An interaction with the Australian Mandala artist Sandra Joran
Artistic Australia - like much of the West - is in love with the Mandalas. Making these power circles and squares a drawing-room rage is a recluse painter Sandra Joran from the Nimbin Valley, SW, Australia. Her hand-painted mandalas are in great demand worldwide as source of pure energy and peace.
In a rare interview done through e-mail with Mumbai-based Sunil Sharma, the gifted artist Sandra talks of her long fascination with these symbols from the East and their enduring cultural and spiritual significance:
Q: What is the significance of a symbol for you as a visual artist?
A. Symbolism expresses strong messages that I want to portray in my mandalas like harmony, world peace, calm, astrological or spiritual.
Q: What does sacred mean in a commodified cultural space?
A. To me sacred means your own special, contemplative quiet place away from the busy non-stop hustle bustle of the world.
Q: As a Westerner, coming from a largely Christian background, how was the migration to the East and its “esoteric” philosophy?
A. Pretty easy really, it just seemed to come together effortlessly, at the time. I had read a lot about mandalas and the philosophy behind them. I liked what I read and had a very strong urge to begin painting something significant and with meaning.
Q: From a non-religious to a believer of a sort, in a spiritual realm, what have been the contours of this long quest?
A. I don't paint mandalas for any religious reasons. I began painting mandalas as a focus for inner calm, to centre my mind and to get away from all the chaos and clutter of the world. To paint in silence and create peace within.
Q: Mandalas. They mean different things to different people. In the Rigveda, they carry a different symbolic connotation than the Buddhistic one or the Western appropriation of them. Your views on these circles?
A. I knew nothing about the Rigveda. So for me the mandala represents an ancient and mystical symbol of the universe.
Q: When did the first mandalas happen in your life?
A. In 1999, I had visited a hospital and thought it would be great for patients to have something on the wall they could look at for hours while they lay in bed. I thought I could paint mandalas and donate them to the hospital.
Q: Is there a mystical side to these circles held sacred by the believers? Are they pathways for adepts for a reality of a different kind?
A. Yes I thinks there is a mystical belief, I have that belief and find it comforting. But as for pathways to a different reality, not for me as yet.
Q: What is your understanding of the Chakras and the tantras?
A. That there are seven main Chakras in the body, which align the spine, from the base to the top of the head, swirling wheels of energy where matter and consciousness meet. An energy life force. Tantras or scriptures appear to be essentially Hindu or Buddhist philosophies based on esoteric traditions.
Q: What is the experience of the Western viewers of your versions of them?
A. Most comments are that they are beautiful and they would like to have one in their home. Because most are sold through a gallery I don't speak to a lot of the people. But with the commissions I have painted specifically for a particular person, they know it is a one off work for them, which they find very special and unique.
Q: What are other major influences on your evolution as an artist?
A. Books and Music. I have read many esoteric, mandala and tarot books. I like to listen to music with meaningful lyrics, basically poetry to music. Particularly Van Morrison and Leonard Cohen and I paint what I hear.
Q: What is your typical day like?
A. I try not to have a typical day, I like variation, so I try to differ things every day.
Q: Sandra summed up in her own words?
A. I like to focus on the light and positive side of life. I enjoy Tai Chi and dance, lots of space around me, freedom and quiet.
Q: Your favourite painters and writers?
A. No one favourite, I like many painters i.e. Brian Froud, Robert Venosa, H.R. Giger, M.C. Escher and writers of artist biographies or autobiographies or mythical unusual stories.
Q: Have you ever felt the influence of Carl Jung on your works?
A. No, I haven't.
Q: Jung often drew circles and believed that the urge for drawing circles reflected his moods and was the most during an intense growth period within. Agree?
A. Yes, I have read his books and for him this was obviously so true. For me this isn't the case.
Q: How does unconscious manifest in art?
A. I don't know, it's a mystery. A mystery, I guess I don't need answered. I just go with flow, the Tao, and let it spontaneously happen.
Q: How do you interpret dreams and myths?
A. Again, I don't try to interpret dreams or myths too much at all. You just know, when you know.
Q: Is art a good therapy for a mad age?
A. Yes, I think it is. For me it has been great therapy. And I think everyone should have a serious try at art at least twice or three times in their life.
Q: Your spouse Rob Harle is also, like you, a reputed artist. What brought two of you together and keeps you together?
A. Fate brought us together. And we are truly two very lucky people that have an extremely strong bond, love and trust between us that is eternal. A blessing.
Q: Is there a world beyond? Can that be glimpsed through such art?
A. I don't have the answer to that, I'll have to wait and see. And for me it's not glimpsed through my art.
Q: Your take on poetry?
A. I enjoy reading poetry in small portions at a time. It's an intimate journey into the poet's mind of a very personal nature.
Q: Any message for the struggling visual artists?
A. If you love doing it, you don't have a choice, so sit back, hang in there and enjoy the ride.
Q: What are your hobbies?
A. Participating and exhibiting in the virtual world of artists, planting trees and landscaping my property.
Q: What has been the role of music in your career?
A. Extremely important, it takes you to a different sphere. It's one of the things humans have got right. Music generally makes people very happy and relaxed and I paint mandalas from music.
Q: Is art a paying market in Australia? Especially, your kind of hand-painted art works rooted in the eastern philosophy?
A. The answer is a big fat No. Lol
Q: Why you never chose to teach?
A. I'm reclusive, and I don't have a set teaching pattern of rules. My art just takes its own course at the time.
Q: What is the status of visual art in the West? Where is the next Picasso or Dali?
A. To tell you the truth I don't keep up with status quo of the visual art scene. So I don't where they are hiding!
Q: Have you interacted with the artists coming from a primitive background? Aboriginal art?
A. I am friends with aboriginal artists and have bought their work, which I love. But I have not so far, interacted with the artists themselves.
Q: Any regrets so far?
A. I try my best to live in the here and don't think about regrets that much, it gets you nowhere fast.
Q: Any unforgettable moment?
A. Yes, In June 1989 I finally headed northward to warmer weather and to a lifestyle I had dreamed of living for a long time.
You can visit her website here.