Abstraction and projection

While doing some abstract photography, I could not stop thinking about the phenomenon of projection and creativity when encountering abstraction.


The mind does not like ambiguity. Instead, it wants to get closure and definiteness, as quickly as possible. The mind finds it difficult to accept open-ended processes that may not have a clear, defined goal.


When your mind confronts an abstraction or an ‘unknown’ entity, there is a tendency to project your own interpretation onto the situation based on your assumptions, unique cognitive structures and past experiential knowledge. This interpretation tells you more about yourself than the actual situation you are trying to make sense of.


Many years ago, I underwent professional training into interpreting the Rorschach test responses of clients. The Rorschach test is a projective test of images that the client has to interpret and tell a story. That interpretation was then interpreted and analysed by the psychologist and certain hypotheses and inferences were drawn about the functioning of the client and the potential emotional struggles that the client may be encountering.


According to the psycho-dynamic theory of Freud, projection is considered to be a defence mechanism. When utilising this defence mechanism, a person projects an unacceptable, negative unconscious part of him/herself onto another person. For example, if a person is very judgemental, he/she may deny this and instead project this onto another person and state, ‘you are judgemental’ (as opposed to acknowledging this aspect within him/herself).


Abstraction creates an unease on one level, yet intrigue on another. It is in the interaction of unease and intrigue that creativity exists.


The creative process is an expansive process where the mind projects new meaning onto the ‘unknown’. Creativity does not lose interest in abstraction. It thrives on it.


A creative mind always looks at the ‘ordinary’ in a different way. Creativity is meaningful projection that adds a different perspective to the situation being encountered.



3 thoughts on “Abstraction and projection

  1. Ken, this is another wonderful piece of writing, thank you. Your contributions to stimulating thinking amongst ‘the wider world’ is very special, and i think it is only over a period of time (sometimes a decade!) that some people (myself included) really understand the power of your creative thinking and ability to ‘see more’, and also be comfortable ‘not knowing’. You are truly an inspiration to me, and i believe, many others around the globe. Thanks again, Burnsie x

    1. Hi Burnsie

      Thank you for your comment.

      I have learned to be more comfortable in the world of the ‘unknown’ over time. In my work as a psychotherapist. I have come to understand that there is so much more to what we see and think, especially when it comes to problems and dilemmas.

      For me, reality is constantly revealing more of itself in an expanding way. Being too certain about a reality shuts off further exploration.

      1. As I have come to understand, there are ‘no answers’ from mind – only guidance from nature.. The fascinating thing I am learning is how often we (or do I really mean ‘I’?!) impose my own perception or thinking (experience) on a circumstance as opposed to taking a wiser stance more often, and merely observing ‘the data’ as it unfolds and then, rather than interpreting the data – just allow myself to observe some more and trust the unfolding process to reveal whatever it reveals over time… Your help in enabling me to do this has been transformational over time. However, i still have more discipline to acquire, in order to maintain this reflective, more curious stance..

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