An artist’s experience of life is a rich one, in that so much of what life offers is being noticed, interpreted for colour, form, perspective, light, greedily soaked up to then be re-interpreted in paint. In recent years I have been drawing greater and greater parallels between my painting process and my experiences with adversity, and sometime between two exhibitions, Regeneration (2008) and Grace (2010), I realised that all that background noise, all that lifetime of internal discontent had gradually, imperceptibly, been replaced by a kind of acceptance. Whilst I don’t exactly welcome them, I can now view challenges as part of the texture of my life, places of interest in life’s story that I can build on with the colour and light of the more joyful times.
Most of my paintings have a story. I’m often asked if my spiritual beliefs inform my work, and as a Bahá’í, I would have to say a most definite yes, but in a fairly tangential way, as what I paint are more ideas and internal processes rather than concepts. The most direct influence my faith has on my work is the idea from the Bahá’í writings that life’s challenges are really gifts of Grace, to be welcomed, not feared. In general terms, the dark and textured parts of my painting represent adversity and growth, whilst Grace weaves itself through it all, represented by light or fluid lines.
A passage in the Baha’i Writings that has influenced my work is one where the Divine speaks to us, and says, “My calamity is My providence. Outwardly it is fire and vengeance, inwardly it is light and mercy.” I have found this to be true, even though it hasn’t entirely made the hard times easier for me to bear. In some ways, my obsession with dark and light in my paintings, with exploring the idea that beauty and growth can arise from periods of ‘calamity’ is my effort to visually capture an idea that I want to sear into my soul. If I paint this theme often enough, maybe I will ‘get it’ and face life with the courage and fortitude that comes from knowing “only good will come from this”.