Journal of Art Psychology
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Self-Reflexivity and Art

Rumjana Pankova

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The creative art process is characterized by multiplicity and is expressed in different aspect. To create a full picture of the analysis one needs to review its particular expression in the activity of the professional group and to characterize the phenomena which define the creative behavior of the particular individual belonging to this group. The process of reflection will be treated as a main process which occurs in a personal aspect in the expression of creativity and is observed in the integral process of creation. Having in mind the theoretical direction of the analysis of reflection the accent is on those criteria which play the role of ‘creative markers’ in pictorial art. 

The term ‘reflection’ in its broad sense is used to refer to the acts of self-realization, self-knowledge, self-analysis and self-estimation, i.e. what can be called thinking about thinking’. The term ‘reflection of art’ equals the process of ‘directing’ the consciousness to its bearer, who serves as a main motive for doing a certain creative act or the beginning of such a process.

Analysis of reflection in art suggests that it is not a simple kind of a ‘metalevel’ of consciousness, where stereotypes of thinking are denied, but a principally different position of this thinking, in which the attention focus of the creator moves from the observed object to the means of art. Doing ‘thinking about thinking’ and having in mind only the theoretical meaning, the reflective procedures in fact have purely practical realization. With their strategic objectives these procedures express critical direction which contains the idea of reviewing the old but old-fashioned behavior etalons, revising the obvious postulates which for the particular artist have a problematic sound.[1]

Among philosophers, psychologists, and explorers from other science fields there are different concepts of the essence of reflection, regardless of the fact that it is in the core of creation. According to data from different sources analyzing reflection, there are about one hundred definitions of the concepts. The work of Veselin Vasilev is an example for a really serious research on reflection.[2]

If we try to divide reflection in relatively self-content types, they will be the following:

  • intellectual reflection – it can be differentiated into retrospective, situational and perspective;
  • personal reflection – which is divided into retrospective, situational and perspective;
  • communicational reflection – cut down to empathy, projective and game reflection;
  • cooperative reflection – fixation, adaptive, role, corrective and organizational;
  • cultural reflection – expressed as historical, social, ecological, philosophical and methodological;
  • existential reflection – egocentric, hermeneutic, axiological, ethic, aesthetic and ideological;

From the variety of ideas on reflection should be chosen the one that corresponds most to the understanding about the process of creation. Veselin Vasilev gives the following operational equivalents of the theoretical views on personal reflection:

1. The differentiation between the ‘I’ and ‘Non-I’ can be operationalised in two ways:

a) identifying the ‘I’ with itself as a subject, realizing the possibility of the ‘I’ directing to itself as to objects, developing a general strategy and specific technologies for self-knowledge (including objectives, tasks, means, intermediate results, etc.);

b) realizing the self as an object of self-knowledge and on that base – differentiating the aspects of this object which become a specific subject of learning interest: the sense, motives, ambitions, abilities (individual potential), qualities, etc.;

2. The ability to look at oneself as at a different person – from learning and emotional distance, non-bias, with reasonable amount of self-criticism. In the base of this is the possibility for a flexible change of the points of view (there is an intersection with the type of reflection as a dialogue).

3. Ability to read and understand an instrumentally different estimation of oneself, to use it as a means and measure for self-measurement  and self-estimation, not to be taken non-critically (when it is positive) and not to be rejected as an expression of tactlessness (when it is negative).

4. Attitude and ability to self-measure and self-learn instrumentally and socio-culturally – with the help of own actions and activities and within their frameworks with the measures ‘success-failure’ and ‘objective-result’;

5. Ability (and respectively personal trait) to correct the self-estimation in an emotionally painless way and correctly on the basis of the above mechanism-tools;

6. Ability to transform the phenomenology of the acts in the abstraction of qualities (i.e. to ‘see’ the own qualities behind own actions);

7. More intellectually and socially mature people gain and utilize abilities to self-know themselves as deliberately self-learn through the specialized instruments of science – psychological personality tests and other methodologies and by analyzing the data according to their scales-criteria
and theories.’ [3]

Analysis of the personal reflection characteristics shows that in this definition are pointed out all immanent characteristics of a piece of art which are achieved via pictorial art. The very essence of the picture leaves the spectator and the artist as two independent individuals, leading (although with specific means of expression) a dialogue on topics which are exciting for both parties. Standing in front of the picture, the spectator is separated from the rest of the world and this is namely what can be defined as an essential characteristic of the successful pictorial art.


[1] Steier F. Research as Self-Reflexivity, Self-Reflexivity as Social Process // Research and Reflexivity / Ed. F. Steier. L., 1991.

[2] Василев В. Рефлексията в познанието, самопознанието и практиката, Пловдив, „Макрос”, 2006.

[3] Пак там, стр.149.

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