Psychosocial Research Seminars at UEL

Wednesdays, 5-6pm, Room: US 2.31

University Square Stratford Campus (USS)

4th February, 2015

Psychosocial ambiguity in the development of Picasso’s ‘Guernica’

Karen Raney, School of Arts and Digital Industries, UEL

This talk uses Christopher Bollas’ ideas of play work and psychic genera to discuss the development of Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ (1939), known to us through preliminary drawings and photographs of stages the painting went through. Particular attention will be given to the sketches, which show the artist’s courting of, and toleration of, structural ambiguity, and his avoidance of premature closure.  I will argue that this corresponds to Bollas’ idea of the ‘generative chaos’ necessary to the formation of genera – the pulling in of relevant ideas, feelings and meanings – which allows for full elaboration of symbolic possibilities to take place.  Anton Ehrenzweig’s idea of unconscious scanning will also be mentioned.

Karen Raney is a lecturer at the University of East London, editor, painter and writer. Previously she worked as a nurse in the San Francisco County Jail, she was Research Fellow at Middlesex University, writer for the Whitechapel Gallery’s  ‘Download’ project, Visual Arts Officer at Arts Council of England, and lecturer at Open University, City Literary Institute, Tate Gallery, RA schools, London Guildhall, and Institute of Education. She has been editor of Engage journal, of the international association for visual art and gallery education since 2000. Karen Raney’s research interests are in the imagination, the interaction between theory and art practice, visual art education, and museum and gallery culture.


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