Psyche and Art

Wilna’s inner journey brought a discovery of the reality of Psyche through the expression of art. She view the creative space as the sacred space between above and below. In this approach the canvas becomes a living mirror. And in this ‘mirror’ she discovered meaningful inner truth.

Psyche Unfolding in Art

What started as playful creative experimentation with the psyche eventually culminated in the art exhibition at the Irma Stern Museum. The books, The Old Woman and the Moon and Die Zebravis, were published simultaneously. And this in turn developed into the workshop, Creativity and the Inner Other. In this workshop I share with others this process of communicating with the inner world through creative work of all kinds, a form of active imagination.

I experienced the reality of ‘something’ communicating with me to be a profound testimony to the reality of psychic life. In Backstory I discuss the central aspects of this 25-years-in-image.

Art or Conversation with the Psyche?

When I started experimenting with oil paint, I was fascinated by the process of projecting unconscious content and finding it to be meaningful. Early in my work I realized that psychological insight was often followed by the spontaneous solving of artistic problems. The psyche is alive!

I discovered that the images appearing before my mind’s eye will continue to develop and unfold in unexpected ways if I would only listen. I had no skills but discovered to my amazement that the unconscious was even feeding me at times artistic assistance. By this I mean that when I struggled to express myself, there sometimes appeared what I called, ‘a key image’. This was an image of a small aspect of the image-to-be. I called it ‘key images’ because I found that it unlocked for me the problem of ‘saying’ the content. Today I know that the unconscious will give one what you need if you do your part, for it wants to manifest in time and space. And I resolved not to take any art classes ever!

During the early 2000’s I worked from photographs for a few years. I would look at a picture and it would start to ‘glow’. This was to me a sign that here was personal psychological content that I needed to engage with in the creative space. But the process and my approach remained exactly the same.


From an article in the National Geographic I learned that the mind reads balance as beauty. This experience of beauty was what I aimed for. I believed that my images had to be ‘healed’ or balanced, and that the unconscious would assist me in this, if I stayed with the energy until I had the ‘aha!’ feeling. This was when the image became remarkably ‘beautiful’ and I considered it to be completed. And this was irrespective of whether some artistic issues remained unresolved.


My sincerest thanks to the Jung Foundation of New York for the publication of the article on my journey in the Fall/Winter issue of 2020. Artworks are to be found throughout the journal in between the articles. To read inside, please click on the image below.

I have always found these words of Jung to be supportive and inspiring:

The need for mythic statements is satisfied when we frame a view of the world which adequately explains the meaning of human existence in the cosmos, a view which springs from our psychic wholeness, from the co-operation between conscious and unconscious. Meaninglessness inhibits fullness of life and is therefore equivalent to illness. Meaning makes a great many things endurable – perhaps everything.

CG Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections p. 340

Irma Stern Museum Exhibition

The 2016 exhibition at the Irma Stern Museum, Cape Town, included work spanning 25 years of inner life in image. It was opened by Amanda Botha, well-known art journalist and writer from Cape Town. The exhibition also coincided with the annual Africa Day celebrations at the University of Cape Town.

[Wilna’s] palette becomes the medium and her canvas the reportage of her psychic journey, and the answer to her continuous inner dialogue. Like the writer Milan Kundera, she finds in her work ‘the unbearable lightness’, and she can turn her ‘sunflowers’ to the light like Vincent van Gogh. Each of these paintings has its own life – a part of the greater puzzle of truths that form part of a wider cosmic understanding. 

Amanda Botha, DeKat May 2016