Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Depression and Creativity: Brothers in arms?

The question of how depression and mental illness are related to creativity has been raised sinces time immemorial. Several studies have tried to prove some sort of a link between the two. Now, a survey that compares mental health and the number of sexual partners among the general population, artists and schizophrenics has found that artists are more likely to share key behavioural traits with schizophrenics, and that they have on average twice as many sexual partners as the rest of the population.

On analysing 425 responses, the psychologists found that artists and schizophrenics scored equally high on "unusual cognition", a trait which gives rise to a greater tendency to feel in between reality and a dream state, or to feel overwhelmed by one's own thoughts.

But the artists and schizophrenics scored very differently on another measure called introvertive anhedonia, which is characterised by social withdrawal and emotional emptiness. Unlike schizophrenics, artists, in line with the general population, scored very low.

According to Dr Nettle, a psychologist at Newcastle University who headed the survey, the results suggest that the creativity of some artists is fuelled by the unique world view mental illness can provide, but without the completely debilitating aspects of the condition. Instead, the artists are able to direct their creativity into artistic projects.

On Guardian.

In the pic, Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night, one of the classics of modern painting. A website dedicated to him details the demons that haunted this artistic genius towards the end of his life.

Towards the end of 1888 the first signs of Van Gogh's mental illness began to take hold. He suffered from various types of epilepsy, psychotic attacks, and delusions. One such episode entailed Gogh pursuing Gaugin with a knife and threatened him intensely. Later that day Gogh returned to their house and mutilated his ear, then offered it to a prostitute as a gift. Gogh was temporarily hospitalized and released to find Gaugin swiftly leaving Arles and his dream of an artistic community shattered.

As the year of 1888 came to an end Gogh traveled to Saint Remey where he committed himself to an asylum. Here his paintings became a torrent of activity. Although he could not draw and paint for long periods of time without suffering from an attack, he managed to create 'Starry Night' which resides as his most popular work and one of the most influential pieces in history. The swirling lines of the sky are a possible representation of his mental state. This same shaken style is visible in all of his work during his time in the asylum. Gogh left Saint Remey in 1890 and began contacting his brother Theo. Van Gogh continued working and created a number of pieces; nearly one painting day. Gogh viewed his life as horribly wasted, personally failed, and impossible. On 27 July 1890 Van Gogh attempted suicide by shooting himself in the chest. He survived, but died two days later from the wound.

Gaugin- Paul Gaugin, was Gogh's lover.

1 comment:

Gary Steele said...

A certain mental level of things is always good when it gets tossed bout'... when ur mental being is questioned. In my case, people regularly question the shit out of me... i mean it is these questions that i end up answerin' in my poems and journals.... so i'll have to say that "bring it on baby".. hehe... no i'll have to say that a certain mental instability is always good for a genious(not that am callin' myself a genious).... hitler was.. napoleon was... einstien was.... perhaps even M. Bell was(he made the most lovable object of hate)....

Anyways to his or her their own...
solely my comments...