Esther Pickens


Between The Cracks

An a/r/tographical study of liminality

Art therapy offers a therapeutic process which integrates internal and external space through the triangular relationship between client, therapist and art object. Contained within the space is the three-way transference and counter-transference dynamic with unseen psychic forces imbued in the art object. Making art itself is a process which gives shape to space, whether that is as a three-dimensional object or the drawing in two dimensions, making space present. 

Liminality is a concept based in the idea of three stages of socio-cultural rites as identified by anthropologist Arnold Van Gennep (1873–1957) and later conceptualised as ‘betwixt and between’ by Victor Turner (1920-1983). This Independent Study considers liminal space as betwixt and between and considers further the concept of liminality through research of art therapy literature and a contiguous art making study through a body of work.

The key themes are demonstrated through conceptual ideas from art therapy literature, reflection of liminal experience and artmaking which includes the presence of metaphor. Concepts of clear space as defined by Stephen K. Levine and of liminal embodiment and secondary liminality as defined by Caryl Sibbett are investigated.

A/r/tography is the research methodology which underpinned this study, with its four concepts which are: being bound to educational and aesthetic practice; commitment to living inquiry; finding meaning and new understanding, enabled this study to connect art, art therapy and text in a way which is present, meaningful and relevant. As a study of liminal space and liminality an a/r/tographical rhizomatic process was followed, which enabled spaces to emerge for exploration. 


About the Artworks

For my body of work, I studied the concept of liminality as a process that we all go through at different times in our lives. This could be times of change such as loss and grief. I wondered about the experience of liminality, the sense of becoming stuck and what happens in that space. Through artmaking I considered clear space and the skin as thresholds to inner and outer liminality, like a heterotopia, a world within a world. Where these converge cracks appear and it is through this embodiment the transitional processes can take place.


About Esther

Art making has always been important throughout Esther’s life. It has led her to discover the power of the image and what it can hold for the artist and maker. While the art image holds so much for us, it can at the same time can take us beyond the immediate by opening routes into other journeys.  

Esther’s journey to art therapy began as an artist from art school in Edinburgh with completing a Post Graduate Diploma in Art Therapy and then a Master of Social Work. Over time, she decided to resume her art therapy training at the University of Derby, in order to work again with the image and build therapeutic alliances that facilitate trust and change.

Copyright © 2020 Esther Pickens