SERIES OF LINOCUT PRINTS & ACCOMPANYING ESSAY
BY AMY HILEY
Inspired by Jungian psychology, ‘Shadow Aspect’ is a series of symbolic compositions exploring the conceptual meaning and significance of the archetype of the shadow in terms of the self, and the changing dynamics of the relationship it is able to develop with the conscious mind - or ego - particularly throughout the process of individuation.
The term ‘shadow’, often also called the ‘Id’, may refer to either: those unconscious aspects of the self which have been rejected by the conscious ego and so remain hidden from it; or the entirety of the unconscious, that is, everything which is unknown. In the artwork, I have focused more on the former definition than the latter, although I have tried to use symbolic imagery in such a way that the resulting composition may retain relevance in terms of either interpretation.
Because the shadow contains those neglected, repressed aspects of the personality that are deemed unacceptable or ‘negative’ in the eyes of the conscious ego self, it is often labelled the ‘dark side’ of the self. To actively engage with and become fully, unflinchingly aware of this powerful unconscious material requires an effort and strength of will that does not come naturally to most. But the integration of the shadow into the conscious ego self, and the ultimate acceptance of its dark, untame and psychologically potent contents forms an essential part of the process of individuation, a process through which ‘self-actualisation’ is achieved in order to become whole.
The artwork symbolically explores these processes and the different stages that the relationship between the shadow and the conscious self must undergo in the quest for each to become fully recognised, accepted and embraced by the other.
The first in the series, ‘Shadow Aspect I’, represents the initial fierce rejection that the conscious ego subjects the dark, unknown side of the personality to. The ego clings to self-delusion in a desperate bid to avoid facing the demons whose darkness is fed by this very process of avoidance. Yet both shadow and ego contain within them the potential for a greater awareness than either can achieve individually. This potential is visually symbolised by the single eye in each side of the self; neither will really see until the two see as one.
The second composition explores the stage of intrigue, fascination and curiosity that marks the beginning of the new, active relationship between the conscious mind and the shadow self. Neither side, despite both being inextricably bound in a single, overarching ‘self’, has not yet developed any real awareness of, or means of interaction with, the other. The drive to begin this interactive phase is the only thing that can initiate the process of individuation, and thus eventually lead to the mutual acceptance and integration of conscious and unconscious.
The third piece in the series represents the most balanced and integrated stage in the process of self-actualisation. The conscious ego and the shadow have become connected (or realised their already existing connection) and interrelated in a healthy, mutually beneficial relationship based upon acceptance, openness and nurture. The conscious self no longer feels the need to blinker itself to the atrocities of its own ‘dark side’ and is able to recognise this shadowy counterpart as a valuable and essential aspect of the self as a whole.
The fact that there can be no light without darkness and no darkness without light is reflected throughout the series in the monochromatic, counter-changed form of the compositions. This in turn is intended to mirror symbolically the inescapable nature of the shadow and the unquestionably essential role it plays within one’s entire existence. Without the dark forms, there would be no negative space or light-filled shapes, and vice versa: in the self as in the artwork, both light and dark, or conscious and unconscious, rely on each other in a form-giving, mutually dependent way.