As these same artists were often also interested in esoteric traditions and thought systems - alchemy, kabbala, tarot, occultism, magic, theosophy and so on - I became incresaingly aware of the various alternatives to the mainstream Western worldview, which I found so lifeless and flat, so limited and incomplete. India was clearly calling me, and I knew it, but I didn’t really listen.
I even went on to write a doctoral thesis about the references made by Surrealist artists to occult philosophy and symbolism. As I researched alchemy, kabbala and the Western magic tradition in depth, they became much more significant to me than the art itself. I took it as a compliment when one of my thesis supervisors exclaimed incredulously one day: ’the extraordinary thing about you is that you actually believe in all this stuff!’ Yes – more and more, I felt alchemy in particular offered a far deeper understanding of the true nature of existence than the mainstream vision.
In spite of my non-academic approach to my subject, I was awarded a doctorate, but remaining in the dead world of academia was out of the question. Still resisting the strongly felt call to come to India, I became a journalist, working as a commissioning editor for The European
newspaper for several years, then as a freelance travel and art writer and sub-editor. A couple of short trips to India strikingly confirmed what I had always known, so in 1999 I came here for a longer stay.
That was it. I immediately carved out a new life for myself, painting mandalas and whirling and meditating in the Osho meditation resort for six months of every year, and financing these periods by freelancing as a sub-editor in London for most of the remaining months. Over the years, I found I wanted to spend even more of my time in India, so I am now seeking to help fund my life here through an online editing service created with a journalist friend (www.editingedge.co.uk
). Although I no longer visit the Osho resort, mainly for financial reasons, I travel more within India these days, deriving as much pleasure from taking photographs of what I see as I do from creating the mandalas.
Whether I am on my periodic travels or staying quietly in Pune, I have a seemingly inexhaustible appetite for all the vast wealth of sensory experience and wonderment offered by everyday and not so everyday Indian life. The vibrant aliveness of the colours, the patterns, the sounds, the smells, the textures, above all the overwhelming chaos of what surrounds me here much of the time is a constant tonic, and makes life into a permanent adventure.
There is also, of course, the persistent presence in the atmosphere of the mysterious, the magical, the mystic side of reality, so deeply interwoven with the more mundane aspects of life that there is no separation, and everything becomes touched by the fantastic, the fabulous. At the same time, nothing ever feels quite serious in India – the game of life, the leela, is always hovering in the collective consciousness, bringing the beauty of the absurd out in all the wildly bizarre and unexpected situations that are forever cropping up in daily existence. Life feels light, playful, unpredictable.
These days, new information is coming which is refining and extending my understanding of my own particular, rather unusual relationship with existence, with India, and with the mandalas, too. But for now, I am at home in India in a way that I have never been anywhere else, so I remain mainly based in Pune, until and unless some other location, in India or elsewhere, presents itself.
Media coverage and exhibitions
In June 2006, the German edition of Osho Times
) ran a six-page
feature on my work.
A solo exhibition of mandala prints
ran at the Osho Galleria (www.oshoworld.com) in New Delhi, India, from 23 March 2007, for a month.
From September 2007-February 2008, a number of prints were hung in the therapy rooms at Moving Arts Base (sadly, now closed) in London – just the kind of healing space in which these works ideally belong. On Wednesday 1 October 2008, also at Moving Arts Base, I performed the whirling for the first time in the UK to open an exhibition sale of mandala prints that, in the end, ran until 29 August 2009, with many prints sold.
From 18 October 2010 until 29 November 2010, giclée prints of the mandalas were on display in Amsterdam at the well-known esoteric bookshop/café/gallery, Himalaya (www.himalaya.nl), on Warmoesstraat, five minutes' walk from the main railway station.
If you would like to experience the healing and meditative effect of the mandalas in your own healing centre or other workspace, please contact the artist (see Contacts and sales page).