I sit down to talk with Lucina S. Della Rocca, an artist and also my mother. As a child, I remember exploring her studio, smoothing a tentative finger over hardening oil paints on the palette.
Lucina gained her art degree from the Southern College of Art Portsmouth and Southsea, then continued her training in sculpture at the Stroud School of Art, and later at the Royal College of Art under the invitation of John Skeaping. In London in the late 1950s she worked as a professional artist for Adel Rootstein and Gems Jean Roger. Later she started to work in the burgeoning British film industry, building a good reputation as a scenic artist for The Bliss of Mrs Blossom, Oh, What a Lovely War and Isadora. During the 1960s, she was taking commissions all over London for a variety of clients such as Mary Quant, The General Trading Company, and various London restaurants and clubs, including theatrical productions. She worked with Allen Jones, R.A., on his iconic furniture sculptures. Her sketches from Mary Quant’s atelier are now in the Victoria and Albert museum textile and design archives.
In 1975 Lucina started meditating under the guidance of spiritual Master Sri Chinmoy. This spiritual awakening would influence her art in a profound way. In 1985 she received from her Guru her spiritual, or monastic name: Sringkhala, which means “the life of sleeplessly devoted inner discipline, to please the beloved Supreme in His own Way.” She uses this name in her personal life, and has added the letter S to her painting signatures, sometimes simply signing them “Sringkhala”.
At eighty-six, Lucina moves a little more slowly than she used to in the mornings, but her work has not slowed—if anything it has intensified over the last few years. In 2021 she presented her retrospective exhibition To the Last Breath in Mayfair, with paintings that highlight social issues of war, racism and humanity’s effect on the earth, also exploring our inner journeys and search for sustaining Love.
I ask Lucina about her ever evolving style. “I have to listen to my inner voice,” she says. “I have always tried to create art according to my conscience, and for many years much of that was in protest against war or greed. But in the early 1970s when I started meditating under the guidance of Sri Chinmoy, it enabled me to receive clearer direction in my work. For one thing, my art has become less anti-war and more pro-peace.”
I ask if she has a preference for a particular medium. “I have always been driven to search for new ways of expression. I often have to wait to hear what to do, from my intuition. It is slower working this way because I don’t really know what I’m doing half the time. It is a journey into the dark, waiting for the light to come.” She describes her style as eclectic, ranging from realism to spiritual or inter-dimensional. A large portion of her work remains influenced by current events, especially those related to social and environmental justice and humanitarian causes. “Through my art I want to contribute, even in a small part, to social progress for the betterment of all beings”.
Although Lucina’s work is often topical, there is a strong otherworldliness. Angels are featured, sometimes in juxtaposition with tragedy and observable only upon closer look. “Through my paintings I have an opportunity to share the value of listening to one’s own inner voice. The world has changed so much in the last 50 years, since I started meditating. Now people are realising the benefits of meditation, so perhaps the idea of inner guidance is more relatable these days.”
I ask where she gets her inspiration and am shown a small pile of notebooks with pages of written extracts, poetry and prose, mostly from spiritual books. There are also newspapers, folded to photographs of particular interest. “Sri Chinmoy has written over a thousand books, including many poems. I sketch all the time, scenes from nature, something I have seen outside, or a photograph. Sometimes I feel a command to make a commentary, such as my series on the Vietnam war, or my portraits of John Boyega and Greta Thunberg. I feel that art has a place in bringing attention to things we need to work on, such as taking care of the planet, ending racism and working towards greater world harmony.”
In a painting entitled We remember, we forget, a swirl of humans, endangered species, refugees, dancers and a lone pianist in the corner, swim around a vortex from which emerges a giant serpent. From above an angelic figure hands the serpent a rose. “I want my art to convey hope, love, and joy. Despite all the bad things that happen, both man-made and acts of nature, I feel we do live in a benevolent universe. I will always be a student of art, and of life and spirituality. The rose is one of my recurring themes, and to me it signifies love. My art is my path, and through it I feel closer to the Source. While working, if I feel in complete harmony with myself, a sense of ease and assurance, then I know I am going in the right direction.”
Recently, after a visit to the Royal Academy, I wondered how she feels her art fits into today’s current scene. “I believe that deep study and decades of practice make an art piece valuable and if someone finds joy in my work, and values it enough to buy it, it is rewarding to know that my painting has resonated with someone. If I do the work with love, in a good consciousness, it comes through in the art. I have been fortunate to have received comments about my work that reflect that, and I am grateful.”
As I write this article, my mother is in her watercolour studio completing a series of eight paintings started last week. She is “taking a break” from three remaining oil paintings upstairs waiting to be finished. Frankly, I’m impressed by her work ethic. Retirement is not in her plans. “To search for the divine light is a never ending journey. My art is my offering to the world, a statement of gratitude for my life, but I am not finished yet. I am eighty-seven years old this year, and perhaps I won’t have enough time to put everything I want to on paper. My offering will just stop. So the lack of time cannot really worry me. I will just keep going until my last breath.”
My heart longs to be dissolved in wings of air
And fly in the unhorizoned sky.
I long to open up all my heart-doors
In the delight of my liberation-life.
May my life begin with the breath of a new hope.
~ Sri Chinmoy
Ms Della Rocca has exhibited her work at The Royal Academy, The Royal West of England Academy, Courtaulds Institute, Llewellyn Alexander Gallery, The Mall Galleries, The Royal Portrait Society, The New English Art Club, and Kingston Museum among others, and produced 11 successful one-person shows.
Published Works: Book illustrations, music album cover designs for music groups Temple-Song-Hearts and Sindhu.
Drawing prize: Hesketh Hubbard Art Society, Mall Gallery
Sculpture Awards: Three from the National Society of Artists, Sculptors and Printmakers
Painting: Kingston Hill Art Gallery
Painting: Kensington Arts Council
Richmond Environmental Centre Award for Drawing
Painting: United Society of Artists (abbreviated to “United Artists” or UA)
National Society of Artists, Sculptors and Printmakers, (abbreviated later to “National Society” or NS) United Society of Artists, Hesketh Hubbard, Thames Valley Art Society, Society of Feline Artists.
Article by Sudhira Hay.