mother and child photograph Zangmo Alexander

For many years I have been learning to integrate contemporary art practices with meditation practices from Tibetan Buddhist traditions. This has been an extraordinary journey weaving the intensely personal with the vast and universal timeless.

PERSONAL BACKGROUND

Born into a rather dysfunctional but colourful and creative family of eastern European Jewish immigrants, my parents divorced when I was five. Twelve years of poverty, illness, loss and family disintegration followed.

Mother and Other Oil Painting on Canvas Zangmo Alexander

THE CRAZY YEARS

Burlesque dancer photograph

Completely naive and confused, at 18 I left home, and got involved with soft drugs, later using my creative and dancing skills to pursue a career as a rather classy stripper in theatres in Spain and Belgium.

This fulfilled my need for power, money, glamour and a more colourful lifestyle than my family background could offer. I became materialistic, driven by attachment to money, property, glamour, possessions, sex and entertainment.

The suicide of my first husband was a psychological and spiritual wake up call marking the beginning of a new journey searching for wisdom, meaning, sanity and healing through psychotherapy, art therapy, and finding a spiritual home.

 

THE ARTISTIC AND SPRITUAL JOURNEY BEGINS

Who am I pastel drawing on paper Zangmo Alexander

My journey with art and spirituality began in earnest when I became friends with a Jungian psychotherapist and began working in a psychiatric hospital in Brighton. Taking part in a staff art therapy group, I discovered the powerful link between the depths of the mind and creative expression. 

Suddenly it was possible to express through art what I could not put into words. I connected with personal archetypes, the inner child, personal myths and emotions, expressing these creatively in outer forms such as painting and clay, then sharing and reflecting on what I had made to increase awareness and move forward. Inspired by insights, I began assisting art therapists and running my own art for self discovery groups.

I also studied healing and mysticism. I realised that if we are to heal the world, we each have to realise who we really are, how we create our own reality and how we cause our own, and others suffering through greed, hatred and fear.

MINDSCAPES, BODYSCAPES

Awakening watercolour on paper Zangmo Alexander
PEOPLE IN  MY HEAD Zangmo Alexander

The search for self knowledge in body mind therapy put me in touch with inner, bodily energies and feelings, which I painted as colour, light and shape. This meant just being present, noticing sensations and movement of energy, which could be quite subtle.

Discovering artists and composers who touched the depth of personal and timeless human feeling encouraged me to practise art seriously though studying Fine Art at Brighton University School of Art.

Meditation No 11 oil on canvas Zangmo Alexander

MEDITATION ART

Meditation and the study of Buddhism called, taking me to a place of inner exploration where therapy left off.

Meditation No 11 is a painting starting to distil meditation experience into light, colour and shape in a mixed media oil painting on canvas. I was intuitively feeling into an experience, attempting to distil a sense I had of phenomena appearing to be solid yet not there, simultaneously. 

Artists influencing me at the time were the abstract expressionists, in particulart Rothko, Klee, Agnes Martin.

In 2005 I felt I needed to move forward, so as a single mum on benefits with a mortgage I did the really sensible thing and started a Masters Degree in Fine Art. My intention for the two year course was to explore ways of integrating meditation practice with contemporary art practice.

This was supported by embarking on a long term meditation training with Mingyur Rinpoche, and also undertaking an 8 week Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy Course at Bangor University.