Who are you and what do you do?
I am a painter a gemologist, traveler and student. A lover of life!
Why do you do what you do?
I find the discipline of a technically rigorous art intensely spiritual, focusing. Risk taking and dangers of being an artist—in a minute there are a thousand possibilities to contemplate or utter failure. Silently communing with the divine. I don’t remember when I didn’t paint.
How do you work?
Working to music, in silence, in nature and with very good light, Bermuda is my ideal studio. I travel and research a lot for the ideas, the poetry, literature and architecture of Islamic art. I was traditionally taught the discipline of Indo Persian Miniature painting, so I make my own pigment paint, use watercolour technique and water-based mediums and ink line work. Traditional methods root me and add meaning. Ideas and creative thought are random, chaotic—my studio can be covered with books, papers, bits and pieces, and then I begin to paint and inside, it is silent.
What’s your background?
I grew up in India and still spend a lot of time studying and travelling there. I also lived in Iran before I moved to Bermuda. My interest has always been in the diversity of cross-cultures; we all are a compilation of influences, as are art, sculpture and architecture visually inter-related within my work.
What art do you most identify with?
Indo-Persian miniatures and Islamic art. Expressionism because it seems the very antithesis of miniatures, but it’s the liveliness of storytelling and, of course, Art Nouveau because of the line quality. But there is a lot of interesting contemporary art in the Middle East and also South America, which I now collect. It’s passionate and viscerally vocal.
What work do you most enjoying doing?
In my art practice, it has to be the work of preparedness. It’s like settling down to work but, in my case, the preparation of materials, pigments, gold and gem materials is specific and requires care. After that work out I can begin!
What food, drink, song inspires you?
I’m sounding boring here, but Qawwali/Sufi music from India, Pakistan, Egyptian music, Latino, Reggae, hip hop, music with passion. I love good Indian food (I only eat it in India), sushi—and of course chai, though Bermuda has some of the world’s best smoothie selection—definitely oyster and champagne taste!
What makes you angry?
Injustice, being unheard, the lack of a voice. A few years ago I took study courses in Process painting art therapy; there is a lot of pain associated with the lack of ability or opportunity to express one’s truth.
What research to you do?
I do a lot of research; I enjoy learning within my field of work. There is a lot of literature and imagery available, it is all accessible, so even though I travel and photograph, there are amazing museums with good Islamic, Oriental departments in Paris, Toronto, London, New York and Istanbul to name a few. Online accessibility to literature, art, architecture and discussion groups, too.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
My teacher and master miniaturist in India always tells me “take it easy and just—chill”, it has taken me forever to practice the spiritual significance of these simple words on a daily basis. That is why the names to all of my shows are significant reminders to me.
Where do you gather most of the inspiration for your works?
Most of my inspiration is from life experiences. I can research further once I have felt or experienced something in my life. I can observe and research, but initially to make it real and passionate enough to paint about I have to have felt it, shared it, embraced it.
What, in your opinion, is the hardest step in creating a masterpiece?
I don’t think I could begin any piece of work with the idea of masterpiece, maybe mastering the art in a piece. Some paintings seem to be more of a success in they are nearer to what I was trying to create. Alternatively the more I can go off track and yet remain consistently true to a higher purpose the more I seem to ‘get it’.
What is the world you are trying to create/magnify for your audience?
I don’t know if this is really the answer to this question, but I do feel some responsibility to not let these ancient techniques and styles of art and decoration die. By using them in a contemporary way, they hark back to past cultures and yet still have relevance today.
If you had the chance to say anything to the world, what would it be?
Just be a little kinder, let the love flow.
Talk a little bit about your creative process—from getting the idea to the finished “product” of the
Most of my work begins with a concept, an idea. I like big themes, sometimes I’ve been working on one for years. I’m just gripped by that idea, the research and the energy tells me when I’m ready to work. My next show KISMET has been in my mind for the last two years developing in a series. As I begin to dig deeper, there is a flow of ideas, waiting to be translated into subtle curves, images ask to be arranged in some order, then it’s just getting it down. Then the piece is finished and I no longer feel that same internal attachment.
Does art have a “purpose?” And if so, what do you believe the purpose of art is?
Art to me is the creative element that all life needs—a way to stop and maybe see the world in another way. A language of the soul, essential.
Do you ever find yourself in a creative dry-spell? If so, what do you do to find yourself again and create new work?
I wouldn’t exactly say a dry spell, because there is always a backlog of ideas fermenting in notebooks. Some ideas take longer to realize. You know that they are just below the surface and scratching doesn’t help. I like to visit with friends, play a little and loosen up—that seems to help the process.
How do you manage balancing work/life?
It’s a work in progress. I try for a simplified life to accommodate my studio work, but I also schedule travel for research and study—both are disruptive in a stimulating way. I could use a good PA. My family and friends definitely bring me more into the present and that’s a good thing. I discuss this subject often.
If someone wanted to purchase your work or commission you how can they best contact you?
Where can people see your work?
Bermuda Society of Art City Hall Hamilton in Bermuda and www.melaniefrancis.com