New year, new energy

I have started this year with reorganising my studio. It’s a major revamp – with new shelves and new pinning boards along one wall. I’m also taking the opportunity to sort and clear out all my stacks of old pictures, doodles, sketched ideas and junk.

As a result the studio is a bit messy right now. Any art I make is squeezed between piles of stuff waiting to be moved or sorted. So it’s mostly small stuff. This 25cm x 25cm canvas was just able to fit in the space I cleared last week.

I’ve been thinking about energy a lot, what with trying to recover from an exhausting 2017 and paying close attention to what energises me and what depletes me.

Fabric of Life 1

Somehow energy is represented in my brain as these round bubbles with different textures. Some are spiky and bright, others swirling and sparkly. This “fabric of life” painting shows some of these energy representations, against a background of woven fabric.

Fabric of Life 2

Fabric of Life is painted in acrylics on a gallery wrapped canvas. The painting goes around the sides of the canvas as shown above. It is finished with gloss acrylic varnish.

 

 

 

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Face No.1: Determined

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Face No.1: Determined

There is something so self-possessed and quiet about this face, it’s almost serene. But there is that glint in the eye and the flare of the nostril reveals a steely determination. He may seem passive, but he is going to get his way, quietly and patiently waiting for the opportunity. This underlying energy is revealed in the background.

This painting is based on a photograph, in a very old copy of Du, of a carved statue. My academic training makes me want to cite the source, but I am resisting. I love that art can be layers of invention and re-invention.

Determined is painted in acrylic paint on a 50cm x 50cm stretched canvas and is finished with a gloss acrylic varnish. It is not framed.

 

I’ve been silent for a while on this blog because I have been launching Better, a physical space for creative makers in Johannesburg. If you are in Johannesburg, come along and visit. If you are a creative sort, looking for a place to create from and a community, join us.

Mandala No.16: Intersect

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Mandala No.16: Intersect by Judy Backhouse (copyright)

I wanted to play with those Reuleaux triangles again, and this mandala started out as an experiment to see how they fitted into the square of the canvas. There are four of them, one with a point in the middle of each side. It gave an intruiging result, with the appearance of layers of almost squares. I added lines that complemented the edges of the triangles and the painting evolved into an exploration of intersections.

Intersections are about choices: Do you follow the path you are on? Do you choose another one? Which one will you choose?

It’s a messy picture, full of energy with the lines on the outside moving busily around the picture, containing the outward energy in the centre. For me it echos the busyness of living in the city where one moves along set paths, but with constant intersections which invite you to take another path, to explore something new. I find as I look at the painting that my eyes follow the lines up to an intersection and then swoop off in another direction.

Mandala No.16: Intersect 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.

intersect-detail-4

For those of you who noticed that Mandala No.15 is missing, well spotted! It’s called Focus, and so is a bit more intense and taking longer to finish.

Ten mandalas, five kinds of energy

Ten mandalas feels like quite a milestone. Here I wanted to put them together and explore the relationships between them. As I look back at them, I see that the mandalas have different kinds of energy in them.

There are two that are really forceful, and dramatic. These are Angry and Impact.

These mandalas have the highest energy levels; the energy is inspiring, but can also be intrusive and uncomfortable.

Then there are two which also have lots of energy, but it’s a lighter, more boyant energy. These are Joy and Exuberant.

In these there is a happy, swirling movement; still filled with energy, but with elements of freedom and fun.

The energy in Love and Growing is about a sense of progress, of slow movement, with the results becoming evident over time.

Here we sense the energy as calm, but powerful. The movement is not obvious, but inexorable.

The next type of energy shows up in Hope and Harmony.

These two mandalas have a vibrational energy. There is not much movement, but there is a sort of background hum to each of them. Tiny, repeated movements that have a cumulative effect.

And finally, in Happy and Peace we see a stillness. These are states of contentment.

There is little movement in these mandalas. Rather they represent ideal or perfect states without striving, or any need for change.

I have started working on my next set of mandalas, filling in some gaps that I see in the series thus far. I look forward to sharing them here soon.

Mandala No.9: Angry

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Mandala No.9: Angry by Judy Backhouse (copyright)

I thought I ought to try my hand at one of the darker feelings, so here is Angry.

Anger is forceful. Like a fire, it creates heat. But we contain anger, we don’t want it to escape, or become visible, and so the fire is held back by a solid ring that is equally powerful. The result is pressure as the fire rages within and effort expended in containing it. This mandala represents this tension.

At the centre of anger is a black core. This is the source of the anger. It may be some hurt or some injustice, but it is compressed into a black crystalline shape that emits no light.

Angry detail 7
The black core of Angry

From this centre emanates a fierce, hot fire that fills the square space around the core.

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The hot fire at the centre of Angry

From four doors, one on each side of the central square, the fire bursts out in glorious red and orange flames.

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The flames burst out…

But these flames encounter the solid outer ring. Here you can see the flames illuminating the inside edge of that containing force.

Angry detail 3
…but are stopped by the outer ring

This angry drama plays out against a rich background of blues, purples and deep reds. While the dark colours reflect the dark thoughts that accompany anger, there is an energy to anger, that is represented by flashes of gold. Anger can be inspiring, it can move us to action, and this positive side of anger is represented by the gold.

Angry detail 6
The rich background of Angry

Angry is painted in acrylics on a 50cm x 50cm stretched canvas and finished with gloss acrylic varnish. Although I do paint around the edges of the canvas, it would be best displayed in a gold or black frame.

Many of my mandalas, including Angry, have no “correct” orientation. For this reason I sign them on the back, where the name of the work and the date also appear.

Mandala’s 7 and 8 are coming soon. Angry just got finished first. It seemed to have more energy!