Zagraevsky’s pictures as an effective means of art therapy
In our time, on the
background of deterioration of overall statistics on crime, domestic violence
and moral depravity, statistics on morbidity, especially for disorders and
impaired mental and nervous system of citizens is also deteriorating. In this
regard, one of pressing problems of modern medicine is the development and
introduction of new, unconventional methods of medical and preventive support
of a person to promote his personal growth, development and healing. Art therapy (therapy through visual art) is
one of such promising methods.
Images of artistic
creativity are correlated with almost all kinds of unconscious processes, both
positive and negative. The latter include fears, internal conflicts, traumas,
some reminiscences of childhood, nightmares, etc. All these negative processes
at a certain confluence of genetic and social factors may lead to disorders and
impairs of mentality and the nervous system. In this case, art therapy is a means of
providing an immediate positive impact on the underlying causes of these
diseases. Consequently, the effectiveness of art therapy can exceed the
performance of all other methods, which are designed to return a full-fledged
personality to society.
Art therapy process
deals with the patient first and foremost not as a sick person, but as a
personality that tends to self-development and expansion of the range of his
therapy, depending on the application, may be referred to as medical art
therapy, social art therapy, art therapy in education etc. In the most general
case, the process of art therapy consists of two phases, which can be roughly
described as passive and active.
The first (passive)
phase in the literature is usually referred to as perception, image therapy,
picturesque therapy, vision therapy etc. This group of terms includes many forms of passive imaging (perception).
The second (active)
phase is usually referred to as reproduction or expressive art therapy, and
includes a set of diverse forms of creativity (artistic) expression.
Let us consider the work of renowned
artist, honored art worker of Russia, Professor Sergey Zagraevsky as a possible
means of art therapy in its both phases.
General characteristics of the
creativity of the artist can be the following: professional painting in the
style of children’s paintings, an access to serenity and brightness of
perception of the world, which is most clearly expressed in humans in the
preschool and early school age.
Paintings by Zagraevsky, like all
so-called primitivism (also called naive art, primitive art or naivism), take
the stylistic gap between realism and abstract art.
From the standpoint of realism, art
therapy has the following drawback: it does not leave enough room for
imagination, restricting its plot and plastic to the imagination of a spectator
(percipient), repeating the images, that the percipient is able to get also in
Abstractionism leaves too much behind
the scene, and that is more negative than positive factor for people with
mental disorders: potential percipients of art therapy, as a rule, are already
the people with over-developed imagination.
Primitivism leaves wide scope for
percipient’s imagination, but does not take imagination too far from reality.
This option seems the best for art therapy.
Zagraevsky’s paintings in terms of
art therapy compare favorably with most of the paintings of other artists of
primitivism, thanks to extraordinary brightness of their color pattern. Muted
colors have more countervailing influence on psyche than bright colors, but
that is achieved by inhibition of subconscious processes, which in the case of
art therapy is rather a contraindication, than an indication: fine art makes
better impact on the psyche and nervous system in disinhibited state. This
situation places increased demands on the content of the treatment process,
because in this state not only positive but also negative images are more
Since Zagraevsky’s paintings
reproduce children's creativity, only a positive message is realized in them,
as in the vast majority of art works of mentally normal children. Consequently,
the pictures of this artist are an effective and safe means of art therapy in a
disinhibited state of mind and nervous system. Disinhibited state, in turn, is
achieved thanks to the brightness of the color gamut of the artist. There is an
upward spiral of therapeutic effects.
Another important positive factor in
the impact of paintings of Zagraevsky is their subject – mostly landscapes and
still lifes, which are usually more efficient and safe means of art therapy,
then portraits and other images of people. This is due to the fact that most
disorders of mental and nervous systems are socially conditioned, and patients
unconsciously perceive images of people as potential irritants, often hostile.
Landscapes and still lifes, by contrast, restore åðó balance of perception of the world.
Some specific plastic features, which
the artist uses almost in every picture, are particularly noteworthy. There
– lack of light and shade, which
creates a sense that the solar or lunar light shines evenly on all sides. Even
non-believers associate it with divine light, which is supposed to come from
– pasty smear, which makes each
picture as if living and raises interest in its long-term scrutiny, including
– the reverse perspective, which
calls the association with iconography and has a positive psychological effect
even on non-believers;
– the semicircular horizon, a symbol
of the planet Earth, which is the psycho-physiological basis of human
personality (let us remember the Greek myth about Antaeus);
– availability of roads and (or)
rivers on almost every picture. It is a symbol of motion, i.e. of potential
output of a percipient from a negative state;
– location of roads and rivers along
diagonals. That causes association with a sinusoid (biological norm of operation
of any living organism). Horizontals in this context would have caused negative
association with death (horizontal on the electrocardiogram), verticals – with
inadequate bursts of bioactivity;
– mostly white or very bright
buildings and temples, which indicate the purity of life and thoughts;
– windows, which glow by colored
lights day and night. This creates feeling of home comfort and consumer
welfare. Different colors of windows represent the mental variety;
– mostly purple roofs, which indicate
psychological relationship of everyday life with the sky and the cosmos;
– low and stable trees with big
roots, which symbolize stability of psyche and nervous system;
– curved spruces, which amplify
sinusoid motifs (see above);
– oval, and sometimes fusiform shape
of the sun (moon), which causes associations with outstretched wings of a
soaring archangel. That gives a positive psychological effect even on
– lack of uniform color planes. Large
water surfaces, fields, rocks and walls are composed of many colors, which
reinforce in a percipient the sense of mental diversity of living space;
– exceptional brightness of each
picture, which is achieved not through the use of any specific paints (the
artist uses no "chemical" shades), but through the optimal
combination of traditional art materials. This helps the percipient to be aware
of the possibility of an independent, drugless going out of a negative state;
– internal steadiness of color
pattern, which consists of mandatory "feedback" of each basic color
in different parts of the canvas. Such stability has a positive impact on the
stability of the psyche and nervous system of percipients.
Theoretical propositions about the
effectiveness of Zagraevsky’s painting, as of a means of art therapy, are
confirmed by the results of clinical studies. Reproductions of this artist’s
pictures were distributed among the patients of different departments of three
hospitals in Moscow (psychiatry, pediatrics, cardiology, ENT, gynecology, traumatology,
oncology, surgery, therapy, etc.). After a week, these patients were
interviewed. 87% of respondents answered that the paintings distracted them
from health problems and improved their mood. Required amount of analgesics
decreased by 7%. In the departments of oncology, patients’ feelings of
depression and anxiety decreased by 14%. In the departments of cardiology,
well-being improved at 21% of patients, who suffered from decreased blood
It is necessary to
especially note high efficiency of Zagraevsky’s paintings for the second phase
of art therapy (reproduction, expressive art therapy). Using of paintings of
the artist as a role model for creative self-expression of patients creates a
positive psychological situation, which can be verbalized so: "If a
professional artist writes in a way that I could write as a child, so I should
not feel embarrassed of my pictures." Such situation increases the confidence of
patient in himself.
have shown the following. Patients of one of above mentioned hospitals were
given reproductions of paintings by Ilya Repin (realism), Jackson Pollock
(abstractionism) and Sergey Zagraevsky (primitivism), and were offered to paint
something in a similar style.
Of those, who had
received reproductions of Repin’s pictures:
– 30% wrote their own paintings;
– 11% refused because they basically
did not want to paint;
– 56% refused, citing the fact that
they can not write realistically.
Of those, who had received
reproductions of Pollock's pictures:
– 44% wrote their
– 14% refused because they basically
did not want to paint;
– 39% said that they did not want to
just put some spots.
Of those, who had received
reproductions of Zagraevsky’s pictures:
– the percentage of people, who wrote
their own pictures, was much higher (84%);
– 10% refused for
the same reasons as in the case of Repin and Pollock (basically did not want to
– Only 3% refused because they
fundamentally did not want to write as children.
The above mentioned theoretical
concepts and clinical observations identified a number of diseases, in which
therapy through Zagraevsky’s art was most effective. For adult patients there
– mental disorders;
– disorders of the
central and peripheral nervous systems;
– the whole range of neuroses;
– various pathologies of pregnancy;
– alcohol and drug addiction;
– disorders and disturbances of
– diseases of cardiovascular system;
– Alzheimer's disease;
– Parkinson's disease, etc.
Art therapy by the means of
Zagraevsky’s paintings is applicable in a similar range of pediatric diseases
(of course excluding senile and sexual dysfunctions), supplemented with
In order to prevent
any diseases (including ensuring of a normal pregnancy) methods of art therapy
through the painting of the artist are also recommended.
In this case,
individual intolerance to visual arts, in particular, to modern art and art of
children, can be considered as contraindicated.
In conclusion, we should recall the
words of Friedrich Nietzsche, that the health is not freedom from disease, but
a human's ability to cope with it. This ability is actualized under the
influence of fine arts in general and Zagraevsky’s paintings. Pictures of this
artist have a positive art therapeutic effect and can be recommended as a
universal means of art therapy.