Chaos and Control: Structured vs. Unstructured Materials

In one of my groups this week we explored the range of art materials from structured to unstructured; I offered pencils, paints and everything in between. One purpose of this was to simply be curious and practice beginners mind with art materials that you might otherwise veer away from. And another purpose was to consider how the use of these materials might correlate with aspects of your life – media as metaphor if you will.


Chaos (Black Lines, 1913)

As an example I offered images of the Wassily Kandinsky paintings from a scene in the movie Six Degrees of Separation (1993), where the character Ouisa Kittredge comments “chaos…control…chaos…control” as her husband, Flan, spins the two back to back. I find the themes of chaos and control entirely relevant for women today as we strive to achieve perfection in school and work and are also expected to manage a myriad of unpredictable emotional experiences thrown at us at any given moment. 

Control (Several Circles, 1926)

I asked group members to bring some mindful awareness to the experience. What are the physical sensations that you notice while using different art materials? Any tightness in the muscles? Signs of relaxation? What are the thoughts that arise? Memories? Worry thoughts? Planning? Judgment thoughts? Are there different emotions that come up when working with color pencils and Sharpies as opposed to watercolors and acrylics?


While I can’t comment specifically on the experiences of group members here, I will say that a lot came up. Much emotion, much awareness of the way we do things in the world and the forces that drive those behaviors. What happens when we seek safety at the expense of connection? As we drive away emotion in search of protection? Balance of course is what we seek – the desire for equilibrium and homeostasis – and maybe we can explore this too, through the metaphor of media.

It is clear that the choice of object that is one of the elements in the harmony of form must be decided only by a corresponding vibration in the human soul.Wassily Kandinsky

Everything starts from a dot. ~ Wassily Kandinsky

Clip from Six Degrees of Separation – not to be confused with six degrees of Kevin Bacon 😉

Copyright 2017 ©  Rachel Braun, All rights reserved.

Rachel Braun, ATR-BC  Art Therapist Philadelphia, PA

Specializing in art therapy groups for women who experience depression, anxiety and eating disorders.