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Cletwr Mandala
Cletwr Community Mandala Painting
Autumn 2015 to Spring 2016


 How it Began

The idea for this project began with my noticing a blank piece of wall on the side of our local community shop. I kept imagining a colourful painting there, drawing the eyes of passing motorists, kindling curiosity. It would be a dynamic image that somehow represented the energy of renewal happening around the building....a visual invitation to passers by.

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I love to see art works in public places, where people are going about their daily lives—to see sculptures and murals punctuating everyday experience with colour , shapes, relevance, interest and meaning. Something to awaken us from our usual preoccupied trance.


For the past few years my main artistic practice has been to paint mandalas. The pictures have grown progressively bigger over the years, lending themselves to spacious or outdoor settings...so it occurred to me that it would be great to paint a large mandala mural - and that it would be ideal to do this locally, as a kind of offering to the community.


 The development of the shop and café  in Tre’r’ddol, Ceredigion ( http://www.cletwr.com/ ) is an inspirational project in terms of how a community can come together to rebuild public services, in a sustainable and empowering way. Local people have transformed an old service station into a thriving community hub. The atmosphere is friendly, with many hands making light work. Locally produced foods and crafts are sold, the cafe makes wholesome sustainably sourced food as well as being a venue for events and courses. It’s incredibly heartening to witness how generous people are with volunteering their time, how enthusiastic people are to make positive change in this way.


How It Grew


It was important that the mandala be something that evolved from the community as well as from my personal expression, for it to really come alive and reflect the spirit of the place. So I invited participants from a mandala painting course I taught at Siop Cynfelyn last September to get involved, and from there it expanded.


There were sixteen contributors in all, the youngest aged 4 and the oldest 78!


The painting took nearly 4 months to complete, evolving from initial sketches and designs begun last summer and developing as it went along, line by line, from  the centre to the edges and back in again, shaped by the input of everyone involved.


The underlying geometry is that of the Chakana (Inca Cross) similar to a Celtic Cross, representing the four directions of the compass and the elements of fire, water, earth and air.


We decided to represent not only the human activity of this community enterprise, but also the environmental context of Tre’r’ddol itself, paying homage to the very rich diversity of wildlife we’re lucky enough to live alongside, particularly in Cwm Cletwr, represented here season by season throughout the year.



 

Recording the Process


We also had a camera set up, photographing the entire process.

This was an exciting extra dimension, to know that we were documenting every little stage of the unfolding design!

Literally thousands of photographs were taken, then edited together by my son Jacob, to produce the stop-motion film you can see on my homepage.


The creative process continued  beyond the completion of the visual work, with the energetic threads taken up by musician Gwilym Morus-Baird and woven into a musical composition that communicates the atmosphere of the many painting sessions, days and weeks of hands and eyes and hearts and minds focusing together.





Credits


Diolch yn fawr to  Siop Cynfelyn for supporting this project; thanks to everyone who helped with the painting of the mandala:


Alice Hazel Thomas, Chanan Bonser, Elaine Almond, Emily Hayward, Fiona Rowe, Gwilym Morus-Baird, Jacob Thomas, Kait Leonard, Lex Urry, Lily Thomas, Lucy Morus-Baird, Maureen Ryan, Oscar Higgs, Paul Thomas, Rachel Behan


 Additional thanks to Lucy for trusting me with her camera, Jacob for editing the film, my dad for loan of his lights and building the frame around the painting and finally to Gwilym for providing the musical icing on the cake!