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RAW

Sharing the process behinds the scenes…

On a day to day, and moment to moment basis, I live what it means to be ‘me’, Veronique Maria, a gay woman, artist, devoted mother and grandmother, Buddhist and lover of life. I do this simply because that is ‘me’.

But as I get older and turn towards becoming sixty, and face my own mortality in a new way, I find myself taking yet another serious look at my art practice and asking ‘Is it enough to simply live my experience of myself in this way? Is it ok for me to live all of that and then translate and transform my life experience into ‘showable’ and ‘presentable’ art work?’

‘Is that really ok with me?

‘Am I doing enough in the world? Am I making enough difference, simply by being connected fully to my passion and purpose and sharing that with others through my art?’

What else needs to be said and done?

I find it important to ask myself is ‘Are the things I am trading my life for, worthy of my life?’ ‘Am I fully aligned and making the work I was born to do?’

Interestingly, a similar sort of seriously intense re-evalation of my art practice happened as I approached aged 50 and 40 too, but of course I am always re-evaluating my art practice each and every day too. I always evaluate my work and my life in an attempt to keep fully on track.

Life is so very precious, a treasure to be taken very seriously in my opinion, but something is different about this questioning I am doing right now. Something is moving and something is shifting in a new way. I don’t completely understand it yet, maybe I never will, but what I do know is that I feel excited, (and I have to admit, extremely nervous too) about what I am about to share with you.

The thing is, I am about to make move further into the RAW.

I know I could just wait another decade to make this move, or never bother to do it at all, and to be honest it would be relatively easy to avoid the situation completely, but that’s why I therefore want to, and need to, declare this to you now – that from now on, intend to share much more of myself with you…. to be much more raw.

Ok, so that may not seem like a particularity big statement right now, but hang on in there with me and I will explain.

There has always been loads of creative work that I do which supports my art practice – the sort of creative expression that I would call ‘the work behind the scenes’. Much of this I never show publicly. I use this kind of work as a starting point, and to inform my ‘other’ more polished and showable work that I let go out into the world. But why do I do this? Why wouldn’t I show you everything? Why wouldn’t I?!

The work I have traditionally kept more to myself has often tended to be live art, performance for camera, most written work (poetry, and mixed genre writing for example) and experimenting with materials and sound, but it can also be drawing, painting and sculpture that are processes I never show you. So why, (up until now) haven’t I shared and shown that work? What would it be like to be completely exposed and vulnerable with you?

It seems that (for the most part) I’ve been ok with keeping my ‘naked’ sort of work to myself.

My creative work that I put out into the world has always been incredibly personal. From the time I wrote my first poems about love, passion and grief inspired by my girlfriend when we were at school aged 14-16.

I have always been expressing myself in this way but maybe her homophobic plea to me, to keep our love a secret, and my loyalty to her held me back at first.

And later down the line maybe I had some kind of mindset around ‘the artist’s job’ being to make work that talks to the ‘collective’, to the ‘people’, and that to be so revealing of that  which is deeply intimate and personal would be taking away from the ‘other’.

There are other reasons for my ambiguity and abstraction too. I have been holding back so as not to impact others. The people that I love.

But now things have to change.

And I feel differently about all that now. I believe that by sharing ‘me’ I offer a gift to you.

Anyway it’s certainly time for a change.

I know some people think what I already reveal through my art is extremely passionate, brave and expressive, and they admire what I am willing to share of my personal life in the way that I do, but it’s simply not enough for me anymore.

I’ve been concealing the depth of my truth by skirting around the surface and now want to reveal much more of the personal me, in my raw, overt and undeniable state.

I want to stop censoring,  judging, controlling and deciding. Of course I will still do those things as my output and productivity is enormous, so there will have to be some sort of editing and choice going on, but I want to make sure I make, reveal and share ‘a raw expression of an intimate connection’ with you. The raw expression of my intimate connection with my self, with my creativity, with my life and with my love.

I have a wonderful new PA who arrived in my office yesterday. In the process of familiarising her with an over view of my 40+ years of creative output as an artist, I realised that I want to come out and show my work in this raw and overt way in the direct and explicit context of love.

Yes, there will still be finished consumable products in my practice, it’s not all about the raw, but the other side of my practice, or maybe I should call it the centre, or praxis, that which is the core of me….that is what needs to come now.

So without further procrastination and stalling (which is what I’ve doing here if you hadn’t already noticed) ….here’s a taster of the sort of things I write, think about, play with in private.

This is an extract from my journal originally written on 15th June this year.

To set the scene for you, my ex-lover Jak was dying. She had been given medication which had sent her to sleep and she would not be waking up from this, not ever. She was in hospital and had been in great pain for months. The medical staff couldn’t help her manage the pain anymore. She was exhausted. The morphine and the pre-med cocktails didn’t touch the sides. Everything in her body was breaking down. Things had gotten really bad. She had been offered a way out……
At first she resisted. For a few hour, then she took the potion…..

At my time of writing, she was drifting away but had not yet passed away.

There were several hours where she was in a liminal space…

***

Today I was re-reading the writing I had written in that time of suspension. I added to the original text this morning by way of a ritual closing with her. It’s been just over three months since  her death. I guess this is a sort funeral speech which I was unable to manage to come to say at the time.

(Journal extract – 15th June 2016 – by Veronique Maria)

Gratitude for Eternal Love

Dearest…

I want you to know that I won’t ever stop loving you.

It’s important that you know this.

Death and distance haven’t come between us for me,
they’ve just transformed our eternal connection into something else,

something new.

And I am making my adjustments.

***

When you came to me in the night,

that night you were dying,

you said

‘be awake my love, be awake’.

It was 3am.

I scratched my ankles till they were red, raw and tingling

in order to be alert  – to pay full attention to you.

You came to me in the night when you were dying and said

‘be awake my friend, STAY awake and LIVE!’

And in that still and peculiar silence of that night,

in the dead of that deathly night,

into my broken arms and heart you came.

And as you were dying you lay there with me, touching me, holding me,

soothing my broken breaking aching heart.

For surely I was dying in that moment too,

dying with you.

I was convinced of that. That is how it felt.

LEAD, running in my veins, such thick slow gloop,
HEAVY
like poison

I couldn’t move for weeks after that

I was frozen
stiff

completely lost

and sad

This letter is to thank you for doing all you could to help me as you were passing through that night.
and to thank you for the gifts you gave me,
the gifts of love and of life.

When I was grieving with a desperate ache that would

(had I crawled in beside you)

have had me clawing at you begging

‘please don’t go, please stay, don’t leave’

I had to stay away.

You knew that.

We both knew that.

I had to keep away and you helped me do that with such love and sensitivity.

Even in your time of immense pain, so absolutely unbearable, you still loved me.

and then in that liminal space, when peace and sweet relief had come to you
you came back to me

***

I miss you like I would miss the very bones and ligaments of my soul,

(if my soul were to have such things)

but what I know now and I didn’t know then,

is that you are, and will always be deep within me.

I carry you there.

and the depth and degree of my missing,
my aching
and my grief, reminds me of us.

and with that knowledge
now I can sit with this missing.

True,

our deep connection comforts and strengthens me.
But after all the daily stories we shared this year,
and all those 17 years before

our connection and loving,

our reopening,

I had to catch myself falling again,

falling for you

falling into you
and I knew I couldn’t.
We talked about it.

I couldn’t let myself do that

I had to come away

I had to keep away

my body made sure that I would keep away

she tried to keep me safe from pain,
the excruciating pain of separation that comes only after such a profound connection,
the pain that seems unbearable.

she tried to save me
but I loved you again
and my heart broke again
just as it always had done with you

and as I grieved the loss of you,
trying to get over you, I remembered our deep connection and undying love again.

Its one thing to love
and quite another to love and LIVE together
we didn’t manage both.

I know why you came to me that night,

in night when you were dying.

I know you came to remind me of our eternal love and give me strength to carry on.

I know you came to tell me to
LIVE as well as to love.

My bedroom filled with thick ether,
thick with a smoke like mist

a mist all around me

a translucent blue spider
the sort I’ve never seen before,
dropped herself down from the ceiling
directly over my body
and hung suspended – inches from my heart.

I lay still,

watching as she remained motionless there.

I couldn’t let her come any closer – she was,
and you were (it seemed)

already far too deep inside of me.

I cupped my hand upwards and slid it across my chest
two inches below the spider.
I hoped the energy from my palm would speak to her

and I spoke out loud
gently whispering

“stop there please darling – no closer,
it’s time to go now
it’s time for you to go home.

It took a lot say that.
You’ve been my love like no other.

You were the lover that knew me right inside,

in the places that I didn’t even know myself.

It was time to go.

I needed to be released from this spell,

your spell, our spell,

before you

completely departed

***

love transforms…
and sometimes, when we are open to it,
death brings relief and release.

I honestly believed I had died with you that night

passed away with no more will to live

it’s true, I lost it, …(the will that is)

but the fact is, that I didn’t die after all.

and I know that now.

The fact is, that in your passing

and after my grief

I have found a new life,

a new love

and a knew knowing.

You’ve given me a wisdom that I never expected,
you’ve shown me spirituality in a way I didn’t know before,
you’ve inspired me to step into something new,
a new way of being
a new way of living
a new way of loving.

You’ve released me from your spell
and
I’m eternally grateful.

I’m free now

You know this too.
(But it just still felt really important to say it anyway.)

And I won’t ever stop loving you Jak
it’s just that the love has now transformed.

Always

X

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UPDATE AND QUICK BIOG – Veronique Maria

Veronique Maria is passionate about creativity and enabling authentic self expression.

Veronique has worked in the arts since 1970’s. She makes her own art work (painting, performance, video, writing) and sees clients 1-2-1 for creativity coaching and artists mentoring.

She is currently researching the value of art to individuals and societies, exploring the processes of creating and perceiving art as being devotional practices which, with commitment, offer potentiality of becoming spiritual praxes.

She exhibits and sells internationally, and has work in publications and collections worldwide.

She has a BA (hons) in Art and Design, an MA in Psychosynthesis Psychology, a professional training in psychotherapy,  and is a Leadership Graduate with CTI – The Coaches Training Institute (USA).  

Veronique is passionate about the importance of authentic self expression and believes creative integrity  transforms health for individuals and societies.

Her dream is to create a residential retreat centre where everyone (artists and non artists alike) can go for ‘gently intensive hot house’ mentoring to explore their inner artist, and their truest most unbridled self expression in the context of being in service to others.

 

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Love Transforms by Veronique Maria ‘Essays on the Theory and Practice of a Psychospiritual Psychology – Volume 2’

Love Transforms.

When someone asks me how, with all my history, I’ve became so solid, articulate and comfortable in my own skin, I’m baffled. Then I tell them it was Psychosynthesis; eighteen years of weekly psychotherapy, eight years of a professional training and several years writing papers, poems and pros describing my experiences.

It’s difficult to put my finger on it exactly ‘what Psychosynthesis is to me’. Psychosynthesis helped me grow from a shy, inarticulate girl, into a strong, self-assured woman.

I tell people Psychosynthesis helped me build a house inside of myself.

***   ***   ***

In 2013 I was awarded a three month Artist’s Residency by the Wurlitzer Foundation USA. They provided me with an old adobe casita on seventeen acres of woodland in New Mexico and invited me to ‘do my creative thing’. Thousands of miles from home, family and friends, and with no car, phone or internet, I found myself ‘listening’ to myself, others and the environment with new, and expanded levels of heightened awareness.

I’d originally intended to use my time in Taos to write a film script and work on video. It soon became clear this residency was about exploring who I am when there’s no project and my layers are peeled right back. 8,000 feet up a sacred mountain, with limited oxygen, I felt permanently high. Stripped bear, each moment had a quality of prayer.

In ‘normal’ life back home in England I’d been striving to surrender to the unknown but fear often held me back. Trust seemed easier in Taos. Soon after arriving, I purchased four beautifully illustrated story books, one of which was Thomas Blue Eagle’s Ledger Book. These were the first gifts I’d ever dared buy for my much hoped for grandchild. Not willing to give up on that dream, I returned to my casita and wrote this poem.

Thomas Blue Eagle’s Ledger Book

I bought

b o o k s

for you today.

four precious symbols

of my desire to dream you

into                                    being.

I’ve been dreaming of you for years,

and I think of you almost everyday now

I     wonder     when     you     will     come     to     me

I  want  to  make  you  blankets  and  shawls  and  tiny  booties

I want to gather you up in my arms – tell you  mama will always love you

I want to sew with you, dance with you and lay down and stroke you

I want you to have everything a child should have

and be protected from all that children shouldn’t have to bear

I wonder when you will come to me

I am dreaming you darling,

and daydreaming you

into          being

with      all

m   y

love.

A month later, when my son announced the conception of his daughter, I was in heaven, awe and wonder. I celebrated with gratitude and rituals.

Many of my experiences in New Mexico were monumental. Never knowing what’s coming next, I wrote this:

Blessed Art Thou….

Dawn, New Mexico 2014 

Dogs 

Wild dogs searching for truth came sniffing in my casita.

Hairy mongrels with wet noses and wagging tails.

I tried to catch them as they danced around the house.

Jumping up onto my bed many times and then hiding in dark corners.

They had twinkles in their eyes and sometimes their tales swept the floor.

Therapy 2014

“I’ll be fifty five at the end of this month.”

Pause.

“I trained extensively as an artist, a psychotherapist, and an applied psychosynthesis practitioner. For what? Pivoting between fifty and sixty I’m out on a high wire. Not a comfortable place.”

“What would be comfortable?”

“When I reflect back over my life, I remember how I thought it was going to be, especially in my mid teens, when I had a really strong sense of who I was and where I was going. It didn’t turn out quite as I thought it would. I often wonder what I could have done differently.”

Pause.

“mmmm comfortable? I suppose that would be when I am really settled and everything seems right. Actually I get that feeling quite a lot. I’m not talking about that sort of ‘comfortable’ though,  I’m talking about being comfortable about being mortal – a deep sense of comfort.

Maybe the comfort I’m talking about is born out of being on track, aligned with ones life purpose, at peace with life and death and able to hold one’s self steady in any situation.

I remember feeling fully in my body when I was fifteen. That feeling of vibrancy, determination, strength and vitality; a sense nothing could stop me from having life. I was focused and in love. If I had died in that moment I imagine I might have felt whole and complete.

I remember prancing across Hampstead Heath enjoying nature and my body as if they were one.

I was wearing my grandpa’s bola hat with a peacock feather in it. My sixties blouse stitched from beautiful soft green material, hung loosely over my young skin. Black tailored trousers sat comfortably secure around my waist. Everything was exactly as it should be. The present moment was divine. The future planned, clear and tangible. My memory of that moment returns to me often. My sense of it is so strong.”

Dusk, Sussex Hospital 1989 

With my face pushed up against gloss painted plasterwork on the ceiling, I watched my body thirty feet below me, in the hospital bed. Everyone looked small. Medics busied themselves around ‘me’ down there whilst I occupied myself with ceiling  textures. I was calm and strangely, detached from critical activities below. Seemingly suspended in space, neither occupying my body nor the ether, the building’s architecture seemed to be acting as some kind of a boundary for me.

Occasionally I wondered whether I might be able to slip through the ceiling but I seemed to be hesitating or resisting that next move. I wasn’t afraid, I just didn’t know what I would be going into.

Then, suddenly I seemed to make a clear choice and returned to my body. The nurse greeted me warmly. I could see relief and delight in her face. ‘Hello. Welcome back. I thought for a moment we had lost you.”

Apparently I had been trying to sit up in the bed when I suddenly felt dizzy, and couldn’t breathe. (I remembered that that had happening just before I went to the ceiling.) ‘Your skin colour turned grey and you started to disappear. We called the crash team. We thought you were going.’

Therapy 2007

“I’d been planning to go to art college since I was about ten. I believed whole heartedly, the life I dreamt of would materialise after school. My love would come with me. I knew every inch of her body just as well as I knew my own. I knew the way she breathed, and the way we breathed together, the way her chest rose when I touched her and how to stroke her to make her shudder. I loved the way her chest bones sat proud and how down covered her jaw. I knew how her blonde locks would fall over her face when we laid together. I understood things she couldn’t talk about, and I knew that I loved her. Her vibration was divine. Nothing could change my devotion to her and us, nothing that is, except for her.”

Taos Mountain 2014 

Breathing Heart

I went out looking for you today,

and found you in the Indian land briefly. 

My heart opened wide 

and  suddenly, 

It felt unexpected and ancient.

In the gentle silence 

and the vast open space, 

my heart became like lungs,

Eagles   wings   spread   out   within   my   chest 

and I could breathe,

speak truths, 

and know 

all 

there is

 to know. 

Or at least that is how it felt in that moment.

I found you today in the open plains,

in the mountain and in the sky.

It was as if you came to me

and

showed me all I need to know

You came to me today

and then briefly

like lovers in a moment of communion, we were one.

Tate Modern, London 2049  

Scene 1.

Millennium Bridge, Thames London.

Small family group walk from St Paul’s Cathedral to Tate Modern.

They look up at neon lights on building.

Group approaches gallery doors

Whispering voices ‘blessed art thou’.

Sounds build up, layered into chants.

Noise of Turbines mingle with chants -‘Blessed Art thou’.

Artist looks outside window up towards moon

She shivers.

Turns head downwards.

Cold pavement level -woman, curled up alone, keeps from freezing.

Strawberry Tree, Sussex UK 2008 

Scene 2.

Garden studio: large timber log cabin.

Natural light streaming in.

Ceiling vaulted.

Roof windows.

Sky views.

Artist VM aged 40 making performance art.

Sweeping pulverised Paw Paw fruit across timber floor boards.

Orange flesh/black seeds mingle with yellow fruit skin.

Some pulp caught in grooves of painted pine floor.

VM sweeps pulp into a pile using long handled broom.

Friend drumming gently – sits in corner of room.

Video camera in corner on tripod records events.

Moon light – Surrey Hills, 2004

come to me

I

have

b e e n

w a i t i n g

d  r  e a  m i n  g

longing     for     you

the ache of desire        –       the wanting

for years –         possibly lifetimes

heavy   with   anticipation

ancient searching     –   praying for your touch

tonight  the  moon knows, hanging  large, heavy,  low

I can see you     –     feel you     –       delight in you

full  with  warm  pink  peach

you            are            in            my            being

with painful longing

and

in  every  moment  that  I  dare  reach  out  for  you

agony                                                                         ecstasy

you    are  my   fire   and   I   burn    for    you

there is no lover like this………………..but this one

eternal                internal               universal

dark night skies,     deep oceans,

r  i  c  h    v   e   l   v  e  t

b    l     a     c     k

sophisticated

m a t u r e

r a w

come

to

me

Therapy 2009

“I hadn’t expected that in letting her hold my heart in her hands I had somehow given her the power to change my vision. I am broken hearted. Everything around me is crashing and changing.”

“Same as your first love. Can you feel the reverberations?”

“Yes. Love keeps re-forming itself. The revised form still revolves around creativity and art, (which is a relief!) but it’s complex and often effected by lovers.”

Therapy 2012

“Death terrifies me. I tell myself it’s okay but when it comes close, I’m terrified. Flying in an aeroplane, having an anaesthetic, surgery, that kind of thing. Then the cancer scare of course! I never felt so afraid and alone.

Plus I can’t bear to break attachments either. It’s always the horizontal pull which affects my relationship with death I suppose.

Out of body experiences remind me there’s no death only transformation to another form, but when push comes to shove it’s so hard to remember that. I seem so unable to surrender a lot of the time. My body is tense, braced for disasters which are probably unlikely to ever happen.

When I’m skiing, and I’m on top of a mountain looking down at the sheer drop below, sometimes I freeze up. Standing there considering what to do, the more I think about it the more I resist movement. I imagine terrible things happening: accident, injury, pain, death. I think, if I just stay here (stuck!) I’ll be safe. So I stay a little longer till I realise I am only just ‘alive’ here, not fully living. 

I don’t exactly know what happens to make the shift, but somehow I find something within myself and I’m able to let go of the fear, surrender to the unknown, lean my body forwards down into the sheer drop in front of me and allow the rest of my body to follow. 

As I’m falling towards the void I say to myself, ’keep going, keep leaning forwards, keep surrendering’. It’s empowering. I feel held by something far greater than me, a universal power, a higher self, who knows?

When I feel stuck in my life I try to remember skiing processes to manage fear.” 

Therapy 2014

“I keep thinking of the words ‘Blessed Art thou’. What makes anyone blessed? My mother told me she doesn’t like me, has no desire to see me, apparently I am the only person in the world she cannot get along with. How can anyone feel ‘blessed’ when their own mother says that?

Therapy 2000

“Geoff phoned asking me to visit as soon as possible. ’Amanda would really like to see you’. I knew she was ill. She’d been ill almost twelve years. We’d spent more days talking about her health than I cared to remember. I always thought she’d pull through. I hadn’t quite clocked the urgency. I went straight away though.

Geoff had gone to collect Laura their daughter, from the airport. She’d been sent away to Italy for a trip. She’d  hardly arrived there when they called her back home urgently. Amanda was deteriorating rapidly. No one had expected it to be this fast. Had we all been in colluding in hope?

I went upstairs to the single bedroom she’d moved to when she knew she’d be having visitors and nursing support. She’d painted it pale aqua and hung images of angels all around her. She was like a bag of bones. I’d just seen her on Sunday. She’d asked me to pop in with lettuces. She’d come to the door, vibrant and appreciative as ever. If I had known then that her time was ticking away so fast I would have accepted her offer to come in but I had no idea. I believed she was fighting this thing and my new lover was about to leave for India the next day so I had made her my priority, as we had needed time to say our goodbyes.

I went upstairs. Amanda’s brother was downstairs with a couple of friends. I sat very close to Amanda’s bedside and held her hand. She said, “I keep slipping away, coming and going, I don’t know where I am.” She seemed confused and troubled. I didn’t know what to say. Is this what happens when we leave here go to the other side? Do we travel back and forth until we’re ready to let go?

I wanted to ask her what it was like there, on the other side, but it didn’t seem appropriate. I was shocked at her appearance and concerned for her distress. Urgency was all around. I was sitting at death’s door with my dearest friend.

Originally my art college tutor, Amanda had inspired and encouraged me with incredible passion. Being of similar age and both with children, we soon became good friends.  “You’re here with me now. Try not to worry.” I said. It seemed stupid though. I felt as if I was on a train about to leave the station and in a moment I would have to jump off and let Amanda do the rest of the journey on her own. I was unprepared. I didn’t know how to be.

We held hands as she settled a bit, “Yes I’m here now” she said, slightly relieved, but after that she kept slipping away before the end of her sentences.“Its as if I’m falling backwards falling away.”

And then she grasped hold of my hand as if she wanted to say something really important. She was using all of her energy to collect herself together.

She said,  “I love your work, I really love it, I think it’s amazing.” Then she slipped away completely. Those were her last words to me.

Cathedral, West Sussex 2000

Scene 3

VM lying belly down on flagstone floor – centre of the cathedral isle.

Arms out. Legs slightly apart. Appears frozen.

Hands flat on floor above her head.

In front of VM – Traditional light wood coffin raised on trestle stand.

Flowers draped over closed coffin lid.

Fresh white lilies, ferns, fall over casket sides.

Side chapel – woman praying.

Head bowed over hands.

Rosary beads woven through fingers.

Chanting “blessed art thou and blessed is the fruit of thy womb”

VM pushes her face deeper into stone.

Spring 2014

Love Poem

The more places I go, the more things I do, 

The more people I meet, the more I miss you.

Grief is a peculiar thing.

The thread between us remains even when everything else seems to have peeled away.

In fact without all the clutter I am much more aware of it.

In the end, 

when all the stuff of life is gone, 

When all the complications and confusions have melted and the fibres are dry, 

We will stand apart like tall stringed instruments

Golden threads revealed, stretching across the universe 

unbreakable

eternal

love 

Summer 2049 

Scene 4:

River Thames near St Paul’s Cathedral.

Family Group prepare to walk over Millennium bridge.

Elderly woman VM(90s) to granddaughter (34):

“I wanted so much to make a difference. I devoted my life to art. Do you think that anything has changed? Do you think we understand the importance and value of self and collective expression any better now? Do you think we are more in touch with the moment, the materials, the making? Have we repositioned art and artist into the centre of our society and value system?”

“I don’t know grandma. What I do know is that you have had and do have a massive impact on the people who see your work and hear you speak about art. You touch them deeply. I have seen it for myself time and time again. People cry, get down on their knees, get exhilarated and animated, you bring on all sorts of significant and valuable responses grandma. Lets go see the show right now and do the press thing. I am so excited for you.”

Son (70s) holds elderly woman’s hand tenderly. Helps her into wheel chair.

“Darling you are the best and most important thing I ever created in my entire life. We made you from pure love you know.” She touches his face and smiles deeply. He receives her touch and grins lovingly.

Pregnant grand daughter (28) carefully tucks shawl around grandmas legs, checks feet on foot rests. Gently pushes chair across bridge to Tate.

Gallery Entrance – assistant introduces group to awaiting guests. Group walks into gallery.

Press awaits.

Curator says:

“Welcome everyone, to ‘Blessed Art…’ Thank you for coming along to the Tate today. We are so pleased you are here and hope you will enjoy the tour. I am delighted to see so many faces. To those who don’t already know me I am Isabella Cairns, exhibitions director here at the Tate Modern and directing curator for this exhibition.

I’m really very excited to show you this exhibition – a major retrospective spanning 1974 and 2049 by Veronique Maria. We will take you through the exhibition shortly. Ms Maria will give personal insights into some of the ideas, processes and intensions behind her work.

The show is deliberately not laid out chronologically. The intention is for you to experience the exhibition as a whole life’s work and to see and sense the work of one woman’s intimate life rather than a linear developmental process.

We will mention significant mentors and inspiration as we go alone. If you have questions please feel free to ask at any point.

Autumn 2002 – Therapy   

“When people have blessed me in life, especially those whom I respect and admire, I have felt like a brand new sail boat being launched from it’s slipway with expensive champagne.

I’ve felt incredibly affirmed and been much more able to move forwards with confidence and power as a consequence of these blessings. ” 

“who has affirmed you in this way?”

“Many; my grandparents are the obvious ones, the constant ones. My mother encouraged my creativity when I was young when she let me paint of my bedroom wall, and then later it was people in the Psychosynthesis training and artists I respect. Awards, prizes and being patronised is affirming too of course, and friends, audiences, and lovers are very significant as well. Most of those affirmations seem to be related to my authenticity, creativity and courage as an artist though. Is that what you meant?” 

“and what about your first love, your first lover?”

“Well she has always admired me on some level and rejected me on another of course. She mirrors my familiar experience. Constantly affirming grandparents and persistently rejecting mother rolled into one. It’s complicated to live with such extreme poles – externalised and then internalised.

You always bring her back into the conversation. Do you think there is something unresolved there for me? You always challenge me to look inside the dark dusty corners that I might otherwise prefer to ignore!” 

Autumn 1987 

Scene 5:

Hospital Theatre

Male surgeon cuts woman’s naked belly horizontally.

Passes scalpel to theatre sister.

His hands enter deep inside wound.

Beside operating table sits cheap plastic bucket.

Inside bucket – Womb lies in blood.

Surgeon drops second (unknown) organ into bucket.

Blood splashes up bucket sides.

Drops spill on handle.

Organ hits womb, falls in beside it – slips in comfortably.

New camera shot – questionable object in bucket – Foetus?

Other end of room:

Woman with wild flower bouquet slowly places individual stalks carefully into another bucket.

Takes time positioning/arranging flowers/foliage.

Another corner of operating theatre

VM pours remains of Paw Paw fruit (brushed from studio floor)into third bucket.

Paw Paw slips into bucket.

VM repeats “blessed art thou, blessed is the fruit of thy womb….”

Winter 2007 

“How was it for you to be with your first lover again this weekend?”

“She is gorgeous. I love her deeply and am inspired at how our love has transformed.”

 

Winter – Many moments over several decades – merging. (1958 – 2049)

Scene 6:

Visceral Scene

Hospital

Layers of images – bodies, life, death, collecting things in buckets, gathering, sweeping.

Drum keeps playing

Same scenes are being projected as video installation onto massive wall Tate gallery.

Press/journalist and others audience members observe.

 

Winter 2010

“Why is she more prominent than other loves?

Does she lead you back to my mother?  As my first love? In an ideal world?”

Winter 1998 

Scene 7:

Lush English Garden.

Overgrown, semi tropical.

VM making prayer beads whispering ‘blessed art thou’

Tiny clay balls, moulded in her fingers, fall into a metal pot – ‘tink’.

Winter 2009 

“She is not my original love… my art is my all time lover. She is constant and transforms all other loves into new forms. She saves me, holds me, never gives up on me…

I am able to take more risks in life because I have this lover who holds, enables and guides me.”

Spring 2009 

Scene 8:

Garden Sussex.

Late Spring.

Mid Day.

Secluded, slightly over grown Sussex garden.

Warm sunny day.

VM (50) wearing loosely fitting clothing.

Thin cotton sun dress falls around her shoulders.

She has bare feet and is nearly naked.

Dry grass runs through her toes

Her finger tips tickle seeds pods and flowers as she passes.

The air is still.

A grass snake slithers through a patch of damp earth between compost heap and pond.

She walks inside the house and becomes much older… (99)

2059

Light modern house full of texture, colour, care

Eclectic mix of mid century and faded style

VM sits down at table strew with love poems/photographs

VM takes an old A4 email from forty six years earlier

Puts on glasses

Reads silently:

“I need to go slowly. I am afraid. You seem too good to be true. M x ”

“lean in to me and trust sweetheart, all we can do is trust and keep communicating. V xxx”

M(97)enters room

Sits close beside VM

slips loving hands around VM

leans over and kisses VM’s neck

VM turns to M and says “We learnt to ride over the ocean darling, we have been very  blessed.

M “Yes my darling we have been very blessed.”

VM takes M’s face in her hands and says “Blessed art thou”

M touches VM tenderly. Pulls VM close to her and says

“Yes my beautiful, and blessed is our fruit.”

Spring 2013  – Wondrous Life (Still moment from a video by the same name)

Wonderous life…..Magnolia on Magnolia

ISBN: 978-0-9572766-5-9

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Drawing Forth – Newsletter – Summer 2014

Drawing Forth

Leaning in and trusting…

I went to Dartmoor seeking to remember my love of drawing…
a long time love of mine which somehow, somewhere along the line, in the midst of all the other making, (of sculpture, video, and painting) got set aside and then forgotten.

I found her though, this love, this lover of mine, somewhere under a pile of drawing exercises and hours of reminding myself of how to sit with a thing and just look.

I found her after spending hours reminding myself of basic drawing skills, remembering how it is to look for light, tone,  texture and form, and how it is to plough through mounds of paper, charcoal, pens, pencils and putty rubbers and then seemingly achieve ‘nothing’.

I found her at my point of exasperation, when I had given up all hope of finding her actually.

I found her when I was disillusioned, and when I had accepted that maybe she was gone forever. In fact maybe she had only  ever been an unattainable, unachievable aspiration of mine and now I had (perhaps) finally let go of what others had warned me might be the impossible dream.

I certainly found her when I had let go of all the working hard and all the searching, the longing and the desire….

I found her when I felt complete with myself, when I was solid with the Taos mountain in my heart and in my belly. I found her when I needed nothing from her. That is when she came to me.

For when I had given up trying, hoping, wanting, searching, when I had finally recognised control is an illusion, when I had completely given up, then I gave everything over to my body, to the universe, and to the powers of a greater spirit.

I blind folded myself, tucked my earplugs under my turban and disappeared into my private interior intending to touch upon and  express physically all that I was feeling. (on the inside, on the outside and all around me.)

In this private, protected, cocoon like place, with no expectations, other than a hope that I might feel ‘something’, suddenly I could sense her within and all around me. I could feel love again, I could feel this ancient and familiar lover in every cell of my being….

It was as if she had come to me on the breeze from some far distant land. It was as if she had been waiting for me to let go enough to enable her re-entry. It was as if she was in fact already me, a part of me, some kind of familiar me from the past that had been separated somehow, sometime a long while ago out of circumstance, necessity, and I don’t know what.

Now she was returning to me to make me feel myself again, to help me remember myself, and enable me to feel safe at home.

She was retuning to me so I could know something that only lovers know, I could remember something that only love can touch, I could remember and know again about the special and unique ‘something’ that actually has no words and is possibly the most important thing one can ever be gifted with.

As my love, this lover returned to me, I leant in towards her, I leant in beyond the point of no return, and trusted her with all my know how and with everything.

She had returned.

Could she be my perfect fit?

I felt complete.

Completely connected to her, in love and entirely  surrendered…..together we were flowing…

drawing in, drawing out, drawing forth….

 

 

Mixed media drawings – drawn blind in Dartmoor, Devon
1st August 2014Left Hand Side ‘This Is It’.
Right Hand Side ‘Everything is Here.’

Photo Credit – (Images of Veronique) Claude Heath

 

 

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R-Space Gallery, Lisburn, Belfast, Northern Ireland

MOVING PRACTICE, MOVING IMAGE

Veronique Maria 

24th May – 21st June 2014

 

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This exhibition from Veronique Maria marks the end of an 18 month research and development project: Moving Practice, Moving Image.  Between 2012-2014 Maria reviewed her entire art practice to date, in great detail and she particularly explored the way in which ritual, performance and film have played important roles throughout her career.

The exhibition will illustrate the artist’s journey from form to film, look back over the work she created between 1973-2013, and explore how performance and ritual has impacted on her work and life.

Examples of drawing, ceramics, and wood turning, earth work, installation, and fibre work, sculpture, performance, and painting will all sit beside her most recent work with the moving image.

Artist Talk & Workshop

Saturday 14th June

Artist talk: 11am-12pm

Workshop: 1pm – 5pm

 

Who’s it for:

Adults of all ages. No experience necessary. (Artists and non artists welcome)

 

Workshop – £10

Booking for workshop essential as places are limited.

Email: rspace@linenroomslisburn.com to book your place

 

By listening to our body, trusting our intuition, and accepting that we are a part of a greater whole beyond the individual self, and that we are held by these things, we can learn to surrender to the unknown and take greater risks in our lives. This workshop invites you to stretch beyond your comfort zone and live a little more dangerously in order to deepen your relationship with your self.

NB. Workshop content may include a short walk. If this is likely to be difficult for you please speak to the gallery before booking your place.

About the Artist:

Veronique Maria was born in London in 1959, with Anglo Irish Indian heritage and was educated in London, Devon and then New Zealand, Canada and Singapore.

With a first degree in the crafting of materials such as wood, metal, ceramic, and plastics, (BA hons, Art and Design, Brighton) and an masters degree in mapping the psyche (MA in Applied Psychosythesis, Middlesex) she is interested in how we relate to ‘self’ and ‘other’, and how we express ourselves in the world.

From an early age she developed a deep respect for nature and a profound sense of our interconnectedness with all things. She explores this in her art work using craft, sculpture, painting, film, performance, writing and sound. Often moving genre, she attempts to let go of what’s known, in order to find something new.

Since completing two projects funded by Arts Council England, Orogeny, 2009-2011, and Moving Practice 2012-14, she was awarded a Helene Wurlitzer Residency in USA and spent three months in Taos, New Mexico. Living 8,000 feet up a mountain close to an Native American Indian Pueblo and their sacred lands, she has been exploring what her creativity is when there is no pre-planned project in mind, no expected outcome from funders and no internal or external judgements and pressures. Her project in the desert has been Deep Listening.

 

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Helene Wurlitzer Residency, Taos, New Mexico – Winter and Spring 2014

The HWF Residency in Taos offered space for a process of slowing right down, letting go and listening …very very closely…

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Trust Trust Trust were the words that kept coming to me as I selected some essential personal and practical items for packing, and then peeled myself out of my home, away from my loved ones, into the car that was heading for Heathrow.

Actually, in truth, my packing process had taken me about 8 full weeks in total. Things kept going into the case or sitting close by, and then getting removed again. After all, what exactly would I need to take for my new life in Taos?

Let me rewind a little…In 2013 I was invited by the Helen Wurlitzer Foundation to live in an adobe casita on their seventeen acres of woodland for three months. The purpose would be to develop my art work in whatever way I saw fit. There would be no pressure for an outcome.  

It seemed like a wonderful opportunity. I felt honoured to have been chosen and was curious about the residency, so accepted gratefully, even though I didn’t’t really know what I was saying ‘yes’ to.

What I did know was that I would be there in the depths of winter, and would probably see the winter snows thaw, and bear witness the beginning of spring emerging. I knew also that I would be living at a high altitude and that this may cause breathing and moving problems. Another thing I knew, and was excited about, was that I would be living in very close proximity to the Native American Indian Pueblo and sacred mountains. I also knew there would be 9 other artists (including writers and composers) living and working on the residency too. Other than that I had no idea where this journey was going to take me. 

As it turned out, living 8,000 feet up a mountain in New Mexico was fascinating but trying to make video art and at the same time stepping into the unknown waters of writing (well unknown to me) would be harder than I expected. 

Having often changed art forms and written statements, blogs and academic papers to support that work, I thought I might try to write a screen play or a novel or something. I had felt I had a film inside me for years. The stories, mostly about love, loss and longing, and the transformation of form, needed to come out somehow and painting hadn’t’t been explicit enough for me, not for this particular topic.

In any event I would, and I was sure of this part, certainly manage to write some poetry whilst I was away.

All in all I was keen to let my creativity be free and be what ever it wanted to be. 

Writing turned out to be much harder than I imagined. As I struggled to hold and organise my ideas in my head, I gained increased respect for the people who choose this as their life’s work. Apart from the fact that it seemed to be an even more insular and solitary art form than most, I found it incredibly difficult to keep a hold of and sculpt together all of my ideas. I could see shapes emerging, but there were so many to choose from and I kept getting lost or confused.

Inviting pure creativity to flow freely inevitably meant my creative process took some unexpected turns. The result is that I came back home to England with lots of curious seeds, a number of bizarre experiments and some unfinished ideas.

Most of all I came home richer in my spirit.

Whilst I was away I was often terrified and at the same time I was often incredibly nourished. I learnt a lot on this trip and nothing could have been preconceived. In fact the events are difficult to explain to you, even now.

Firstly, wrenching myself away from my home in England to travel to a continent I had never been to before was a task in itself. Childhood experiences of extensive travel and various traumatic separations had impacted upon me profoundly. I seemed to have developed phobias, fears and aversions to travel. As I started packing, months in advance in order to prepare myself psychologically for the maneuver, I wondered why it is that I always seem to need to put myself well out of my comfort zone, apparently ‘for my art’.

After the two day journey, leaving from the rolling softness of the south downs in Sussex and arriving in the dramatic mountains and extensive arid plains of the desert in New Mexico, and after taking several modes of transport, 3 cars, 2 planes and a bus, mostly with strangers, who became less strange to me as we went along, I arrived in Sante Fe. 

I was sleep deprived and exhausted. I could hardly stand, let alone speak, and the effects of the altitude were hitting me harshly.

So when the 8 foot long conveyor belt for baggage reclaim at the airport showed no signs of my suitcase being on it, I thought it was because I was delirious. I soon discovered though, that my hold baggage had indeed gone astray. It had gotten lost during transfer at Dallas apparently, and no one knew where it had gone.

The fact that it contained all the important possessions that I thought I might need to get me through my three months stay in Taos, including valuables and personally precious things, made the loss quite distressing. I had been clinging on to the thought of those things in the absence of anything else familiar left in my life. 

Except for what was on my back I had been separated from what seemed at the time to be’my life’. All my clothes, art materials, cameras, books, and sentimental precious knickknacks were gone. Whilst I didn’t’t think of it at the time, on reflection I realised it probably also consisted of all the most important things that I actually own. 

It may seem a bit trivial, this loss, but the jet lag, sleep deprivation, culture shock and the effects of high altitude, had bundled themselves together with ‘lost life’ in the suitcase, apparently in an attempt to push me further to my emotional and physical edges.

As I struggled to breathe, orientate myself and settle myself it seemed as if I was pushing through treacle in slow motion.

A local artist who I had met on the Internet prior to my journey, and who had kindly offered to collect me at the airport explained “It’s New Mexico you know. New Mexico always seems to test us when we first arrive here.” She helped me fill out the relevant lost luggage paper work and the following day I look my small remaining bag, on the bus to Taos. 

My new hurdle was adjusting to having no phone, no car and no Internet. For some reason all my pre-existing securities were rapidly falling away from me. I was alone, on foot, and gripping on to my last remaining bag, my back pack, as if my life depended on it. Then with all the energy and determination I could muster, I eventually summonsed the courage to lie down, rest and let go.

I had no choice but to be fully present to the moment, to connect deeply to myself, my body, my creative voice and the immediate environment and to listen clearly.

Who would I be when I had nothing, knew no one and made nothing?

Like most of us in the Western world, I had come to rely on technology to link me up to my personal and professional support systems. Back in the UK I had used these technologies to keep ‘connected’ on line, via phone and in person and my car was more like an extension of my body than a separate device I used. It took a lot of adjustment for me to accept I would have to now work without these security blankets. 

Just as I felt I was doing quite well with making those necessary adjustments to being in the unknown flow of things I hit another edge. A few weeks in to the residency, having successfully made a short video and written about 30,000 words of a novel/screenplay, my computer completely crashed. It left me with a blank blue screen. Staring into this nothingness I wanted to cry and catch the first plane home. This felt like the final straw. I now had no access to word processing, calendars, contact lists, video files. Everything was gone.

After taking stock of the situation I began to consider how would it be to surrender more deeply to these tests, and simply ‘listen’ more acutely to my god, my creativity and my higher Self, the Great Universal Spirit, the something ‘other’, what ever that is, that indescribable, ‘unknown’ thing that seems to hold us from within and without. What would it be like to listen to that voice much much more than ever before and follow that force, that energy, follow it blindly, whatever, (and I really do mean WHATEVER) it was calling me to do and be?

I pondered this a while and then decided to step into the task with both feet.

By the time my watch battery died I was hardly fazed at all. I felt as if I had pretty much lost everything by that point. I was peeled back to basics, vulnerable, raw, naked. 

I left my ‘dead’ watch on my wrist as a comforting connection to my son who had gifted it to me on my fiftieth birthday. What ever happened I would have him with me. But I also knew in my heart of hearts that he was with me, watch or no watch. My grandmother used to say she wanted to be free of ‘things’. She didn’t’t want to have clutter around her and she knew she could hold love, and precious moments in her heart. I tried to remember this lesson she had taught me as I felt my loved ones within me and I continued on as ‘normal’. The abnormal unknown had in some ways, by this time, actually become the norm.

Once I had surrendered to the natural flow of all things, everything started to slip into place and make so much more sense. The process of listening and surrendering became like a meditation, a spiritual practice, a way of being, which I consciously returned to moment to moment. 

I was challenged time and time again as I was invited to manage extremely difficult emotional situations across the seas too. So far from home depression, anger, excitement and separation were all held across the oceans as I worked on keeping calm and letting things be fine, exactly as there were. I was of course powerless in this situation and the extent of my powerlessness was extreme. I could do little other than simply be.

Curiously, the more I surrendered, the more things came to me that I could never have imagined. And the more I was in the flow, the more incredible things happened.

I often found myself on difficult and demanding high wires, and all the time I kept listening and walking forwards. The more precarious the situation, the more depth of listening it required. 

I often noticed myself saying to myself, “now I am here doing this, and now I am here and its like this.” And the ‘this’ and the ‘that’ that I was doing were mostly things way beyond my wildest dreams and fantasies.

Presenting my art and process to 350 people at the Taos Film Festival and chatting with the audience as if I was sitting with a friend in my lounge was just one small example of a challenge and unexpected result that occurred there. As I walked across the stage telling myself to ‘stay in your body, stay in your body’, I found I was not only thoroughly in my body and relaxed but I also felt as if I could have stayed on stage with the mic and chatted there forever. This didn’t’t fit with the shy stage fright person I thought I was.

Nothing was the same now and these heightened experiences of being fully present were becoming more and more incredible and indescribable. 

By the time spring came, having lived like this for several months, I understood in my body, something about life that I had previously only known in my mind before.

Ofcourse I had encountered flavours of this on some occasions, sometimes, but I had never before embodied it so deeply and for such an extended period of time. I had lived this way for three months. It had been a long meditation practice.

It’s difficult to explain where this brings my art practice to now. In many ways I am still processing the experience and am waiting to see what happens next. I so hope it was deeply and permanently embedded within me; that it wasn’t’t something or somewhere you get in Taos, that fades after you leave. Time will tell of course. Only time will tell.

It’s my task now to keep being here, present right now and to trust and not to worry. 

In this culture, climate and existence, its not as easy as on retreat in Taos, ….and I am working on it.

I don’t know how this experience will impact on my art, work, or life but what I do know is that my ability to trust now is far greater than it was before. I can somehow accept more easily that we are all transitory, part of a greater whole and that we have no control and can’t ever really know what will happen next. 

I have an experience myself working without a formal project to work, not producing in a conventional sense., and when everything about me has fallen away, and I am raw, naked and exposed. 

As a result of this experience my relationship to my existence, the existence of all things, and to existential tension, seems to have changed. 

I came home with a piece of experimental writing that incorporates script for a screen play, memoir, novel, dialogue with my psychotherapist and poetry. Its written in layers and time isn’t’t a liner thing. It jolts and jumps between moments, life times, and experiences and it seems to me, is like one of my layer paintings. All being well it will for a chapter in a book about psycho-spiritual psychology, about to be published later this year and I will work on it more to created a larger piece of work in the future, perhaps the screen play I dream of. 

For now though, I want to simply give thanks for the feeling of peace I have gained and my acceptance of what is. I am now able to watch and wondering without struggle or need to direct and work things out.

I am looking forwards too, in a new ways…

I have a solo show opening in R-Space Gallery, Belfast, Northern Ireland at the end of this week. It opens on Saturday 24th May and continues through to 21st June.

This is a very exciting opportunity for me. Its the first time my video work will be given such priority over my other work. My video, ‘I Cannot Help How My Heart Feels’ will be shown as the main piece in the exhibition and will be presented as an experiential installation as it is projected  on two adjacent gallery walls.

Examples of my other work such as wood turning, fibre work, ceramics and earth sculpture, live art, performance and painting will also be represented in this show. I am thinking of it as a sort of mini retrospective – showing work made since 1973 through to 2014. I have committed my life to art and now, aged fifty five, I feel it’s an important time to reflect upon where I have been, evaluate what I have done, and consider where I am going and what it has all been for. 

I will be flying over to Belfast to deliver a talk and workshop on Saturday 14th June and the subject open for discussion and exploration there will be ‘Deep listening’.

I believe passionately that art can change the world and that when we reposition it within our individual lives and our society, it can support us to lead healthier, happier and more fulfilling lives.

My time in Taos has helped me renew my energy around this belief and I am now newly focused on my mission to get art repositioned in our daily lives.

One starting point for this is to get my own art work out into the world more, and to share it and my ideas with others where ever I can.

I am currently creating a new web page which will be live on my website soon. It’s called SHOP and will have works for sale clearly identified there. With SHOP and galleries selling my original paintings and multiple print runs, all of various sizes, and public galleries such as R-Space Belfast, exhibiting my work, I hope to be able to make my art work more accessible to everyone from now on. 

Beyond that I am currently meeting with a variety of clients working in interior design and architecture too, and supporting all that, I am writing about my ideas on art from a psycho-spiritual perspective.

Hopefully there are always going to be changes in how we see the world and how we respond. I believe art can play an important role in that process because of how it can invite and challenge us to change our perspectives, to re-look, and be open to new and otherwise unimaginable possibilities.

What has changed most for me in this recent trip is the way that I view listening. I now listen and respond to my sixth sense with more confidence and I notice too, (perhaps as a result of this new found confidence) that my ego has settled down a bit more, and that even my ‘I’ is resting back too. 

It seems to be another place within or beyond my self that comes forwards now and chooses where I am pointing. As I listen carefully to this new directing power, I notice how my mantra comes more easily now… trust, trust, trust.

 

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Philip Carr-Gomm on Druidry and Veronique Maria

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The Temple Of My Desire – Veronique Maria 2009-10

(ceramic and oil on canvas 300 x 150 cm)

The practice of Druidry encourages a more intimate relationship with the earth and this, in turn, enables us to deeply explore what it means to be embodied. Our experience of being physical beings in a material world encompasses a spectrum of sensations and emotions, from intense joy to deep pain and sorrow. The strength of Druidry is that it seeks to embrace and value all of these and in doing so, potentially brings us into a mindful relationship with life and self. An artist whose explores this relationship between the earth and the body, and the depth, richness and beauty that embodiment can bring, is Veronique Maria. She has made sculptures and earthworks; massive, richly textured canvases and, more recently, wonderfully sensual and beautiful films that she calls ‘moving paintings’. Veronique Maria creates her paintings by firstly getting in touch with a particular feeling and then allowing that feeling to work through the body onto the canvas via texture, colour and form. The images are layered over time with a depth of textures that make them appear three dimensional, as if they were taking shape and rising up from the canvas – ideas birthing into form; emotional experience embodied in paint and clay. Her most recent work has moved into film and explores the nature of Ritual – of how these simple acts performed with mindfulness connect the earth and the body with spirit, helping us to feel a part of ‘the natural flow of all things’. I include here a film of Veronique Maria working on a project of large canvases, inspired by the creation of Mountains. It is fascinating to watch and listen to her speak about the process. Please do check out her website too. Click here to watch her beautiful  ’Moving Painting’ and for links to her other films.

Philip Carr-Gomm 4th April 2014

http://philipcarrgomm.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/body-and-soul/#respond

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