The passion to create art can be a solitary existence. An artist usually has to relish working alone and be completely absorbed in the process. When every waking moment for months, or years, has been filled with the longing to be in your work space, surrounded by your collected ideas, images and colours; you would imagine a looming exhibition might fill an artist with dread and nervous anticipation at having to interact, face to face, with people who are there to critique your work.
However, the long months artist LEANNE THOMAS spends on each piece goes beyond a personal desire to just outwork something tangibly. The much deeper importance of art is something she believes in – wholeheartedly: “Ultimately, I am committed to creating art that exudes light, life and hope in a way that resonates with every viewer;” Leanne talks as I view the stunning paintings in her upcoming exhibition…

I can’t not create art. It’s the way I’ve been made. I was the kid drawing the trees while all my friends were climbing them. The dining room table was always covered in pencils and paints. Before having my children I was a graphic designer because I needed a job, but I could have happily done anything that involved designing.

Putting myself out there is still the main thing that challenges me. It’s a very vulnerable position. It has helped that I was a graphic designer because your work can get rejected up to five times – everyone has a different opinion. So, you can’t afford to be too sensitive, and you get there in the end.

For me, it’s about beauty. A great role model of mine is Makoto Fujimura – an artist highly respected in the New York art scene – who has written a lot of articles on returning to beauty in art. Why can’t art be beautiful? You can go into some art spaces and leave feeling heavy and sad, but the integral part for me is hope and beauty, and leading people somewhere. I want to tell people there’s a good God and He’s got something better for you. If someone can stand in front of [my] work and ask, ‘What does this mean?’ – God can answer that. I don’t even have to say anything.

Art says a lot about society and the community we live in today. It says something about who we are. The story I want to tell is God is good and there is beauty in the world. As a Christian artist, I want to be bringing heaven to earth. Something that sticks in my mind is an Instagram post I saw about a time, during the Bosnian war, people were lining up for bread and a bomb drops and kills them. In response, a guy brought his cello and played in the bomb crater, amongst all the rubble and devastation, for a week, dressed in his full concert attire – as an act of solidarity with the victims, and a symbol of defiance and resistance to the war. Even in Kiev, after the massacre happened in the square, all the artists came out. [As an artist], you can say something in amongst the mess and help people deal with it. Beauty for ashes: It’s an exchange. We can change the natural with the supernatural.

My favourite artwork? I think I just painted it. It’s in the exhibition entitled ‘The Secret Place.’ It’s a poppy that was half dead and while I was painting it, it became more and more beautiful as it aged. For me it represents exchanging my weakness for His strength. It may mean something different for someone else seeing it, but it’s almost responding to God – a divine exchange – the place where God speaks and He knows me, and He knows my name: That is the most profound and beautiful thing. Bobbie Houston says, ‘You’ve got to have a well-trodden path to that place.’

Failures? I have lots of those. And they’re expensive – but you can paint over. The thing about failures is that you learn from them. I’ve had lots, and I’ll have lots more. Teaching your kids that it’s okay to fail is a good thing, or else they’ll never have a go. Factor in failing and making a mess. Keep learning.

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“I want to be bringing heaven to earth. Beauty for ashes:
It’s an exchange. – Leanne Thomas”

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