The body of work titled ‘I am you, you are me’ has taken me on quite a journey painting nine First Nations people that came to me during sweat lodges, breath work and meditation. I have been taking part in a Native Canadian ceremony of sweat lodge regularly here in the UK since 2010. Our community is blessed to have an elder who was a Sun Dance leader on the Blood Reservation in Alberta Canada; he came to the UK to bring us the teachings of his Blackfoot lineage of elders.
The name of the series of paintings; ‘I am you, you are me’ was known to me from the moment I saw the first painting however I didn’t really understand it at the time, but as paint pressed against the canvas and more faces appeared from the apparent nothingness I became more and more in tune with a feeling of oneness. When I sit with them I understand how we are all connected and ‘We are one’ and this is the purpose of the body of work. There are nine paintings because the number nine is the sacred number of completion.
The paintings in the ‘I am you, you are me’ series have taught me so much and they are still leading my life into growth and development. The paintings are round because life is circular and so is the nature of existence as we originate from and return to the source. So with help from my father I was able to construct large drift wood frames and lash circular canvases to the centre to get the wonderfully organic and sculptural frames for my circular paintings.
I paint portraits because I feel that they reveal the inner soul of the onlooker, what we see in the eyes of the painting is often what is within us. Having spent many years with the paintings now I have grown with them in my understanding but I still find some of them challenging. When I look at the paintings they reflect back to me my feelings at that moment, I perceive that the person in the painting is happy or that they are ‘angry’ with me when it is just my inner environment reflecting back to me. I find that the more I show the body of work the more I see people being attracted to a certain person on the canvas. I see how the paintings reflect something deep in them that they truly understand or paradoxically something deep in them they do not understand. The paintings are a mirror for us and our own development, we project our 'stuff' onto them the same way we do with the people, things and situations in our life. Confronting the paintings is like confronting yourself. People often ask me "Are these YOUR paintings?" and my usual response is "No, they are OUR paintings". The series is about Unity; I am you, you are me.
The order the series was painted
The Medicine Wheel order of the paintings
As most of the paintings were visioned in the sweat lodge they are highly influenced by the teachings of the medicine wheel. When viewing the paintings in an exhibition the first painting sits in the centre of the space (the centre of the medicine wheel) and the other eight paintings sit in a circle around the centre piece. North opposite South, East opposite West, Masculine opposite Feminine and Duality opposite Unity. The first painting (Chu’si) in the series acts like a gateway into the circle, an opening from which the others follow. The following four paintings represent the directions with their corresponding elements; Addoette (North/Earth), Mapiya (East/Air), Kajika (South/Fire) and Satinka (West/Water). The following two paintings are the divine feminine (Anpaytoo - Mother Earth) and the divine masculine (Etu - Father Sky). From this comes The Ancestors with their teachings about duality consciousness and the final painting is a unified being; an androgynous, harmonious being teaching me about unity consciousness. I am still learning from these paintings every day and the more I sit with them and meditate with them I understand their purpose for connecting us to ‘Unity Consciousness’. When we experience the nine paintings in a circle we are taken on a journey through ‘entry’, to the directions, to a connection with the earth, a connection with spirit, a realisation of duality and an eventual coming home to unity; a place of harmony, balance and completion.
I have travelled with the paintings to the four directions of North, East, South and West (Scotland, Cambridge, Dartmoor and Somerset) and to the centre (Sutton Coldfield). When I show the work I also hold the space to teach a meditation on the paintings. The meditation can be a specific deep meditation on one particular painting or it can be a meditation on harmony, unity and relatedness which encompasses all the paintings. To really understand the paintings we need to feel them as well as see them.
I am currently working on a new painting project which is a series of five paintings; they are the human representations of the elements; Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether. We as humans contain within our bodies the five elements so we are directly related to nature. The project of the five elements brings together humans in elemental form and represents the diverse races and sexes thus reinforcing the ‘We are one’ theme.
All of the paintings have words that came to me as I was creating them; the words have been woven into poems.
I and the paintings look forward to sharing a circle with you soon.
To all my relations.
The paintings by name and their meanings:
Chu’si (meaning Snake Flower in Hopi)
Chu’si came to me in a shamanic way through the earth, she is the protector, the gate way into this project. She is the medicine women, the over seer, without her the project could not happen.
She taught me how to nurture my ability to hear and to respond. She taught me that we are all one.
She is the gate keeper. Her teaching is this:
'I am you, you are me' – we are all one.
Adoeette (meaning Great Tree in kiowa)
Adoeette is the spirit of the North gate, he represents the element of earth and all the earth dwelling beings. Adoeette began the teachings of the four directions.
He came along to teach me to place my body on the earth to be healed, the earth will take away all ills, restore us to balance and restore us to full potential.
Listen to the earth for her medicine, watch the earth for her story, feel the earth in her pain and her joy, know the earth is you and you are the earth and you must be in union together for you need each other for survival.
Mapiya (meaning Sky like or Heavenly in Sioux)
Mapiya is the spirit of the East gate and represents the element of Air and the feathered people.
She is the Dreamweaver, the night time space and the psychic space. She is about looking inwards to find the answers.
She is the sacred holy trine; The sacred trine is the law of this land. In all things spiritual the sacred trine is represented; Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Body, Mind and Spirit. Past, Present and Future. Under, Middle and Over.
With Mapiya’s painting we recognise that we need our aspects of Body, Mind and Spirit to be in harmony so we can move towards a state of enlightenment. Mapiya also recognises the need for spiritual connection for our soul to feel complete, a channelling of higher energies into this human form to understand the nature of existence.
Satinka (meaning Sacred Dancer)
Satinka is the spirit of the West gate and represents the element of Water and all the water dwelling beings.
Her teaching is a dance; she is at one with the elements and calls forth the rain with her flesh and blood. From the dry barren land she recognises the water inside of her and brings it into to being outside of her. A true union of emotion in action - what we think about we bring about.
Kajika (meaning ‘Walks without sound’)
Kajika is the spirit of the South gate and the element of fire, heat and summer.
He teaches us to walk softly on this earth, to be aware of our footprint and the effect we have on our surroundings.
I remained in silence during all painting sessions while creating this piece.
Kajika teaches us to be grateful and give in return for what we take.
Anpaytoo (meaning Radiance)
Anpaytoo is the spirit of Mother Earth, the divine feminine. She is the wise Grandmother Earth in her primeval beauty. Like the Earth she is ancient but there is forever that look in her eye of regeneration and youth.
I looked into those eyes and was absorbed into her world for a moment. She had such a delightful playful energy, very young at heart and very mischievous; she seems to be saying to me “You can have so much fun here!” She meant ‘here’ on Earth, she is full of joy and appreciation for the Earth and its beauty.
She taught me to enjoy this life, to breathe, to live, to feel and to enjoy the earth. Although the earth is suffering in many ways, she teaches to love the parts of the earth that are still vibrant, still radiant and to look after what we have left. She taught me that having fun is OK and not to take life so seriously.
Etu (meaning Sun)
Etu is the spirit of the warrior and the divine masculine. His name - Etu (Sun) is a play on him being the Son, like the ‘son’ of man and also the ‘sun’ like the creator sun.
His energy is purely masculine but with a compassionate gentleness.
He is the glowing yellow sun (son) who has a desire to achieve but a gentleness of heart. In his energy is the sacred masculine element of focus but this is also balanced with the feminine energy of the heart, for without love one can achieve nothing. There is strength, but there is love behind the strength, there is love that drives the will.
Etu teaches us that the masculine can be gentle and loving, that the warrior has a tender heart.
The Ancestors – The spirits of the Ancestors.
The Ancestors are us; this is where we are in the enlightenment journey.
Everything in this plane of existence is dual; we live in a duality consciousness.
Where there is light - there is dark
Where there is night - there is day
Where there is hot - there is cold
Masculine - Feminine
Good - Bad
Old - Young etc.
The spirits of our Ancestors acknowledge where we are by looking deep into each other whilst the tree of life roots them to this duality consciousness.
Unity - The unified being
Unity represents the coming together of the dual aspects; it is a unified harmonious being. The masculine joined with the feminine - the sun and the moon in the same space in the sky.
'Unity Consciousness’ is the concept that we are all one, we are all linked to the quantum whole. This is the level of enlightenment.
In sacred geometry number nine is the number of completion. 'Unity' is the ninth and final painting in the series and symbolises our completion, our waking up and transcending.