Monday, March 27th 2017
Aug
2009
31

The art of being

Claire Elek’s paintings have names like, “The Hero’s Journey into the Bone Forest.” In a Soul’s Code exclusive, Elek reveals her own heroine’s path of self-discovery

garden of the goddessThe color-infused canvases of Toronto-based artist, Claire Elek, will float you into a world resplendent with dreamy, mythical images.

She has the depth of a spiritual teacher when talking about shamanism, Jungian theology and female archetypes — and not surprisingly, they are powerful influences in her paintings.

A catalyst for Elek’s highly-collectible art (one of her drawings is owned by Canadian author Margaret Atwood) were her Gauguin-like travels through South America and Southeast Asia.

Soul’s Code checked in with Elek, for an exclusive Q&A interview:

SOUL’S CODE: You often sound more like a spiritual teacher than a painter. Do you offer counseling?  :)

Claire Elek: No, I don’t offer counseling except through Tarot readings when I channel messages directly to the person asking for advice.  I created the first “Hero’s Journey” painting as a myth, or fairy tale with a moral ending, a tale of spiritual adventure, and the others evolved from that idea.  As we develop psychologically, we also develop spiritually.  Our happiness depends on how we are able to deal with emotions like anger. I’ve learned to deal with my demons by using self-examination and meditation.

hero’s journey

Many ancient tribal people believed that there is spirit in everything, animate or inanimate. Everything is alive and has consciousness.  We are seeing this in quantum physics now. When we’re involved with personal pains and struggles, we can’t reach that part of ourselves that is pure consciousness and is part and parcel of every other consciousness.

When we are able to detach from these emotions, we connect with this consciousness — and that’s enlightenment. I have evolved characters like that in many of my paintings,  like the “Green Man” in “The Hero’s Journey into the Bone Forest” (right) who is part of nature and spirit.

Another is the “Trickster” (below), who reminds us to laugh at ourselves — and that life is not real but just a game we created. “The Goddess in the Garden” (the image at the top of the page) is derived from the Strength card in Tarot, which speaks to transition.

trickster

SOUL’S CODE: Do the goddess-like figures in your paintings reflect your personal spiritual practice? Are you a card-carrying member of the Goddess Movement?

Claire Elek: I don’t engage in any one spiritual practice or follow a single belief system.  However, I do follow certain Buddhist pratices such as  meditation.  Lately I’ve taken journeys into the Akashic Records to learn about my past lives, and to release karma in this life.  I often receive visual aid and guidance from what I believe to be Spirit, during my painting.

I believe Spirit contacts us in many ways, through our dreams, through inner work and through our imaginations. I often receive angelic guidance during my channelling.  Myths activate the realm that Jung called collective subconscious, where all knowledge resides and where we all meet in spirit.

SOUL’S CODE: Speaking of spiritual teachers, who is your favorite out there today?

Claire Elek:  There are many, but one of my recent discoveries is  Eckhart Tolle.  His  theories have come into play for me.  The female or anima in the garden needs to balance her animal nature and her human nature in order to be whole.   Jung called this “individuation,” the union of the animus and anima.  In my painting, “The Garden of the Goddess”, the goddess is the evolved female.

SOUL’S CODE: Does interacting with children as an elementary teacher impact on your art work and spirituality?

Claire Elek: I love working with younger children because I feel that they still express themselves spontaneously and lovingly, without censoring themselves. They are able to reach those places of the imagination that we as adults and artists have to work hard to reach.

I see in their art, especially in kindergarten, an intimacy with Spirit and to their own spirits. They create these stories and myths effortlessly. I love to watch them lost in their play. To them, it’s all just play until someone tells them that it’s “work,” and that they need to do things a certain way.

From that indoctrination, kids learn to be judgmental of themselves and others. And as a result, they lose their authenticity and their connection little by little. These young children remind me that I have to keep my “innocence,” and recapture my childlike authenticity, to be close to spirit.

SOUL’S CODE:  Where did shamanism enter the picture for you?

Claire Elek: The opportunity of a lifetime came up when I got to travel to Mexico, learned about the Mayans, and their myths and visited the pyramids in Merida, Mexico. I saw wonderful stone reliefs of their rituals.  Five years later, I took an extensive trip through South East Asia, and absorbed incredible Indonesian theater and art. I realized Jung’s archetypes were alive in those works.

circle of power

Suddenly my eyes were opened as I connected contemporary Jungian archetypes with the ancient spiritual and tribal characters in these artistic and dramatic creations. When I came home I engrossed myself in books about Shamanism, especially,  “The Way of the Shaman” by Michael Harner.

Through a synchronicity, I attended a workshop he gave and learned to “journey” (dream in a deep meditative state, induced by a monotonous drum beat). Later, I joined a Shamanic Circle and did other healing workshops.

In these experiences, I received personal healing messages for myself and others through “power animals,” kind of like the creatures you see in the movie The Golden Compass.

SOUL’S CODE: How did you integrate those spiritual experiences with your painting technique?

Claire Elek:  I was in this period of drawing and painting my plants. I set them by windows where the sun created beautiful patterns on their leaves and my tables. I used light to create interesting shadows behind them on the canvas.  One day, I’d left a painting of a jungle scene on my drawing-table — and I decided to play with illusions.

I set some plants in pots up in front of the painting, and started a new drawing of the plants and the painting together. Well, all of a sudden the pots seemed really superfluous. And my drawing became a dense jungle I called “Crazy Rhythm,” inspired by the Jazz age in 1920′s America.

This experiment freed me. It released my imagination.

SOUL’S CODE: If the act of creating is a form of therapy, how did this professional breakthrough help you personally?

Claire Elek: My next big turning point was a trip to Costa Rica and the rainforest.  I’d read a lot about shape-shifting in shamanic trances.  Depicting myths about transformation, I came up with “The Garden of the Goddess” (the image at the top of this page).  It shows a female hero shape-shift from animal into human form — a classic trope in shamanic folklore.

snakeman

At the same time, these myths became a sort of personal therapy for me, as I struggled to find the courage to face my fears of the unknown. They helped me reach down into my authentic self, and begin to express my strengths and weaknesses in relationships.

Adults sometimes have a more difficult time moving into unknown territory because of certain childhood experiences.

Sometimes these dangers may feel so scary that we believe our psychological survival may be threatened by a kind of death of our sanity.

claire elekMeet Claire Elek inside her virtual gallery.

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29 Comments on “The art of being”

  1. First of all, Claire, THANK YOU for your art! It is beautiful. I am sure even more so in person than on this site. You journey is taking you far. Your art is not only beautiful but can be a way in to the realm of inner awareness you describe here, integrating into a Whole Consciousness. Art is a great pathway. It's as if (and probably just is) the Collective Unconscious seeks to express itself through art so that we can each grow in awareness and live consciously, no longer fractionalized within or separated from each other.

    Thank you!

  2. Thank you David, not only for your aesthetic appreciation of my art, but also for your understanding of it... Yes, my journey in self development, spiritual/psychological,through spiritual practises, self-examination and through self expression in my art has taken me far and continues to do so.. I believe we never stop learning and growing.... And as I meet spiritual people in and outside Facebook, and getting each person's perspective on my paintings, I am learning so much more about the meaning in these paintings. I am very grateful for these insights and seeing how they inspire others artistically/spiritually/psychologically.

  3. I love that you pointed out how the children are our teachers. And I love the way you look in your picture. I can see the love in your eyes.

  4. Thank you Anne, what a nice thing to say.. yes, we can learn a lot from children if we just take the time to observe them.

    Blessings,
    Claire

  5. I love your work Claire, and look forward to meeting you in person in a couple of weeks. I appreciate your imagery of strong female characters in your paintings. We need more of this! Thanks for your beautiful, gentle spirit and your art work. Your spirit shines through in all of your pieces. I can't wait to see them!

    All the best,

    Cyndi

  6. Incredible art. Is there someplace she has her works on display or is there a show coming up? I would love to attend. Let me know.

  7. Vibrant colour, vivid and striking imagery. How large are some of the pieces? I'd love to see them in person."

  8. ..Wonderful, insightfull. healing work...so grateful to have you in the comeunity spreading your seeds...create a spendid day...p.s thanks cyndi ingle for bringing me here...namaste to all beings.

  9. Jim, Alex, Michael.. Thank you all for your wonderful, appreciative comments. The paintings and folding screens I haven't yet sold are in my studio/loft in Toronto. If you're in Toronto and would like to see them I would be happy to arrange a viewing.
    I am also planning to hold another open house this year to display the whole series before they get further broken up..

    Michael I'm glad to be in this community where I keep meeting interesting, spiritual people. When I joined Facebook I hadn't imagined how far this journey would take me in just three months. I feel very blessed..

  10. Great pieces of art work Claire.I like the theme in your paintings.Especially because they speak for and to the soul and the deepest part of us.Good work Claire.
    lafoi

  11. Hi Cyndi,

    It was great talking with you as well. I too am looking forward to meeting you in person. Thank you for your heart-felt comments. Yes, we do need more strong females in art and in life. I believe more women need to let their light shine and reveal their inner goddesses... I am looking forward to showing you my paintings... Thank you for the opportunity to talk about them in your publication.

    Blessings,
    Claire

  12. Thank you Faith for your comments and your support. It means a lot to me..

  13. Gorgeous...Very vibrant and each one tells a story...Thank you x0x

  14. Very Gauguin...beautiful colours...

  15. Thank you so much for your appreciation of my paintings, Muriel and Dinah..

    Blessings,
    Claire

  16. Thank you so much for sharing this...what a fabulous artist.

  17. Thank you Karen..how nice..my pleasure, I love sharing my art..

    Blessings,
    Claire

  18. This is a truly beautiful article of inspiration and movement towards wholeness that is seen so clearly in these bright, colourful, emotion-filled, ebullient paintings that are always firmly grounded in draftsmanship. We can sing and be wild and dance and meditate and be together in these paintings, Claire. You offer a vision of the world to the world where imagination and the mysteries of the psyche and the extraordinary world we live in that is profound. Having spent my early years in a jungle in Africa, and getting to know quite well the local Witch Doctor, I resonate with your imagery and the lush fertile vibrance of nature at its most rampant, as well as with the inner journeying towards healing ourselves, each other, and the planet itself. Thank you Soul's Code for this article on and interview with this brilliant painter...

  19. Thank you Brenda for this beautiful tribute to my journey and to my art..and for your appreciation of my "jungle" and for acknowledging that my journey into the unknown is a lot of peoples' journey... Your poetic words always move me..Yes, I feel very fortunate to have been able to tell my story in this spiritual, but open-minded magazine.

    Blessings,
    Claire

  20. These pictures are wonderful!

  21. Thank you Christina.. I'm glad you like them.

    Blessings,
    Claire

  22. Genius...there are a few peole in this world that channel pure genius and that is something that runs through all your work Clair you are Genius, thank you for your being here, All good blessings, ariel

  23. I do always look at your work and pages, they are so beautiful...
    Clair You are a very special soul.
    love and light
    Solange

  24. je suis ici car jai bien aier vs dessin
    jai chercher votre lein pour voir vos oeuvres
    splendide claire
    c'est tres beau
    bon contuniation
    mes amitiées les plsu sinceres
    zineb oulidi
    artiste peintre et poete marocaine

  25. Very lovely. Really enjoyed my visit.

  26. I love these images. They arise from a deep place of commitment to expression.

    We are privileged to have Claire's art and creative courage.

    Claire, please post in this thread about upcoming exhibitions of your work!

  27. I'm sorry I haven't visited my interview article for a while so I hadn't realized some wonderful comments and questions that have been left here. I've also had a very difficult year...First of all thank you to everyone who took the time to leave a comment and to view my art on my website.
    Let me address some of these comments and questions now some left over a year ago.
    Ariel,.. what a surprisingly wonderful thing to say..Solange very sweet.. I like your visions as well..Zineb merci beaucoup..Casey I'm glad you've enjoyed your visit..
    Paul thank you for your acknowledgement of my creative struggle to express my visions on canvas.
    I will have another exhibition in my studio perhaps in the spring if I complete the large water garden painting I'm currently working on. If you'd like to see the progression of this painting I invite you to visit my Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Claire-Elek/26521491510 and I will certainly post the date of my next exhibition here and on my Facebook Pages. The reason I have been showing my art in my studio is because a few of these, some of the main paintings of this series are very large 97" x 72" and difficult to move in and out. I may be showing them in other locations though in the future if I get a longer show perhaps in a larger space. I am also planning to work smaller perhaps reduce my canvases to 48" x 36" or so once I complete this large painting.Thank you for your interest.
    If anyone would like to learn the size of my paintings in this series the sizes are posted under the paintings on my website and on my Facebook Page..

  28. Hi Claire... am a Tarot reader and Reiki master...love doing sketching,painting. Thanks a lot Claire for sharing such wonderful thoughts. Paintings are amazing and pushes one to go deep inside themselves...namaste

  29. Thank you Jaspal.. my pleasure..I agree with you as I've always felt that my paintings were a sort of therapy for me.

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