Research Through Art

Art making has been utilized in research in a variety of ways. Ottarsdottir has used art in creating diagrams and concept images as well as for emotional processing.

Drawn Diagrams

Diagrams are included in the research methodology of grounded theory. Diagrams refer to drawings that are used for

  1. Creating concepts
  2. Abstract description
  3. Examining the connection between phenomena, categories and concepts
  4. Building theories

Reference

Óttarsdóttir, U. (2013). Grunduð kenning og teiknaðar skýringarmyndir. (Grounded Theory and Drawn Diagrams) In: Sigríður Halldórsdóttir (Ed.). Handbók í aðferðafræði rannsókna (p. 361-375). Akureyri: University of Akureyri.

Concept Images

Colours, brushes and paint are used in spontaneous art making in relation to what is being researched, for example in the process of conceptualization and working with a particular subject matter.

One approach is to paint the letters of a concept and thereby enter a previously unnoticed dimension of the phenomena, in comparison to merely reading or writing about the concept. This is achieved by:

  1. Movements of the body with the brush strokes
  2. The use of colours
  3. The creation of letter forms on a wide surface

Through this kind of work, a fresh understanding and a new kind of relationship with the concept are formed. The process of creating art leads to increased understanding and awareness, which connects to personal meaning. As a result, the experience and understanding of the concept can be more meaningful , as opposed to understanding that is formed solely by reading and writing, which is more connected to a linear process.

Reference

Ottarsdottir, U. (2018) Art Therapy to Address Emotional Well-being of Children Who Have Experienced Stress and/or Trauma. In: A. Zubala & V. Karkou (Ed.), Arts Therapies in the Treatment of Depression: International Research in the Arts Therapies (p. 30-47). Oxford: Routledge.

Emotions

In general, research can be intriguing, especially when new understanding and discoveries emerge. In some cases, the researcher can be uncertain about what is taking place in the study and how to find the best solution with regard to moving forward. If this situation extends over a long period of time, the researcher can begin to feel emotions that border on mild depression. Visual expression can aid processing of this kind of feelings, such as connecting with the emotions, becoming aware of them and releasing them, as well as placing the emotions into a personal and research context. Both during this process and afterwards, difficult emotions are often replaced by increased curiosity, strength and interest in continuing with the study.

Looking closer, it often turns out that the emotions arising in the research process are related to personal experience. The researcher can use the art making process reflexively, as a prism through which diverse emotions can be viewed and processed from a personal perspective in the context with the research topic.

When emotions are processed and categorized through drawings – and often at the same time through writing – the researcher can become both more aware and more objective in shaping the theoretical foundation of the research.

Visual art making, in conjunction with writing, becomes a reflexive practice in a variety of ways at every stage of the research process. It creates space for the unknown and simultaneously paves the path for the formation of new knowledge.

Reference

Ottarsdottir, U. (2018) Art Therapy to Address Emotional Well-being of Children Who Have Experienced Stress and/or Trauma. In: A. Zubala & V. Karkou (Ed.), Arts Therapies in the Treatment of Depression: International Research in the Arts Therapies (p. 30-47). Oxford: Routledge.