Elementals is a series of drawings in pencil on paper—simple materials that encourage the spontaneous emergence of symbols, shapes and patterns as I contemplate that thing, which Dylan Thomas so eloquently evoked when he wrote:
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower.
These drawings reflect my deep reverence for nature, and my yearning to get in touch with the force or spirit behind all life—human, animal, plant and elemental.
Earthly things like iridescent insect wings, raindrops, feathered wings, a floating bubble, crescent moons, all-seeing eyes, soft pastel-coloured mounds and velvety moth wings intermingle with abstract shapes and symbols in celebration of the unknowable magnificence that I have recently started to experience tantalizing glimpses of during the practice of meditation.
Some pieces exude a quiet gentleness, while others feel bold and exuberant, reminiscent of sixties-style hallucinatory visions of the cosmos bursting forth with a humming and humorous vitality.
My quest to explore the sublime / divine / sacred in both life and in art is in part inspired by having been employed, over the past twelve months, to photograph and catalogue an extensive collection of stunning tribal and sacred art from around the world: early Aboriginal bark paintings, ritual objects and totemic figures from all over the world, shamanic items (hair, teeth, a human skull), Tibetan thangka paintings, an Oceanic royal crown of delicate pink-tipped shells, New Guinean shields, ceremonial masks from Africa, Himachal Pradesh and beyond.
Despite the questionable ethics inherent in the practice of white people ‘collecting’ sacred art from often poor, indigenous cultures, it was nevertheless a rare opportunity to spend time surrounded by exquisite objects, all of them laboriously hand-made in service of bringing people closer to their gods and goddesses.
Being surrounded by hundreds of soulful objects got me contemplating the role of the divine in art, and wondering whether there might somehow be room in the contemporary art world (currently besotted with the darker, more cynical side of life) to explore the spiritual side of things.
There is something so pleasantly humbling when we are able to escape from the confines of our ego’s self-obsessed anxieties and be reminded, instead, of our minuscule place as humans within the vast, glittering universe that contains mysteries we can only ever feel, rather than intellectually know.