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25 February 2017

Immanence: Manifestations of the Divine in Everyday Life

Anne Deane interviews visual artist, Emel Jurd about Emel’s passions for painting and caring for others.

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25 February 2017

Artist, Emel Jurd, was awarded second place in the 2015 Pyrmont Art Prize.  Her work can be viewed at www.emeljurd.com and on her instagram account: @emeljurd. In addition to her art and as part of her community work as Team Leader of a Child Youth and Family Support Team, Emel started a radio program in four languages, providing information and resources to migrants and people experiencing disadvantage. She has also sung in bands.

Interviewer and author of this piece, Anne Deane was an Eremos Council member from 2013 to 2016 and loves to discover the uniqueness, creativity and life in others’ spiritual expression and exploration.

Gratitude, Emel Jurd, 2016. Charcoal and acrylic on fabric.

This article was written  by Anne Deane for the March 2017 issue of EREMOS

My first encounter with Emel Jurd’s paintings was at her exhibition: ‘Beneath the Surface’ in Glebe, Sydney, August 2015. I was drawn by the vibrant images of women’s heads entwined with trees and vines. I found something quite bold and interior in her work, yet somehow full of life, lightness and playfulness.

When I heard that Emel was holding an exhibition with a colleague (Lynore Avery) in Rozelle, Sydney, in November 2016 and that it was called ‘Immanence: Manifestations of the Divine in Everyday Life’, my curiosity was again sparked, so I went exploring. In this exhibition I was drawn again by deep, vibrant coloured female faces once again entwined in vines. After my initial encounter with each painting, I noticed small glimpses of lace-like fabric patterns hidden in the background and wondered about the meaning in this.

I was keen to hear how Emel might talk about what inspires her work, despite the images carrying their own meaning without words. As we talked I found a rich story emerging from Emel’s twin passions for creating while also doing her bit to care for others.

What inspired your exhibition ‘Beneath the Surface?’

’Beneath the Surface’ emerged as I was recovering from a broken foot. I spent a lot of time looking out on the ‘triffid’ vines in my neighbour’s veggie patch. As I reflected on life, I was struck by the isolation and sadness in human beings when we are disconnected from nature, each other and the broader universe. We rely on each other and the natural world for our existence, yet we often fail to connect. Life is not about the shiny surface that many project. It’s about what’s beneath. It’s about our stories. It’s about being privy to people’s stories. Nothing is what it seems. If there’s a message in the paintings, it’s: ‘Take a moment to pause and go beneath the surface and layers and meet the individuals.’

So, what inspired the title of your second exhibition?

“’Immanence’ came to me while I was working on ‘Beneath the Surface’. I sensed something brewing – something about the spiritual concept of connection of all of us and nature, and how nature and human beings blossom. I wanted to give a practical sense of the divine energy and wisdom that I believe runs in and through all of us. It exists in everything. It gives life to the intricate and infinite designs of the universe that connect us all – to nature and each other. It’s the fabric of our uniqueness; hence the pieces of fabric echoed in the paintings. I channel this appreciation directly into art.

I believe that all natural creations are expressions of a divine energy creating aspects of itself. That divine energy exists in each of our moments – in the small gifts with sorrow and loss, in moments of not knowing and in our moments of joy. Each painting draws the viewer in through colour, pattern, lines and impact. Each work, just as each day, has a layered depth to be discovered, explored and hopefully, delighted in. My hope is that it speaks to people and heals them. It’s about planting seeds in infinite combinations through art.”

Have you always painted?

“My earliest memories are of me drawing. It was always very alive for me. I completed a Degree in Visual Arts at Sydney College of the Arts, focusing on ceramic sculpture and jewellery design. I ran my own jewellery design business for 13 years but in 2000 I returned to my work with clay. I’ve had a life-long passion for the healing and educational opportunities creativity can provide. So I began using ceramic making and mural creation as a focus point for working with disadvantaged children, youth and adults. I guess it’s these experiences as well as my own life experience that have led me to reflect in my painting on our interconnectedness with each other and with the divine.

What creative projects you have undertaken with people experiencing disadvantage?

“I’ve designed and led programs with a wide range of clients: homeless women and children, young mums, women struggling with domestic violence or post natal depression, young women experiencing anxiety and depression, newly arrived migrants, young people trying to deal with bullying and elderly people reflecting on their lives. Many of my projects have been teaching clients how to make ceramic tiles with clay, fire them, glaze them and transport them to the site where they help construct a mural.

I see art as an active meditation, focusing on one point while thoughts come and go. I find that working together with clients on art projects gives us a shared focus. Making the ceramic pieces help them externalise what’s going on inside them and normalise their experience as they share their stories. It holds clients in a peaceful space that can be less confronting and scary than face-to-face talking. It helps reduce hyper-vigilance – a feature of much trauma. In the space of creating together, clients can share experiences and suggestions about how to deal with difficult issues.  Some gain strength to leave unhealthy relationships. It’s a space where I can refer people to agencies and support services that they might otherwise not know about.”

Are the murals you’ve created with your clients available for the public to see?

“Yes. They’re all in Sydney. There’s one on the wall of the Leichhardt Women’s Community Health Centre, and others at the Belmore Youth Resource Centre and Lakemba Child and Family Support Services and Campsie Women’s Rest Centre.“

So, your art has had you very involved in contributing to healthy communities?

“Visual art can be seen by some as self-indulgent. I am fortunate to have chosen to pursue two of my greatest passions in life: creating - and doing my bit in caring for others.”


Emel was awarded second place in the 2015 Pyrmont Art Prize.  Her work can be viewed at www.emeljurd.com and on her instagram account: @emeljurd. In addition to her art and as part of her community work as Team Leader of a Child Youth and Family Support Team, Emel started a radio program in four languages, providing information and resources to migrants and people experiencing disadvantage. She has also sung in bands.

Anne Deane was an Eremos Council member from 2013 to 2016 and loves to discover the uniqueness, creativity and life in others’ spiritual expression and exploration.

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