The Healing Art Journey
We are sitting in ChrisB Liu’s art studio on a September morning; she shows us pieces of her artwork, and explains that much of it is still being shipped from Scotland where she spent the last two years doing a Masters in Art Psychotherapy. Her two cats, Curry and Ju Ju, rub against our legs and sniff our purses.
九月的一個初秋早上，我們來到 ChrisB Liu （劉麗燕) 的藝術工作室，獲她親自導賞多幅作品。ChrisB道來，兩年前到蘇格蘭修讀藝術心理治療學碩士課程的因由。
We ask ChrisB what got her interested in art therapy. Initially when she left China to attend University in Canada, she was going for a business degree. Instead, with her parents’ blessing, she enrolled at OCAD to study graphic design. “I did lots of crafts,” she says, but thought that it was never enough. She wanted to continue to express herself through art. In 2012 after a period of grief where she pulls out a painting she did in that time. The bottom half of the canvas is dark blue; that ascends to a lighter blue at the top of the canvas, then eventually, to white. A small umbrella floats in the top right corner. “I put thick paint over and over,” she explains, describing the brushstrokes.
Painting through her grief helped her “find the light” in her life, and understands that art is a way for her to connect with emotions and understand herself, something she didn’t realize had such a great impact in her life.
While working as a graphic designer, she joined the Refeel program committee at Across U-hub; A weekly program for youth to engage in self-expression and connect socially through art and other media. It was during this program that the idea of pursuing art therapy first came to her mind. ChrisB talks about a male youth who came to Refeel. Although wasn’t outspoken about his personal life, he was very engaged in making art. “There was a gap,” says ChrisB, “between wanting to express himself but not knowing how.” Despite his verbal shyness, ChrisB knew he had deeper emotions that he was trying to understand, and somehow the art was helping. “His face was relaxed. A tension had left it,” she explains. Soon she felt compelled to create more art, and quicker than she knew it she had left her fulltime job and was studying in Scotland.
她任職平面設計師期間，加入 Across U-hub「燃動青年」 的Refeel 策劃委員會，每週為年輕人舉辦活動，讓參加者透過不同媒體創作抒發個人情懷和擴闊社交圈子，從那時起，引發她探討藝術治療的想法。ChrisB提到一名參加Refeel 的年輕人，他很靜，很少跟別人吐出心聲，「其實他有很多話要說，可惜不曉得從何說起，甚至怯於啟齒」；幸好透過藝術創作，他痛快淋漓表達心聲，過後更如釋重負。Chrisb認定這是藝術創作迸發的力量，讓他得以跟別人交流。這次體會促使她致力善用藝術創作，助別人疏理情感。不久她辭去全職工作前往蘇格蘭深造，探尋藝術創作背後的意義，協助年輕人釋放情緒，重建自信。
It was in Scotland where she was first introduced to the art studio commune. Some of the students would get together to create and share art at the house ChrisB lived in. She also experienced a way of emotional expression within this “trust group” that was different from the Chinese culture she had grown up in.
“In our culture,” she told us, “we are not encouraged to make art and then share how we feel.” ? She found a similar theme emerge from the Chinese immigrant population of Scotland. During an art therapy group she conducted for Chinese parents, she realised they found it difficult to express emotions. They would instead talk only about facts. Often they did not talk about themselves at all, and made the conversation about their children. Similar to the male youth who had come to Refeel, ChrisB sensed that it was not only Chinese youth who had difficulty connecting to their emotions and connecting with each other; Chinese parents were having the same trouble.
Coming home to Markham in the spring of 2014, ChrisB found life too comfortable and lacked creative stimulation. She told us, “Youth here have no lack of material needs, but they don’t know what they want. They don’t know how to step out of their comfort zone.” For ChrisB, art is the perfect way to step outside comfort zones, for it is “non-verbal” and “nonthreatening.” Thinking about this, she decided to bring the experience of an art studio commune to Markham to start her private practice. Her goal is simple: “ I wanted a studio so people can come over and do art together.” Beyond providing the physical studio, ChrisB hopes that the healing power of art, the power it has to make people feel “not alone,” will encourage people to try making art. “There is no such thing as perfection,” she says, excluding the pressure many feel to become the next Picasso. “It’s not about making beautiful things; it’s about picking up pencils, choosing colours, choosing textures.”
Art therapy, she says, has helped her understand herself, just as it has helped her understand her parents in the way they think, and the culture she has inherited from them. It has been a journey, one that is not always easy, for being an art therapist is a “hard road,” but one that has been healing and hopeful.
Perhaps most poignant of all is the healing she witnesses in others. “There are unspoken secrets in the art,” she says, thinking back to youth she has worked with. In a culture where many struggle to understand and express themselves, art is a pathway to both. Art leads to connecting and understanding oneself, and this leads to sharing and connecting with others. ChrisB wishes parents and their children will share more feelings and be open with each other.
Art has the potential to be healing to both individuals and communities.
This potential is expressed simply by ChrisB: “I see you,” she says, remembering the youth. “I see you.”