Thursday, Sept 26 | 2:45-4:30 pm

Narrative + Creative Process: Art | Room 210

Art-Making and Releasing the Power of Narrative

Art-making and narrative are intrinsically linked in so far as they both require and exercise a cognitive complexity that is vital to navigate this increasingly complex, diverse, changing world.  How do the arts unleash the power of narrative? And how do they do so differently than other forms of narrative?  In this paper I articulate that art-making and aesthetics are a form of understanding born out of mindful attention: an apophatic, epistemological, small humble gesture. Artists unleash narrative by creating in the contested interstitial spaces between embodied awareness, sense perception, imagination and reason; enthusiasm, dream, and disaster; affect, intuition, and intellect; wordless, timeless, experiences of unknowing and those ‘known’ through our embodied existence. Making art is an active, philosophical, performative, practice of inquiry. In asking how art-making makes manifest, I discovered the importance of the stop, the necessity of paying attention, the fecundity of self-emptying, the risk of liminal flow, and the surprise of surfacing into wide-awakeness.

Art is enacted by an embodied maker, is made manifest through the material experiential realm and is received through another body, creating a web of culturally mediated affective, sensory and intellectual encounters. Art fosters insight in materialized experiential rather than propositional language; art enacts meaning and negotiates insight by plunging into the oceanic unknown, trusting the apophatic abyss, the liminal silent gap.

Art-making is a practice of self-emptying attention; active receptivity opens one to an awareness that can stop hasty conceptualization, incomplete categorization, premature conclusions: the habits of thought that blind us. Unleashing the power of art requires three phases of embodied engagement; the rituals of self-emptying; the liminal space of creation; and the critical reflective act of seeing again what the artist has come to understand through creating. I celebrate embodied self-emptying attention as being key to unleashing energy to fuel art-making, key to being wide awake, and key to inviting the Spirit to infuse the academic task. 


Erica L. Grimm is a Canadian artist, researcher, and educator whose work is exhibited widely and is in collections such as the Canada Council Art Bank and the Richmond Art Gallery. Her visual practice is rooted in embodiment and she is curious about liminal, saturated or otherwise inexplicable but ordinary experiences. Invited Nash Lecturer and Distinguished Alumnae, University of Regina, she is Associate Professor and Chair, Art + Design Department, School of the Arts, Media and Culture at Trinity Western University.

Anemone Theory: Creative Process as a Flow of Un/Folding, Enfolding and Infolding

In the context of my MA thesis research I conducted a series of in-depth interviews with five artist-photographers about their creative process and the particular affordances and requirements of photography as medium and praxis. Through an interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) of the interview data, the process of artistic creation emerged as a complex system of existential and hermeneutic ‘inputs’ and ‘outputs’—as a ‘swirling together’ of sensing and sense-making, of action and reflection, of personal biography and publicly staged narrative.

Anemone theory attempts to bring into language the movement, flux, (ex)change, simultaneity, multiplicity, complexity, multi-directionality and sensuous fluidity of lived experience in general—and the creative process in particular. Building on an understanding of human existence as a dynamic process of becoming-in-relation, anemone theory elaborates the various movements of mediation as they unfold in embodied consciousness as a flow of un/folding a sense of time, space and presence, of enfolding embodied being-in-the world and of infolding contexts—personal, social, historical, political—that give perceptions and actions a meaningful place in experience.


Helma Sawatzky lives in Surrey BC, Canada. Her interdisciplinary academic background includes undergraduate degrees in music education (The Netherlands, 1991) and visual arts (Emily Carr University of Art + Design, 2009), and an MA in Communication (2011). Alongside her practice as visual artist and musician, she currently pursues PhD studies at Simon Fraser University School of Communication. In both her art practice and graduate research, she explores the phenomenological dimensions of media—ways in which various media technologies participate in shaping and transforming the lived experience of time, space and embodied being-in-the-world.

Personal Mythology: An Artist's Narrative

This presentation will explore how mythology and story can enlighten the development of narrative in an artist’s work. The concept of Artist’s Research will specifically be examined as it relates to the study of Myth, Hearth-tales and Cultural Narratives, resulting in a study that becomes essential to the evolution of a conceptual framework for the artist. This framework of story and narrative infuses the structure that informs the artist’s work. The connections between research and framework will be looked at in light of how they directly influence the studio practice of the artist.

The relationship between narrative and art production will be considered as part of the studio process that translates the research of story into objects of art. Idea-concepts leading to the selection of materials then craftsmanship hones the visual language used. The artist’s choices of presentation and the intended audience will be investigated as a way in which the artist’s voice comes to “Life” for the viewer and for critical response. 

Images of the artist’s work will be shared to illustrate these connections between narrative/story research and the development of a “personal mythology” in the work. Selections from published critical reviews of the work will be included as they reinforce an audience perception of the narrative dialogue that the work presents. Text based information that accompanies each work of art will be considered as a way of creating entry points for the viewer into the narratives the work “speaks” of. This relationship between image and text is important as it moves from research to framework to artwork and didactics to the audience “read” of the artist’s products.


William Catling resides in Southern California where he serves dual roles as Professor and Department Chair of Art and Design at Azusa Pacific University. With a career spanning over 30 years, his professional practice began in the San Francisco Bay Area until relocating to Los Angeles in 1991. He is an active speaker and deeply involved in the visual arts. As a sculptor, Catling’s work has been exhibited in museums and galleries both nationally and internationally. His current works can be viewed at

Back to Schedule