Self-abnegation, Decentering of Objective Relations, and Intuition of Nature: Toomas Altnurme's and Cao Jun's Art

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This article analyzes the artwork of two seemingly distant contemporary artists - Toomas Altnurme and Cao Jun - elucidating their creative processes through the theoretical frameworks of Martin Heidegger, Sigmund Freud, and Henri Bergson. In Section 1, I offer reasons for a side-by-side examination of Altnurme's and Jun's art. In my discussion of Altnurme's art in Section 2, I argue that his process exemplifies Heidegger's view that artists must abnegate themselves in order for their creations to come into being. In Section 3, I elucidate Jun's painting in its power to decenter the usual, object-oriented, circumspection of the mind. I ground my analyses in Freud's concept of dream logic. Freud's work on dreams allows me to approach Jun's creative process as a work of translation whereby the artist translates the preconscious elements into images that we - the audience - then see on canvas. In Section 4, where I offer a comparative examination of both artists, I rely on Bergson's articulation of the importance of intuition in order to show that both Altnurme and Jun create artworks that disclose to us the non-objective dimension of life wherein action or process and possibility take precedence over objectively existing things.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20240003
JournalOpen Philosophy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2024


  • dream-logic in art
  • freedom
  • Henri Bergson
  • intuition
  • Martin Heidegger
  • multiculturalism
  • nature
  • Sigmund Freud

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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