I believe it makes little sense to distinguish imagination from reality, since the very quality of our experience is profoundly imaginal. I do believe imagination is unavoidable and ubiquitous. We can’t not be imaginative―at any rate, we could speak of degrees of imaginative practice.

The ability to have internal representations and play with them is one of the key dimensions of being human. And, as such, it covers the widest range of experience and is not limited to what is usually understood by creativity, although any creation in any field does require imagination. Imagination contributes to the knowledge of self and others and to the transformation of ourselves and the world. In what direction and to what ends? That is another question (e.g., was the ideation of the 9/11 attack imaginative?).  

In my professional life as an artist, researcher, and teacher at the Complutense University of Madrid, I regard imagination as the source of my work. It is patent when something comes spontaneously into the mind, and also in the intentional play of ideas in search of questions and answers. It serves active listening, empathy and creativity, which cooperate to enliven and give depth to the development of classes and art therapy sessions.


Ana Iribas-Rudin is a visual artist, researcher, teacher, and art therapist who is part of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain.