A Jungian Interpretation of ‘The Forest of Peace’ – 2007
The Girl wearing a carsaf (the black dress with a veil worn by some Turkish Muslim women) symbolizes the Anima of Extrastruggle, the forest the unconscious, and Ataturk Extrastruggle itself (the consciousness). The fact that the reconciled ones are from opposite sexes is intriguing. I believe if we were to take out the girl wearing the carsaf and replace her with a male with a rounded beard wearing a salvar (traditional Turkish baggy trousers), the meaning of the painting would change. This shows us that the feminine gender of the girl wearing the carsaf has a charged importance. According to Jung ‘every man, within him, carries an eternal image of woman, which does not belong to this or that woman’. This female figure which belongs to the unconscious of the male, is the Anima. The counterpart of this in the female is the Animus. The Anima is an unconscious image, we may encounter it in various guises in dreams and fantasies: Goddess, whore, beggar woman, film star, witch... Thus the eternal female image within us revealing herself as a veiled woman is not an unseemly occurrence within Jungian psychology. Whatsmore, the black carsaf which leaves only a pair of beautiful eyes to be seen, might be revealing the dark side of the Anima in the most effective manner. Because the Anima is the spokeswoman of the unconscious, and our partner that inhabits the darker side of our soul. She is also the source of passion and hate. She is the key of spiritual unification, but to the extent that the conscious negates and suppresses her, the Anima might become the sovereign of the unconscious and play the darkest games on us.
Jung speaks notably of the great difficulty Western man suffers in becoming aware of his Anima. This is not only limited to the Anima of course, Jung believes Western people have suffered and inflicted immense pain due to their failure in perceiving the unconscious. The positivist materialist worldview has attained many victories in the material world, foremost among them the victory in the sphere of technology, yet in terms of spiritual unity it finds itself in a destructive blindness. Jung searched for the darker nature of the human spirit in images belonging to fields such as religion, parapsychology, alchemy, dreams and folk tales, which positivism ‘allergically’ reacted to. The consciousness, according to him, has a dream of sealing off its eyes and ears in order to dominate totally its own spirit. This actually amounts to trapping and leaving oneself at the mercy of the darkness of the unconscious. Jung, as a person who lived through the world wars, said that the people had reflected their Shadows (the Shadow: Our dark, inferior side which we suppress into the unconscious) on to neighbouring countries because they could not face up to their Shadows themselves. If he lived today he probably would have seen Western man finding his shadow at the other side of the world too, and still seeking to bomb it.
The Ataturk in the picture is the consciousness of Extrastruggle. There are interesting oppositions which bring one to think thus, in Ataturk and in the girl wearing the carsaf. The consciousness of Enlightenment and dark ignorance. West and East. Male and female. These oppositions present a clue about the war preceding the peace mentioned. If read in the crudest manner: for the consciousness that points to the West the most authentic guide is science. Whatsmore as the Great Commander he is a somewhat stiff-necked male too. It may be said that this situation creates a tension between the Eastern, mystical, religious, female elements of the unconscious and the consciousness.
Let us leave war aside and come to the peace in the forest. In Jungian psychology, the forest is the symbol of the unconscious. The forest in the painting evokes a mystical effect. Peace is not a hand-shake but a holding-of-hands. Thus peace resembles not a mutual agreement but a longed-for-meeting. If it were a dream, we could have interpreted it auspiciously. The consciousness has shown the courage to take a step further to resolve the tension between itself and the unconscious or at least it has ideas concerning a way out. The meeting takes place in the unconscious, with the spokeswoman of the unconscious, the Anima. At many stages of our life, we are confronted with many difficult problems to solve relating to the Anima. The knight who saves the princess from the dragon symbolizes the struggle involving the release from the strong influence of the mother figure and the redirecting of oneself towards the Anima. We tend to identify the person we love with the Anima, and then struggle endlessly with the fact that she is an individual too. Yet in Jungian psychology the real importance of the Anima emerges in the period of maturation. This concerns the becoming aware of the Anima.
In spite of my fragmented knowledge of Jungian psychology I liken it to a playgarden I can enter and play with joy. No doubt there are other beautiful gardens. Yet Extrastruggle has entered the garden spontaneously with its success in grasping common social images. At times I have thought it is wandering in the unconscious, then again in the social unconscious. Finally it might be said that I am only labouring away with my own unconscious. I love art’s ability to illuminate the common nature of man, its unifying aspect.
Translation: Nazım Dikbaş