Mandala No.7: Hope

Hope small
Mandala No.7: Hope by Judy Backhouse (copyright)

This may not look like hope at first glance. Several people have said to me “but that’s not hopeful”. Bear with me on this.

Hope has been one of the most difficult mandala’s to work on. I struggled with how to represent it because for me, hope is something that emerges, and is most valued, in the dark times. So I didn’t want to use the happy colours that are often associated with hope. Hope, for me, goes hand-in-hand with despair. It’s when life is particularly bleak that those tiny glimmers of hope mean so much. This is when hope, however faint, has kept me going, given me a reason to get up. At such times, even the tiniest flicker of hope stands out because it contrasts with the way I feel.

hope corner
Hope shows up when things are darkest

This mandala represents a moving towards the light – a progression from darkness into light and it is the little glimmers of bright yellow hope that move the eye inwards. The yellow vibrates, the greys get lighter, there is a bright centre to aspire to. This, for me, is what hope is all about.

hope vibrations
Hope moves one from dark towards the light

The repeated circles and squares create a vibration too; it appears as though there are rays of light radiating from the centre outwards along the diagonals.

Hope is a little uneven; sometimes thick and obvious, sometimes just a hint of a line.

hope blobs
Hope is a little uneven…

Mandala No.7: Hope is painted in acrylics on a 50cm x 50cm stretched canvas. Although I have painted around the edge of the canvas in black, it would probably look best framed in a white floating frame. The canvas is signed and dated on the back.

The Mandala series

I have started with a series of Mandala paintings. My brain is a prolific producer of such symmetric, circle-based patterns. When I look back through school notebooks, through journals, through documents doodled on in endless meetings, through papers from conferences, there are circular patterns interspersing my notes, in the margins, sometimes covering pages and obscuring the text.

My obsession with symmetry started early. I can remember sitting on my bed as a child trying to decide which foot to put down first. They had to touch the floor at the same time, or it would be unfair. If I did something with one hand, I had to do it with the other. That was not entirely satisfactory since one hand went first. My childhood was filled with such conundrums.

I never lost my fascination with symmetry and the satisfaction of patterns that rotate and reflect. It led me to study mathematics where I took great delight in algebra and the symmetries that result from finite groups. I spent hours playing with these, making patterns.

mandala small

Mandalas are associated in the Buddhist tradition with wholeness. They seek to depict all the facets of existence in one, emphasising the interrelatedness of all things. For me, the traditional forms of the mandala, a circle within a square canvas, containing a square, containing a circle brings to mind the old mathematical problem of squaring the circle; how to find a square and a circle with the exact same area, a problem which led to explorations of some of the great philosophical mysteries of numbers.

My mandalas each depict a particular feeling, state or process. Each of these is represented by colours, shapes and patterns. Thus Happy is painted in bright, clear colours and Peace is a collection of shapes that contain and calm. The image above is from the Energy mandala.