Friday, 27 April 2012

Creativity and Grief

"Dost thou love life? 

Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff that life is made of."

 Benjamin Franklin.

"I am a child whose teacher is love" Rumi

As is part of  the cycle of life my mother died in  March. She lived a long and full life during which she  was dearly loved by her family and friends. Una  was known for  her warmth, charm, beauty , sense of mischief, intelligence , an infectious giggle and her sharp wit. Of Irish descent she had a Celtic poetic soul that always looked to see the beauty in the world around her. Una's  father died when she was only three so she and her brother were brought up by her mother with the help of an aunt in straightened circumstances.Then in contrast she became a colonial wife in West Africa and later enjoyed the honorary title of ' Lady' after my father's investiture as a Knight of the realm in the 1960s.

Over the last few years I was closely involved in my mother's  care as she lived nearby. She was troubled by bouts of depression and anxiety which caused her a lot of mental anguish and distress. Ours became a close relationship and I feel very blessed that there was the opportunity to get to know her so well through the good and even the less happy times.

Throughout this period creativity has been a central part of my existence  as a  means of  personal expression .Painting and reestablishing my self as an artist  after a long period of creative drought  has brought such a sense of meaning  and joy to life. This sustained creative output continued as my mother got older and frailer. She always took an interest in my work and enjoyed seeing its progression even though at times she did not fully understand what I was depicting in my characteristic  bright richly coloured abstract pieces! 

During her final illness I noticed that on one hand while all creative activity ceased equally on the other that I was observing colours. patterns and shapes with heightened awareness - mentally composing poems and  drafting ideas for  paintings.This duality continued after her death the poems were written though far too  personal to be shown to anyone and notes have been made for future projects.

Grief comes in waves sometimes it is all consuming and the simplest of tasks  can feel insurmountable and at others daily life continues easily and smoothly.The same applies to creativity there are days when ideas flow and I feel energized and productive while there are also times when the opposite happens so nothing seems to spark any creative thought. These fluxes are observed and I let the waves of emotion wash over. Strengthened  by my own deep seated personal spiritual beliefs  I know that this is all part of life's experience and the soul's journey.

Being creative has also helped during this period of transition to build momentum and regain a sense of inner joy. Soon after my mother's funeral I traveled to Italy to stay for a few days  with my daughter who is studying in Padua near Venice for a year.Walking around with my camera and taking countless photographs of the Italian sights  was  a welcome  diversion from the gamut of emotions - it led to feeling more centered and aware. Photography requires time to stop, to observe, to compose and to be present. I feel  excited when taking photographs engaging fully in the process which in turn  furthers a sense of aliveness. On returning from Italy  I have had a couple of one to one photographic workshops with a friend who is a professional photographer and her company 
 Look Again encourages people to explore looking at their world from a fresh perspective . These sessions not only help hone my  skills but also have deepened the ongoing renewed passion in photography .

I have inherited my mother's love of clothes, pattern colours and texture but her most enduring gift is that of rich appreciation of all the beauty to be in even the simplest of things. We as a family all remember her sitting in the front of the car exclaiming "oh look at the colour of those trees, isn't that sky beautiful or I  love  that bright yellow in the field over there ." and so on. This almost childlike delight in observing the world  brings a freshness and awareness  that transcends the mundane. With gratitude I increasing  find myself observing with the same enthusiasm of my mother - what a wonderful creative legacy to have!

The artist is a receptacle for the emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web" -
 Pablo Picasso

 To see more photographs from the trip to Italy look in the 
Padua, Venice & Verona  collection on Flickr and there are also selected photographs from the two Look Again sessions in my  Facebook Art Page

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Reflections and renewed passions

At the start of the New Year, I always find myself looking back at the old year in terms of creative output and inspiration. In 2011, the use of the circle motif was developed and expanded. Not only did  I paint circles exclusively but by  incorporating  a selection of  found objects on to the canvases  extra depth,  contrast and texture and even elements of surprise were  added to the pictorial plane.  The collage of objects varied in size from tiny buttons though to wheel hubs, and the process of selection of this material proved to be an ongoing absorbing activity. Everywhere I go, there is 'treasure' to be found which is  often objects that have been discarded but catch my eye because of their colour, shape or pattern. The collection of collage items continues to grow and is always being added to. 
 'Days of Gold' Acrylic and mixed media.30cm diameter
© Ahrabella Heabe Lewis 2011

Another theme of 2011 was the mass of inspiration I got from travel from the rich earth colours of Morocco to the varied landscapes and cities of a tour of the United States that began in Chicago through to the South West. The vast scale of America  with it's expanse of sky, earth , mountains and distance  made a strong visual impression and in time  this sense of open space will begin to filter through into my paintings.
While traveling I took numerous photographs, and increasingly found that photography began to be an exciting and rewarding creative activity. 

                             Chicago skyscrapers reflected 
                                        Bryce canyon National Park
                       Lake Tenaya Yosemite National Park 
                                          Las Vegas by night 
                   The Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco 

More photographs from the American tour can be found in my Flickr account USA 2011 - Cities and in my Facebook art page

This renewed interest in photography has continued into the start of this year. Over the last few weeks I have being experimenting using only manual settings and taking the time to really get a thorough understanding of the mechanics of the camera. This has proved to be a satisfying and frustrating process in equal measure but is ultimately rewarding. I have enjoyed learning or to be precise  relearning how to operate the camera, and find that now I am looking at everyday objects, and the world in general with close attention. In fact really observing which can almost become a meditative process.Taking time to operate the camera changes the emphasis of the whole process of composition. It is a slower more considered approach,which is more conscious. Gradually confidence and ability is being gained.
                                     Hand made Christmas cards
                      Still life of three bottles and below wine glasses
Ideas of combining photography with an enduring passion for painting are beginning to emerge and I feel excited by this creative exploration!
2012 promises to be an interesting and productively creative year as I continue to develop skills while experimenting further with both my passions and painting.