Everything is just so busy these days. We’re always rushing. Always racing. Always thinking ahead to the next thing we have to do, the next plan we have to keep, the next meeting we need to prepare for, the next assignment we need to hand in on time… So one thing I truly apprecaited about Art As Therapy (by Alain De Botton and John Armstrong) was that the emphasis on it was on contemplation, rather than speed.
The idea of art taking on the role of therapist is a fascinating notion, no? De Botton claims that by investing more spiritually in art, we are more than capable of curing ourselves – or at least taking a step closer to a cure – when it comes to some of the most common modern maladies.
And the not-so-modern, too; the very emotions and feelings the artists themselves felt when putting paint to canvas. De Botton himself describes his reckoning behind the book as ‘[art] is a therapeutic medium that can help guide, exhort and console its viewers, enabling them to become better versions of themselves…’
The book – a gorgeous, coffee table-esque tome – contains 150 examples of iconic pieces of art, and how we can use them to help ourselves feel better. My favourite? The dreamy Picture Of An Artist (Pool With Two Figures) by David Hockney, showing two figures by a tranquil turquoise pool, overlooking a stunning, sun-drenched backdrop, which De Botton has captioned: ‘It’s in rainy England that we need this most’.
Split into sections such as ‘Hope’, ‘Sorrow’ and ‘Appreciation’, the book is a peaceful read; as I flicked through the pages, I genuinely felt as if some part of my mind was unfolding. Most of the time, art can be taken for granted but that’s not to say we can’t learn to understand it. As De Botton muses in his introduction: “Art has the power to extend our capacities beyond those that nature has originally endowed us with.”
Art As Therapy, by Alain De Botton and John Armstrong, £24.95, Phaidon; available to buy here.