Spirals, Whorls, and Faulty Containers: The Psychoanalysis of Form in the Art of Marion Milner’s 'The Hands of the Living God' and the Sculpture of Louise Bourgeois

Emilia Halton-Hernandez


I take up Mitchell’s comment on what it might mean for these women to be engaged in a visual task as opposed to only a talking cure—and through a reading of both Bourgeois’s and Susan’s use of the form of the spiral, I think about the significance of their unique projects. In so doing, I make two claims: firstly, I argue that the creation of the image allows psychoanalysis to access early psychic experiences that exist prior to language, and that are thus best treated through forms of representation other than the customary talking cure. The relationship between psychic experience and the visual was a preoccupation of Milner and other members of the Independent Group of the British School of Psychoanalysis. In Benjamin Poore’s study of the psychoanalyst Masud Khan, he identifies how Khan along with his colleagues Donald Winnicott and Milner (all contemporaries of Bourgeois) were concerned with two questions: “what is the relationship of pictorial expression and psychic life, and what aspects of self experience are actualised by the pictorial in a way that is not possible through verbalisation alone?” (Poore, 2015, p. 230).


psychoanalysis, aesthetics

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1234/fa.v0i75.252

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