Exhibition 2016: The Mandala Series

During 2016 I explored colour and shape through a series of Mandala paintings. I ended the year with a small exhibition of the Mandala Series on the 8th and 9th December.

Here are pictures of me describing Joy (left) and posing with Safe (right).

And below a selection of pictures of guests enjoying the evening of the 8th

 

 

Follow these links to earlier posts in my blog about the Mandala Series, the different types of energy in the first ten mandalas, how to buy my art.

Click on the pictures below to find the blog post about each picture in the series.

Peace Mandala 2
Mandala No.1: Peace
Happy mandala
Mandala No.2: Happy
Impact Mandala
Mandala No.3: Impact
Joy
Mandala No.4: Joy
Mandala No.5: Growing
Mandala No.5: Growing
exuberant mandala small
Mandala No.6: Exuberant
Hope small
Mandala No.7: Hope
Love
Mandala No.8: Love
Angry small
Mandala No.9: Angry
Harmony 2
Mandala No.10: Harmony
Interference small
Mandala No.11: Interference
Content
Mandala No.12: Content
Fear small
Mandala No.13: Fear
20160824_101920
Mandala No.14: Relax
focus-small-turned
Mandala No.15: Focus
intersect-small
Mandala No.16: Intersect
grief-small
Mandala No.17: Grief
satisfied-small
Mandala No.18: Satisfied
safe-small
Mandala No.19: Safe

Mandala No.13: Fear

Fear small
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.

fear detail1

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.

fear detail 8

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.12: Content

Content
Mandala No.12: Content by Judy Backhouse (copyright)

Content is a state of not wanting, of being satisfied with what you have, of feeling that the world is right, just as it is. For me, these feelings of not wanting are most common at home, so Content is about homeliness: simple white flowers, a red and white checked table cloth, four chairs set out for friends or family. These are the simple pleasures that make life feel right. The tiled circular dias frames and contains. Whole.

The centre of this mandala is a round bowl of white flowers, surrounded by the red and white checks of the tablecloth. I like the simplicity of red complementing green, set off against white. The georgeous tiles on the dias echo the red and green in muddier shades. Beyond is bright green grass with dancing vines and more white flowers to add some movement.

I love the symmetries of the central composition, vertical, horizontal and rotational, with only the flowers being out of line. Compare these two views of Content, showing contrasting directions of the squares. Yes, you could hang it diagonally, if you wanted to.

Content is painted in acrylic paint on a 50cm x 50cm gallery-wrapped canvas and finished in matt acrylic varnish. The delicate vines spill over the edge of the canvas.

content detail 1

Content is signed on the back and is ready to hang.

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.10: Harmony

Harmony 2
Mandala No.10: Harmony by Judy Backhouse (copyright)

Harmony reflects my favourite colours – pinks, lilacs and mauves, with touches of deep purple. I love the way these colours interact and here I have experimented with them alone and mixed. I find the interactions between these colours epitomise harmony.

The shifts in colour as well as the repeated lines create a vibration in this picture, that reminds me of the vibrations of sound. For me its like a standing wave pattern that has been set up on the canvas. I can hear it singing to me. It’s not a simple sound – there is complexity in the multiple layers and patterns.

Harmony detail 5
Standing waves create the harmony

Harmony is painted in acrylic on a gallery-wrapped canvas slightly bigger than my other mandalas at 60cm x 60cm. The sides of the canvase are painted pink and it is finished with matt acrylic varnish. The picture is ready to hang.

Harmony detail 6
Detail showing the edge of the canvas

 

Mandala No.8: Love

Love
Mandala No.8: Love by Judy Backhouse (copyright)

Finally, here is Love. A mandala that I have been lavishing loving attention on for some time now.

Love is represented by the traditional heart shape, but these hearts have swelled up like ripe fruit. Love is fruitful. Love underlies all creative endeavours. Creativity is driven by love, as is so nicely captured in this quote:

“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” Osho

At the heart of the picture, inside the central square, is one of these heart-fruits, surrounded by rays of gold. This square has a white background, emphasising the golden rays. Love has this quality of warmth. From wherever it originates, it spreads out and impacts on everything in its path. To be surrounded by loving people always has a positive impact, if you are in the way of that love.

Instead of the traditional four doors or gates, there are four fat, ripe, heart-fruit on a background of textured green. The fruit are connected by a vine. They grow together. Beyond the circle of green the rays of gold continue, on a muted pale ochre background. The warmth of the golden rays is still there, but you will feel it less the further you are from the source.

Love is painted in acrylics on a 50cm x 50cm gallery-wrapped canvas and finished with a matt acrylic varnish. The rays of gold continue around the edge of the painting as shown.

Love detail 02

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.

Mandala No.9: Angry

Angry small
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.

Angry detail 15
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.

Angry detail 2
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!

Mandala No.5: Growing

Growing
Mandala No.5: Growing by Judy Backhouse (copyright)

Growing is such a powerful idea. I think about plants and how insistent they are, pushing up paving and cracking rocks. I remember being pregnant and how this tiny new human took over my body, relentlessly elbowing me into shape as his life-support system. Growing is about the power inherent in biological processes. Fragile-seeming strands reach outwards slowly, but with great determination. Almost nothing can stop growth.

This mandala was inspired by growing things, by the wondeful variety of shapes that growing things come in and their power to expand and become what they were designed to be, following some secret inner plan.

Grow detail 3

Growing features green (obviously), and the drama of red, but also shades of pink and mauve, contrasting areas of flat colour with areas of texture.

Grow detail 2

This Mandala deviates from the traditional circle design and uses instead two overlapping Reuleaux triangles. These fabulous shapes are made by joining three arcs with the centre of each arc being at the corners of an equilateral triangle. They are similar to circles in that you can put parallel lines on either side of the shape (but touching it) and the distance between the parallel lines will always be the same, no matter how the Reuleaux triangle is orientated.

Mandala No.5: Growing is painted in acrylics on a 50cm x 50cm stretched canvas. Although I have painted around the edge of the canvas, it is not gallery-wrapped, so this work would probably look best framed in a white floating frame.