Mandala No.18: Satisfied

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Mandala No.18: Satisfied by Judy Backhouse (copyright)

There is nothing quite so satisfying as glorious, rampant symmetry. The repetition and pattern are just so good. Here is a pure indulgence in pretty symmetry.

The pattern consists of 16 segments of circles, all meeting in the middle. It creates a large yellow flower with 16 petals at the outer level, but the intersections reveal a series of similar flowers, getting smaller and smaller towards the centre.

Following the pattern from the outside in, the colours shift from the lightest yellow through orange and red to the deepest almost-black violet in the centre. The petals are emphasised with gold, adding to the exuberant excess.

Satisfied is painted in acrylic on a 50cm x 50cm gallery-wrapped canvas and finished in gloss acrylic varnish. The image continues over the edge as shown below. It is signed on the back and can be hung in any direction.

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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 clichéd 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.12: Content

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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.

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

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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Detail showing the edge of the canvas