The pool of the psyche : water in the work of Ariana van Heerden and Kevin Roberts

09 Jul 2015

Water is a material which pervades the earth and is the source of all life, the fons et origo (Cirlot 1971: 365). Humans are seventy percent water and it occupies seventy percent of the earth’s surface. As a substance that can exist in a number of physical states, water is form and formless, material and metaphor, image and idea, substance and symbol. Thus it is hardly surprising that water is a powerful symbol: for the unconscious in Jungian terms; for purity and baptism in many religions; a symbol of spiritual or physical journeys and of aspects of the human condition. It appears in the work of many traditional and contemporary artists. Ariana van Heerden and Kevin Roberts are South African painters and both depict water in numerous works, in very different ways, varying from the wide oceans to the water in a cup. This paper will investigate their paintings of this substanceless substance, and aspects of the unconscious that are reflected in their works when the latter are approached from a Jungian and neo-Jungian point of view. For example, the differing contexts in which water appears in the paintings of Roberts and van Heerden can suggest the anima and aminus as aspects of the psyche, the male or female principle, birth and death, the personal and the collective, the romantic and the classical, because of these artists’ approach to this most liminal of materials