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Keywords:

  • creativity;
  • learning;
  • art practice;
  • psycho-social;
  • Bion;
  • teaching;
  • containment

Abstract

What makes it possible for artists to stay with the anxieties and uncertainties of the creative process? This aspect of an artist's development is rarely theorised or addressed despite it being an essential aspect of creative practice. It is a capacity, similar to tacit knowing, that is gradually acquired and learnt, and cultivated over time as part of the process of practising art and being an artist. The role of tacit knowledge as a key aspect of fine art education is well documented and is a learning experience that artists are familiar with. However, what tends to get focused on in discussions about tacit knowing are the practical, usually physical and technical, aspects of learning from experience to the exclusion of a range of mental or psychological capacities that are also a fundamental part of the tacit knowing process and vital to the learning necessary to be an artist. These mental capacities, which include being able to tolerate high levels of excitability, periods of nothingness, chaos, uncertainty and not-knowing, are also, I suggest, passed between tutor and student as a form of tacit knowledge. This article draws on the experience of one artist, both as a learner and as an emergent practising artist, in developing this ability. The role played by art tutors in supporting student artists to develop a capacity to stay with the anxieties of the creative process is also explored.