Psychological Spaces

I saw online that a contemporary Australian painter, Rick Amor had an exhibition at a gallery about an hour’s drive away.   The show finishes this weekend so yesterday I decided to drive over and take a look.   Amor’s paintings often speak of dark psychological spaces.  The landscape painting in the promotion material intrigued me for it looked much like the country around here does right now as the grasses dry off in the late summer sun.

Rick Amor, Pines At Staughton Vale, 2002, oil on canvas, 44 x 66 cm.

Before finding out about the exhibition I’d seen Sue Vincent’s photo-write prompt for this week and was thinking about how landscape can reflect some our deeper moods and experiences.    Going to see Rick Amor’s exhibition felt like a fitting activity to inspire some writing on the subject.

The drive took longer than I expected for I was held up for ages by extensive road works.   There the view from my car window corresponded with the painting I’d seen online.
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Further along the road when I stopped for a break I got mildly freaked out some kangaroos who appeared to be more shadows than flesh and blood animals.   I wrote about the experience here

This experience was reflected in the first painting I saw when I walked into the Rick Amor show (reproduced here in a poor quality mobile phone photo)
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I remembered then that Amor’s paintings are about the uncanny.    That psychological space Freud called the Unheimlich – the unsettling feeling that can overwhelm us when the homely and the known suddenly becomes unhomely – even threatening.

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Amor’s paintings and the way the exhibition was hung induced such feelings in me.   It seemed Amor had anticipated the effect his work creates for when I walked behind the partition wall I was confronted with this painting.
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By now I was fully immersed in the unheimlich experience.   A certain amount of peeved annoyance heightened my discomfort when I realised the painting I’d come to see wasn’t included in the exhibition.

The gallery is situated in a town that doesn’t really inspire me.   After some bad coffee and greasy food there was nothing to do but head back home.   This time I stopped at a different place – a Japanese style water garden.   I wandered around enjoying the ambiance of running water and exotic plants.

Reflecting on my day and looking again at Sue’s photo prompt I come to the thought that the light is often found by going through the darkness.   My life has had it’s fair share of unheimlich experiences.   I could write a long list here but perhaps recounting the first experience that comes to mind will give you an idea of the terrain.    When I was 15 my home suddenly became unhomely when I walked in from school one day to discover a welfare nurse giving my baby sister a bottle.   After the briefest of explanations she handed me both and told me to cook tea for the family for my mother was in hospital.   She then left me to it.   It was only later that I discovered my mother was suffering from a mental illness and had tried to take her own life.

So, without making a meal of that and my other experiences of the unheimlich I will simply say that life has dealt me some tough hands and there have been times when it’s all, very nearly, been too much.   Somewhere along the way something clicked and I realised I could either drown in the muck of it all or aspire to find the light.  Since then what I have learnt is that sometimes the only way to find that light is to acknowledge and experience the dark shadows that cross my path and discover what they are teaching me.

Choosing to find the light is a choice I make every day. Sometimes the choice is prompted by big events, sometimes it is simply things like bad coffee and an art exhibition.   These days  our world so often seems to be a dark, hopeless place where doomsday scenario appear to be only possible outcome for events.  I am finding it is imperative to choose just which psychological space I allow to dominate my thinking – hope or despair.


39 thoughts on “Psychological Spaces

  1. Powerful post, Suzanne. From a days excursion to much more. Our past can always show up in the present, but it’s all what we do with it. Happy that you’re choosing to find the light, with the magic of hope. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for giving us a showing of Rick Amor’s work. And for your thoughts on the ‘uncanny’. That is a word that’s disappeared from my lexicon, and it’s one I happened to need. Also the notion of Unheimlich. So much food for thought here. And your finding the light, sheds light in our direction too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I feel for your 15 year old self. What a thing to have to deal with. This post shows your way of bringing light into darkness: the Japanaese garden must have been a real gift. And how can the publicity painting not be on show? It’s uncanny (in the less threatening sense) that you saw the look-alike painting view through your window when you were slowed by roadworks. Yet again you’ve dug deep and daring in response to a challenge.

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    1. Suzanne

      It was good to relax at the garden after such a weird day. It is an unexpectedly beautiful place in a little country town out on the western plains. A little oasis.
      Yes I wondered why the painting wasn’t on show. I considered asking why not but then remembered the kind of double speak gallery staff specialize in. I wasn’t in the mood to listen to it.


  4. oh dang – a rather traumatic experience as a 15 year old
    that exhibition sounds interesting – and of course as a german the word unheimlich is quite a familiar one
    the water gardens look amazing – wish i could take a stroll there


      1. Suzanne

        Yes he is definitely a strange artist. I saw a photo of him. He looks like an inoffensive middle aged man – more like an accountant than a painter of dark spaces.
        Meanwhile I’m working on that light post – it seems to be taking a while to form.


      1. Suzanne

        That’s very true. Sometimes walking the path can seem like a terrifying choice – it can also be very inconvenient or just not the right time.


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  7. Suzanne, sounds like you had a rather frustrating yet thought inspiring day. I can’t understand why the gallery would not have the painting used to advertise the event included in the show – unless perhaps someone purchased it. If that was the case, though, they should have posted a sign stating the fact.

    Your thoughts about dark and light patches in life resonate with me. I’ve had my share of dark times. Invariably work led me back into the light, painting when I was a teen, caring for my family as an adult, and now it’s my writing. For me at least, the best thing to do when I’m feeling down in the dumps is to get busy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Suzanne

      Yes, it was a strange day. A journey into the unexpected. I’m glad writing works to pull you into the light. With time we can all find the pathways that work best for us. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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  9. So much wisdom in this post! It is said that unless we reach the very bottom, we don’t have the power to jump up onto the peak or that unless we decipher the darkness and understand what it triggers in our subconscious, we cannot be steady into the light, there where are no opposites but infinite love-light-beauty. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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