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McDonald, ML 2009, 'The adventures of an inkling : unfolding the enfolded, unblocking the creative block and experiencing flow', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright ML McDonald 2009


This thesis is concerned with making sense of the experiences of adult art students enrolled in an accredited fine arts course at a vocational education and training organisation in Australia. The three main purposes of the study are to: (i) explore the efficacy of using philosophical concepts from critical realism and the philosophy of meta-Reality to understand emancipation from a specific point of view, namely the removal of inhibitions on the enjoyment and fulfilment of art students whilst learning to draw; (ii) consider the ontological structures at play whilst learning to make art, and also during flow experience; and (iii) examine the possibility of using various philosophical concepts from critical realism and meta-Reality to inform decisions about data collection and interpretation in an empirical study.

Case study, grounded-theory and action research approaches were combined, together with non-participant observation, in-depth interviews and group discussions for collecting data, and a two-way interrogation of theoretical concepts and empirical data for the analysis.

The research indicated empirical support for the philosophy of critical realism and meta-Reality, whilst at the same time identifying and reconciling potential inconsistencies. In particular, it is argued that the realist concepts of: (i) a stratified model of reality, (ii) intentional human agency, (iii) the stratified nature of the self, (iv) the ontological status of absence, (v) the theory of co-presence, and (vi) the model of unfolding the enfolded prove valuable in developing a theory for ‘unblocking the creative block’. Whilst the study draws extensively on Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi’s theory of flow experience to complement Roy Bhaskar’s account of the ground state and of the nature of free-flowing activity, flow theory also proved limited in explaining some of the art students’ comments about their enjoyable experiences whilst learning to make art. Roy Bhaskar’s stratified analysis of the self was useful in this respect. The findings suggest that the philosophy of critical realism and meta-Reality provide new ways of understanding the process of learning in general, and further, these theories have implications for teaching and learning in the field of art education.