At the end of 2020 a ancient prophecy was to be fulfilled by a collection of 12 indigenous elders at Uluru in central Australia. A Pleiadian prophecy. The prophecy claimed that on the 21st of December the activation of a ancient box of Pleiadian crystals would be found and activated at Uluru by the 12 Aboriginal wisdom keepers to whom this sacred knowledge had been handed down to over millennia of generations.
I didn't know about this at the time of doing these paintings and was actually somewhat confused by the Australian outback like landscapes, but went with it. And whether the prophecy be true or not I was fascinated by the implications that it might be, that this knowledge connected so intrinsically to the "Seven Sisters" story had apparently so safely guarded by the elders for so so long. The ceremony did go ahead, a global meditation took place, the results of which however are yet to be disclosed.
So came the name of my Masters project: “As above, So below".
We know where we are by way of the stars.
They help us monitor exactly where we are on Earth, our navigation tool, the keepers of knowledge throughout time. Utilising the stars as signifiers allows an openness that will not inhibit the depth to which I can develop this project.
I have made a deliberate departure from the Mandala as a final outcome to this project, they may still be involved in some way, but probably not as I initially had intended. However it is the connection between ancient civilizations and the wheel of time that led me to investigate the stories of the "Seven Sisters", and ultimately how I must have landed this collection of paintings in the outback.
Matariki / Pleiades story: - “Seven Sisters”
It was this correlation between these all these very ancient cultures with a very similar story that enticed me to further investigate the Pleiades cluster as a Signifier for my Master’s project, the fact that such unrelated peoples have almost identical mythology, which is said to be over 100,000 years old I just couldn’t resist.
The link was simply mind-blowingly brilliant!
"As Above- So Below - So Be It!"
During lockdown 2020, I completed a collection of works I decided to name Anti Gravity in reference to the free fall of not only the COVI19 crisis but also my personal journey at the time. How is this especially relevant to my Master's studies? I think ALL aspects of my art practice are relevant to the individual projects
The shapes that pervade the pieces allude to those of the Scarborough Cliffs and Whitewash Heads close to where I live in Sumner, Christchurch. The subject matter evokes a feeling of calm suspension. There is no tension or awkwardness, rather a knowing of being consciously elevated. The works speak of the of spiritual, emotional and physical states of being I encountered and evolved through personally running up to and during the lockdown period. The colours in the works are specifically chosen for nostalgic reasons with the pink in the paintings being Tony's Pink the colour I had on my bedroom walls as a child. The colour was designed by close family friends Tony Nightingale Resene's founding owner, and my mother Pieter Stewart. The golds and deep greens and blues invoke the tones of the burnt land and dark seas.
A large part of my creative journey alludes to a natural aesthetic. Parallel to this, I have poked a stick at invasive frequencies such as mass media programming. If we are influenced by the positive power of nature then to me it seems logical that emf’s and city-based & societal frequential patterns may have a negative effect on the human psyche and our ability to feel grounded and whole. My work applies a post-colonial - post-modern perspective to a contemporary New Zealand art practice, constructing a new visual for ancient belief systems whilst grounding my work in the current New Zealand landscape and creative environment.
This is why this collection is relevant to the Master's project, as it grounds as it helps establish a dialogue and visual narrative. I have chosen to try and make EVERY aspect of this creative journey into a collection of finished works, much like one of my creative heroes, Christo whereby his working drawings were in my opinion as intriguing and delicious as the final works.
The constellations as well as the sun and the moon feature highly as divine forces in most traditional Buddhist and Pacific indigenous art. This symbolic representation is consistent for most early and ancient civilisations, with the worship and documentation of the stars being linked to the worship of their gods and deities. Early Māori were exceptional astronomers, with their new year marked by the appearance of the Matariki star cluster, also known as the Pleiades. An Australian Aboriginal researcher referred to the Pleiades star cluster as follows: “Revered and worshipped by many diverse peoples, cultures, and civilisations, this small cluster of stars has had an enormous influence on the human psyche and on our collective unconscious.” (Munya, 2004). The Māori astronomical knowledge is referred to as tātai arorangi. Māori, Aboriginal, and Polynesian peoples used the stars to calculate the seasons and time, as did many of their Asian counterparts (Waikato, 2016). Parallels in the cosmological symbology in Māori, Aboriginal, Polynesian and Buddhist mandala art is an area I am investigating. Potentially new aesthetic knowledge could be developed by drawing upon these correlations and hereby linking my practice with the context of the Pacific and its indigenous traditions without utilising or appropriating their symbols.
The Pleiades Fascinates me!
How is it that 500 Aboriginal tribes in Australia, all speaking different dialects, with different folk-lore stories, all share the story of the Seven Sisters?
In this interesting article published last December in the academic website The Conversation, this exact question is raised:
The world’s oldest story? Astronomers say global myths about ‘seven sisters’ stars may reach back 100,000 years
My focus on the mandala as an artform has been an enduring one.
The term Mandala is applied to any form that represents cosmic energy in the physical world and reminds the viewer of universal serenity and grace. Mandalas are present in many ancient religions; spiritual geometric configurations that aim to represent our relationship to the infinite. They draw the viewer in, creating an opportunity for contemplation. I have adapted the kaleidoscopic nature of the Mandala seeking to provoke a translation of the essence of the given subject matter. I believe art has the power to influence the energy of the viewer so with that in mind I aim to create artworks that emanate positivity. I first started creating photographic Mandalas in 2005. Since then have created over 400 Mandala images. Some amazing - some never to be seen by the light of day again. All utilising a 4 quadrant format photoshop flip format.
Relevant extracts and explanations from my research proposal
Initially I considered this whole study project to be a continuation of the Mandala lightboxes, and sculptural installations I have done in the past, and I guess in a way this still reigns true, but, through in-depth investigation into the history of the Mandala, I became intrigued how certain civilisations share similar ancient stories. The Mandala as a symbolic format exists in multiple ancient civilisations, it is considered a representation of our connection to all there is:
"As referred to in the Ancient History Encyclopaedia “The word mandala is a Sanskrit term that means circle or discoid object. A mandala can be defined in two ways: externally as a schematic visual representation of the universe and internally as a guide for several psychophysical practices that take place in many Asian traditions, including meditation.” (Violatti, 2013, pp. 1). The Mandala has appeared in human cultural practices for millennia, in rituals, art forms, and constructions. As referred to by the Dalai Lama, the basic properties consist of a centre, symmetry, and cardinal points (His Holiness the Dalai Lama, 2002). The term is applied to any form of a geometric structure and symbol that represents cosmic energy in the physical world. The appearance of the Mandala reminds the viewer of serenity and sanctity in the universe and the energy inside of him or her (Sadiksha, 2018). "
Parallel to the concept of the Mandala my chosen spiritual practice of Vipassana meditation. I did my first 10 day (silent) Vipassana meditation course when I was 19 and have since done 4 more. It was right before I was about to start my Degree at Ara in 1997, the CPIT School of Design. Being a mother has rather put a hold on regular returns to the torturous yet enlightingly gratifying 10 x 14 hours per day in lotus. Vipassana is based on the Buddhist principles of Dharma, and the Noble Eightfold path.....
My Mandalas had become somewhat predictable.
It was time to go deeper.
Rather than recreating the wheel I had to move with its evolution.
I needed to look for a stronger connection to my work, that in turn connected my path to a larger purpose, that connected my processes to a deeper meaning rather than just a surface aesthetic. I had to pool the knowledge of the ancients and find a connection to my own art -slash- spiritual practice.
My desire is to create a series of works which redefines a connection to the divine in MY daily life, without replicating or ripping off past or preconceived concepts or doctrines.
Wheel of Dharma: THE NOBLE EIGHTFOLD PATH - Right understanding (Samma ditthi), - Right thought (Samma sankappa), - Right speech (Samma vaca), - Right action (Samma kammanta), - Right livelihood (Samma ajiva), - Right effort (Samma vayama), - Right mindfulness (Samma sati), - Right concentration (Samma samadhi), Practically the whole teaching of the Buddha, to which he devoted himself during 45 years, deals in some way or other with this path. The essence of the many thousands Buddhist scriptures is found in the noble eightfold path.
• What was Foucault’s concept of Heterotopia? In contrast, what is Utopia? How can the concept of Heterotopia be applied to specific works by Ólafur Eliasson, Christo & Jean Claude.
Foucault distilled heterotopia into six concise points:
I am interested how artistic installations embody the concept of Heterotopia.
Defining and referencing such a massive concept into a 3000 word essay is a tall task, however by researching and distilling the topic I became adamant Heterotopia were to be a cornerstone of my project.
This was the original segment of my initial research proposal.
(Which has since evolved exponentially - but I will get to that later. )
The full document can be downloaded below.
Domain: Visual Arts - Photography and Installation
Project: To develop a collection of artworks that seek to invoke a feeling of divinity in my daily life.
Is it possible to visually represent the serenity, peace, and insight obtained through meditation, and from connecting to nature, in two and three-dimensional artworks?
Presentation - Critique #1
Formal study is - well - formal! There are formats that are tried and tested that as an artist and working mother regardless of time pressures and personal commitments have to adhere to.
The Master's programme at Ara is broken up into 4 presentation assessments/critiques. (As well as a bunch of theory based essays, essays pertaining to my chosen project, and dissertation of the entire project at the end.)
Below are the slides from my first critiqued presentation at Ara, September 2020.
The full pdf of text and and presentation can be accessed/downloaded below also.
Below is a selection of past artworks......
A Master's investigation after dark times
In late 2019 it became very apparent that after 3 corporate jobs in a row since my children were teeny tiny that I was becoming increasingly depressed. I was literally an emotional wreck. Anyone who knows me well would agree that I am exceptionally empathetic, a personality trait that is over exemplified if tired and run down, which was the general norm when juggling a full week of work, children, childcare and all that comes with it! I had lost myself, lost faith in the world, and more importantly, was not maintaining my practice. I was disconnected from my art, meditation, yoga/exercise, and nature time. I was not in tune with the maintaining factors that were the tiller.
So I left! I didn't want to get to 50 and wish I had gone back to school and manifested the artworks that plague my dreams. It was time.
And so! That time just happened to be one week before lockdown 2020! Who knew! I was in, a 42-year-old Zooming lectures and full-time study throughout New Zealand's COVID19 crises and I couldn't have been more delighted. Could not have chosen a better time to write essays again for the first time in 20 years! It was super hard, but like anything that is tough, I learnt a hell of a lot and am so so grateful for every damn piece of it.
However I was about to have the carpet ripped out from below my feet, everything I thought I was as an artist was about to be destabilised and a stripping back was about to create a monster of an introverted extrovert who seriously for lack of a better description was over complying with the pressures of the world and its room of requirements, and ready to go gangbusters on WHAT I WANT TO DO!!!!
The Pleiadian adventure began...
Many moons ago I read a book called Bringers of the Dawn: Teachings from the Pleiadians by Barbara Marciniak. It totally freaked me out. I was 18 at the time living in Sydney working as a model, my first big solo overseas adventure. Barb claimed to have communication with beings from the Pleiades star cluster, living in the 9th dimension. I was intrigued, but the whole alien invasion thing was a little big to grasp for me at the time.
Years later after my own meditative journey and alignment with my spiritual side turns out I have a Pleiadian spiritual guide who often shows up to offer guidance and information to me during meditation.
So, what of all this and is it relevant to my choice of the Pleiades star cluster as the basis of my Master's investigation?
Yes and no.
It was a spark, a starting point.
I have become intrigued with stories attached to the Pleiades, how the ancient parables of the "7 Sisters" have been shared by ancient civilisations all over the world, civilisations that history determines were in no way physically connected, and inherently should not have the exact same stories apparent in their lore.
Below are two paintings from a recent past collection, investigating themes of abstract connectedness between the Earth and the Heavenly bodies/stars, between starseeds and humans. Visualised as a connecting cord or energy. "As Above So Below" , so was bourne the name of my project.