Acquiring Negative Capability: A Psychosocial Exploration of the Role of Art Teachers in Fostering Student Creativity

By Jean Carabine.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

An artist’s ability to continue to work and be creative in the face of creative nothingness and the anxiety that this can produce is an essential and necessary capacity for all artists. It is suggested that this capacity, referred to as ‘Negative Capability’, is gradually acquired and learnt, and developed over time as part of the process of being an artist and practicing art. Like tacit knowing it is a form of experiential knowledge However, unlike tacit knowing, it is a rarely discussed or documented aspect of the educational process despite it being a common experience for artists. It is argued that art teachers both consciously and unconsciously facilitate in students an internalised capacity – ‘Negative Capability’ – to tolerate, and work with, and through, the uncertainties, experiences and anxieties of their art practice in potentially creative ways. Keats’s concept of Negative Capability is used, together with the psychoanalytical concepts of containment, potential space and, reverie, as a ‘tool’ for exploring the student artist experience and the role of art teachers in fostering student creativity within the UK higher education context.

Keywords: Art & Creativity, Creative Anxiety, Teaching & Learning, Psychosocial, Negative Capability, Potential Space, Containing

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp.339-350. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 631.689KB).

Dr. Jean Carabine

Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Social Sciences, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK

Jean Carabine is both an artist and academic. In her academic work she is interested in creative processes, knowledge production and experiential knowing and she draws on experiential knowing and psychoanalytical and discursive approaches to think about these. Her particular focus is with arts-based knowing and practice–based knowledge production processes, and art-making as research and methodology. Her art practice embraces a range of approaches including painting, movement work, print making and video installations. Her current work is concerned with exploring and evoking aspects of human experience using drawing and painting. The paintings are based loosely on a series of drawings that explore emotional experiences and memories. The drawings which are in ink are a form of drawing through association from experience and memory.


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