Building upon Hiromi Tango’s performative art practice, 'Healing Circles' responds to the influence contemporary life has on us and our relationship with one another. This exhibition includes a range of sculptures, textiles, photo images, works on paper and neon lights. Tango employs the circle as a recurring motif in this exhibition, as it is a universal symbol of healing – representing the cycle of life, regeneration, relationships and a state of total completion.
The circle is a perfect line with no beginning or end. Circles are present in every aspect of human life. It is a ubiquitous structure, that can be defined mathematically, has been utilised in the study of astrology, astronomy and geometry. Circles abound in art; a circle encloses the Vitruvian man Leonardo De Vinci's unique study of man and proportionality that has influenced all figurative art. Circles and approximations of circles are found in all branches of science, architecture and the arts.
A circle can be a ring, a loop, a sphere, a disc or a ball. The word circle is used to describe a group, a set, a clique or crowd. We encircle, surround, enclose and contain; or orbit and circumnavigate. It is the notion of containment and enclosure that is most relevant in the art of Hiromi Tango. The work of Hiromi has not been circular (as in repetitive). Her work is often a symbolic representation of containment, containment of emotions and personal distress, with the production of the art works an expression and working through of the emotions that are distressing.
Psychologically a circle can represent repetition, the going over emotions or behaviours, repeating continuously the same response due to unresolved psychic issues. It may come to represent containment of distressing emotions, to have the distress contained, thereby reducing the emotional pain. Freud in his essays on repetition compulsion and obsessive-compulsive disorder focused on the negative aspects of the repetition, the distressed person being unable to resolve the emotions and being condemned to repeat the same behaviour and emotions. Early theorists exploring emotional development following Freud saw the repetition of behaviours as a negative, a state of disease, something to be eradicated. Subsequent psychoanalytic schools of thought recognised that while repetitive behaviours and emotional responses to stressful life events could delay emotional maturation there was hope for a positive outcome through a process of containment or encircling of emotions , these could then be processed, conquered and the person could move on and progress from a psychological developmental perspective. Heinz Kohut proposed therapeutic techniques that encouraged the therapist to help contain distressing negative affects, and with a reflective empathic stance allow the patient to work through the emotions in a manner that allowed a moving forward, a safe holding environment, a metaphorical circle that embraces the distressed self and allows healing.
How do these manifestations of circles, circularity in a psychotherapeutic context relate to the art of Hiromi Tango? Sculptures created by Hiromi are frequently based on the notion of a circle, they refer to neural loops and the creation of the multiple parts of the sculptures involve a circular winding action. Hiromi looks to neural science as a source of inspiration for her work and in the process of the creation of the works contains and processes her own emotional experiences and negative affects. As an artist Hiromi has through her art has engaged in community projects focusing on mental health. She firmly believes in the therapeutic value of art creation, and draws on theories of neural plasticity to support her ideas in relation to the positive contribution the creation of art can have in emotional healing.
Hiromi Tango's current body of work "Healing Circles" extends her use of repetitive circular action in the creation of art. The sculptural works have a colour tone which is more neutral (or natural), the use of light connects these works with previous sculptures as does the tightly wound, curled coils which densely encircle the light source. The graphic works at a distance appear to be shaded circular objects. Close inspection identifies these colour fields as being comprised of hundreds if not thousands of small circles, the works a recording of repetitive actions that are meditative and soothing in their action. While the paper works seem to be a divergence from the previous practice of the artist they are a manifestation of circular action, another repetition completed in a compulsive and precise manner.
For Freud and subsequent therapists, treatment involved a resolution of the emotional trauma so the person could move on. Cognitive behavioural therapy and its derivatives have taught us that we can harness the repetitions, shape the circle subtly and produce change or a different outcome. The repetition compulsion that was seen as a pathological state by Freud and his disciples can serve to contain and manage distressing emotions, but as we are human, we cannot reproduce the circle perfectly and so the circle will change subtly as will the person making the repetitive action. This change over time will lead to changed neural circles (circuits) and these circuits will continue to be shaped by the circular action. The art of Hiromi Tango is the realisation of the soothing effect of the repetition through winding of fibre or the making of circular marks. The multiple small parts that are put together in her works lead to a structure that is "whole" or complete. Hiromi Tango's art works materialises what mental health professions try to achieve in their work, containment and then change.