t/can’t sit down and discharge those words as they coalesce into something coherent, they then whither and fade away, never to be recovered.
      The result is an amorphous sorrow that lingers for days and sometimes becomes self-critical regret which then pretty much guarantees no further mental creativity until I’m over myself.

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