Mandala No.14: Relax

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Mandala No.14: Relax by Judy Backhouse (copyright)

After working on Fear, I needed an antidote, so here is Relax, a comfortable composition reminiscent of the manicured grass, flowers, and water features of a well-run holiday resort. It’s deliberately clich├ęd because the familiar allows one to relax; nothing threatening here.

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In the middle of the mandala, a floppy sunhat might hide me, sitting on a candy-striped beach towel. This mandala uses cool, relaxing shades of blue and green, with happy yellow and orange.

Surrounding me is a pool of blue water. The traditional four doors of the mandala have become four stepping-stones across the water. The pool sits on a lawn of green mowed in traditional stripes. Then there is a tangle of yellow and orange flowers that add some irregularity to the otherwise very structured elements.

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Mandala No.14: Relax is painted in acrylic paint and finished in gloss acrylic varnish on a 50 cm x 50 cm gallery-wrapped canvas. The painting continues around the edge of the canvas as shown below. This mandala is signed on the back and could be hung in any direction.

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Mandala No.13: Fear

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Mandala No.13: Fear by Judy Backhouse (copyright)

Fear makes you small. So this mandala has shrunk down to occupy a small space at the centre of the canvas. Most of the canvas is background, the scary “other” that dominates.

Fear is an ugly picture, it feels uncomfortable, disturbing, something to look away from.

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In the centre of this mandala are huddled four creatures, back-to-back. Each faces one of the traditional mandala doors, and the doors are just an arrow-slit opening. When you are afraid you have to be constantly on guard. You can never relax. Between the four of them, is a red space, representing their collective sense of danger.

Beyond is a wide open space, kept barren to ensure that any approach can be seen. It’s a sickly yellowish green, the colour of fear.

Outside that there is a solid wall topped by what South Africans will recognise as the ubiquitous electric fence, the ultimate symbol of fear. Electric fencing is sold as “security” and yet it makes no-one feel secure. Instead it leaves people trapped in a spider’s web of their own fear.

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The threat is a high-energy mixture of oranges, reds, browns, purples and blues, all pointing in towards the fear-filled centre. It’s alarming, aggressive. But up close the colours are rich and vibrant. This threatening background provides the only beauty in an otherwise ugly painting.

Incidentally, I am not superstitious. That this painting is number 13 was just a coincidence.

Mandala No.13: Fear is painted in acrylic paint on a gallery-wrapped 50cm x 50cm canvas and is finished with a gloss acrylic varnish. The edges of the canvas are painted in a plain dark brown.

Mandala No. 11: Interference

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Mandala No.11: Interference (copyright Judy Backhouse)

It has been a while, but I have a number of new mandala’s nearing completion. Here is the first of the new batch: Interference.

In this mandala, the traditional circle is no longer whole, instead we see a number of parts of circles, intersecting and creating interference patterns, like ripples on water. The result is a busy canvas, with a lot going on. Life often feels like this. It’s not entirely a bad thing. The interference sets up interesting patterns, like the dramatic star in the centre of the picture, and the busyness is stimulating, fun even.

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But it takes effort and concentration to see the patterns, to find the parts of the circles. Each of the corners has a series of quarter circles spreading out from it. I extracted this image to try and focus my own attention on what was going on in just one corner of the canvas.

I’ve used high-energy yellow, orange and red in this mandala to reflect the energy that I feel when life is complex, full of projects and I’m enjoying all the activity. The cool blue edges are an attempt to bring some balance, to remind myself of the need to rest.

This mandala has some great shapes and textures in the detail. When life is busy it is filled with moments of beauty, but I am often not able to appreciate them. So Interference is also a bit frustrating, and tiring. There comes a point when I want more peace.

Mandala No.11: Interference is painted in acrylic paints on a 50cm x 50cm stretched canvas and finished with gloss acrylic varnish. It is not gallery wrapped and would look best framed in a floating frame.