Creative Process as a Form of “Liberation”

 Creativity is a part of human essence. According to some authors, there is no reason for creating, and even if there is reason, it is not important. If we assume that creativity is not an end in itself,  then why does man create it? what makes the artist take the brush and paint it, and the  poet- write poems… Of course, it can be said that a person one cannot just  stop creating and that it is a real pleasure. And what is the driving force that makes the   process a pleasure? The answer can be in both levels, individual and universal or social. At the individual level, one strives to express himself, make his voice heard,  express his emotions and feelings or get rid of them, to recognize, analyze and understand himself and the surrounding world, to talk about his concerns , even forget about his identity, communicating with higher values, get introduced with aesthetics, and explore the boundaries of the possible and impossible. And all this is done by creating. Creating from the social viewpoint, the individual tries to change some phenomena, bring a positive change into the society and the environment where he lives, promote and develope the sphere in which he creates.

Before creating for the common good, the artist creates for his own “liberation”. Without the latter, the artist, and generally an individual cannot completely abandon self-centeredness and create ideas for the sake of developing ideas, humanity or art. Before that, an individual is in search of identity. This, however, does not mean that the work done on the path of identity search cannot have any meaning or influence.

There are two views in the literature concerning identity: According to the first one, identity is a static phenomenon that has been given to us, and we cannot change it (for example such components of identity, as gender, ethnicity, religion, etc.). In the second case, we build, create, modify or choose our identity. This analysis argues that identity can be created. This, however, does not mean that after creating or choosing identity, it becomes a completely static phenomenon. On the contrary, by obtaining a certain static, it remains changeable and flexible.

This changeable static can be called “liberation” (as the modernists used to call), maturity or self-actualization (as the psychologists used to call), the birth of a subject or an individual (as Kant used to call)i  etc.. “Liberation” is the study of ideas and making choices using one’s own intelligence. Before the liberation or the withdrawal from the state of juvenile, the artist and, in general, an individual passes through certain stages.

Psychologist Maslow has developed a hierarchy of needs, through which a person passes to reach self-sufficiency. Within this analysis we will call these stages identity search, although the author  himself did not call it that way. According to Maslow, self-actualization is impossible before meeting those needs.

According to the requirements of the hierarchy of needs, self-actualization is the ultimate goal which is possible, if all the needs of the pyramid are met accordingly. However this is controversial. For example, according to the pyramid, creativity is possible if all the other requirements are satisfied. However, the following examples will show that the pyramid needs can be modified by their location, according to priority.

Let’s consider the creative way of some famous artists to understand what they have gone through. For example, Pablo Picasso has gone through several stages before reaching creative maturity. The blue, pink, African influences, Cubist, Classicist and Surrealistic periods of his works are known. These changes have taken place not only with the stylistic features of the author’s works, but also with personality and personal perceptions. It is not a coincidence that he started his career in the blue period, giving his works gloomy and sometimes tragic moods, as at the initial stage he was still solving the problem of fundamental needs, in case of not meeting those needs, an individual will be deeply disappointed. And then stages with more optimistic work have occured. It is enough to compare the works of Martiros Saryan, Minas Avetisyan and others, and it will be clear that they are quite different. The works of early period are uncertain, yet not so much with the author’s peculiarities, and to some extent influenced by this or that author. It is related not only to the author’s lack of skill, but also to the lack of confidence in himself and the unawareness of his own capabilities. And in the mature period the authors have developed their own special features. However, this analysis does not at all claim that the artists’ works in the initial period are not important, insignificant or they are not unique or of no value. This only indicates that while the basic needs are not met, the fundamental problems are not solved.

Let’s take a look at some of the topics on which the artists are creating a lot. Their observation will enable to see the link between the needs and the creative activity.


 Fears are one of the central topics for many artists, which indicate that some needs are not met properly. Fears are the opposite of safety and security. For example, Levon Tutunjian’s famous masks represent his nightmares and dreams, which the latter tried to overcome. Arshile Gorky’s abstract expressionist works present his problems related to the disastrous memories of his childhood and to the tragedy of his life. Gayane Khachatryan made her dreams an illusion, making them look different. All of this is related to the feeling of insecurity that has either been overcome through an artwork or not.

It is not a coincidence that the works created during the war years are primarily concerned with the first two needs, i.e. physical and security. That’s why the works created at that time are gloomy and depressive, for example, expressionism, in response to some of the works of the World War II, some works of miserablism, in response to genocides. During wars, genocides, when people are in poverty and deprived of first-aid supplies (food, shelter, etc.) and of the sense of safety and security (lack of job and resources), speaking of other needs is even redundant.

Yet, many artists, trying to overcome their fears and needs, gained skills and developed creativity, which, however, is more focused on personal “liberation” rather than communicating with aesthetic values ​​or by communicating with aesthetics, mitigated the impact of these problems. That is why some artists did not overcoming their problems, committed suicide, despite their enormous creative heritage (for example Arshile Gorky, Van Gogh). This is evidenced by the fact that it is not necessary to meet all the needs so that self-actualization could take place. However, if we view self-actualization in terms of collective happiness, creativity, and many other conditions, it is not possible.


Love, belonging

The other need is love and belonging to any group: it can be a family, a community, a homeland, and etc. One of the most discussed topics is loneliness and the society’s atomization. The latter is the atomization of individual members of the society, that is the transformation of individual atoms without any ties. Both loneliness and belonging are the two sides of the same coin and show the necessity for a particular need: one in positive side and the other in negative. Creating on this topic the artist often tries to solve problems at the level of thoughts and emotions level instead of solving them in daily life.


Respect, self-esteem, author’s birth

Accordingly, the next needs arerespect and achievements that arise when more fundamental issues are solved.

The author is born when the one who is interested in solving his own problems is dies. Thus, the author is born of the other is gone. With the restriction of his time and identity, the author dies and instead the real author is born. In that way, as Roland Bartheson would say, the image of the auther is secularized. This new author studies the reality without the component of his life tragedy, i.e. observer.

Is it accidental in his “Divine Comedy” Dante first described the Hell and the Purgatory, and then only the Paradise? According to the Testament, before reaching Paradise, one must go through the hell, know the sins, and then pass on the path of repentance, and if he succeeds, then it is possible for him to be in Paradise. A person passing through the similar path, especially the one who goes through repentance, cannot study the situation in terms of an observer. Therefore, the creative process itself is divine, by which the person’s identity is created. The creative process is a unique form of “liberation” that often takes place when going through difficulties, the “hell” and “creative suffering.” And who is the artistii, if not the most ardent and rebellious in society, who is interested in both good and dark sides of the life, his own self and society, who is ready to suffer for the sake of curiosity, in order to share his thoughts, emotions, experience and whatever he has created?

f we consider happiness to be the main reason and ultimate goal of the human life, and creating (any kind – starting from construction to creating a work of art)- the way to happiness, then self-actualization is possible, if all the needs have been met, which in its turn makes happiness possible. Self-actualization is a process promoting public and impersonal interests, and even higher values.

i These terms are identical in the present analysis.

ii Artist in its broad sense.


  1. Roland Bart, The Death of the Author,
  2. Abraham Maslow “Hierarchy of Needs”.

Author: Marine Khachatryan © All Rights are Reserved.

Translator: Anoush Gevorgyan