The Spiritual Arts Foundation

Lynne Harkes - Descent and Renewal

November 24, 2022

Lynne Harkes

I was born and grew up in Edinburgh where I spent a happy and secure childhood. Following school, I studied textile design in Scotland, which is where I also met the man who was later to become my dear husband, an engineer. We embarked on a travelling life, setting up homes in camps in the Sultanate of Oman, in the Middle East and the West African countries of Gabon and Nigeria. This life of travel expanded my vision and, despite many challenges at times, I learned to adapt to different cultures, searing heat and a plethora of frightening jungle creatures! It was an adventurous life and a very rich one in which to raise our two boys.

In these various communities, I steered clear of the amateur dramatic and musical roles that were presented, but I could always be relied on to turn my hand to set design and decorative projects as my contribution to camp life. I was very much in my element with this work and confident in my field. Whilst of course we missed our family in Scotland, being part of a community that pulled together in these unique settings made the sorrow sweeter.

But then things changed…

When our boys left for boarding school back in Scotland, a spiral of unhappiness ensued for both my husband and me and our solidarity as a couple began to pull apart. To a degree, this was masked by subsequent moves and the practical demands of life, yet each time we felt a little more deplete, less connected to one another. I began to spend more time behind the large canvases of huge flowers that I painted, working through my unhappiness.

A desperately low period in Gabon then saw me take to writing, and the words flowing easily, just as easily as my tears. Writing became all I wanted to do. Sitting in a corner of my house, listening to the jungle noises of the African grey parrots and trumpeting elephants, I delved deeply into the joy and the pain of the life I was experiencing. It was as though I were composing music, my fingers gliding over the keyboard as my heart told its tale in a concerto of emotions played out with the urgent tapping of my fingers connecting with the keys. 

Spinach Soup for the Walls by Lynne Harkes

The result of this was, eventually, Spinach Soup for the Walls, which describes my descent into deep lows and then my steps to recovery, by learning to rediscover the beauty in everyday life, in all the things we so easily take for granted. The book is set against this backdrop of wonderful travel and strange, colourful cultures, with a good dose of humour to offset the darkness! Intended, in a way, as therapy for myself, I feel humbled that it was also recognised as uplifting for others, winning a Gold Award in a national competition.

When my spirit had bottomed out and I realised that I had to save myself by making changes, I moved back to Scotland alone, leaving my husband behind. He was thriving, the strange housing estate in the heart of jungle suited him well whilst, as he expanded into it all, I had become a very withdrawn and contracted version of myself.

In the peace of my art studio in Scotland, I would then work through emotions on huge canvases, at times barely able to see through the tears as I held my brushes. Gradually over many months, art brought a lightness and glimmers of hope that began to seep into my heart.  

My work has now evolved significantly, whilst still very much representing a snapshot of the internal world. I have grown to adore still life paintings, particularly those depicting glass vases. Having once associated still life as the domain of elderly ladies who can’t get out much, I now herald it to be an exceptionally special form of art, regardless of age. As the artist sits in peace, connecting intimately with vases and flowers for hours on end, cocooned in stillness, this work presents an incredible space to quieten the mind and connect the soul to the world beyond the tangible. 

Gone are the days of me painting from a base of trauma. Nowadays I am able to focus on joy and peacefulness instead. I would like to think that the light within my art is transformative and will continue to radiate and be felt by the viewer. Shine is available for us all. When we sit beside a glass object and really observe it, we see ourselves reflected back. The sun drops from the sky to fill the glass and there we are, merged and bathed and loved amidst the beauty of it all.

Home for me now is a traditional finca-type house, perched on the top of a beautiful mountain in Mallorca and surrounded by ancient olive trees. I am frequently visited by wild donkeys and regularly interrupted by goats looking in through the windows at me. It is no coincidence that artists have flocked to this area over the years to tap into this effervescence.  

My art has also changed immeasurably here in this exceptionally magical setting and has been instrumental in raising my vibration. Many hours of painting have enabled me to shed the denser emotions and trauma that I had been fiercely holding onto. It is as though each painting allows a bit of space for light to enter. I am more able to see and choose peaceful energies in the life around me than I was previously, and worry much less about any cloud that may float past.

Lynne Harkes - White Peony in amber vase
White Peony in amber vase
Lynne Harkes - Bougainvillaea in recycled glass
Bougainvillaea in recycled glass

We can all do this by connecting with nature, either physically by going for a walk in countryside or mentally by immersing ourselves in art. In these ways we reach a different level of consciousness.

My village is surrounded by towering mountains reputed to have a very high quartz content, which turn an other-worldly orange at sunset. Witnessing this every day is the greatest connection to the Beyond. Living here, my energy balances to match the surroundings and my art in turn takes on a special quality of shimmer. Brilliance is very easy to add to a painting when it flows from deep within.

It is a privilege to be able to have such clear documentation of my spiritual evolution through my paintings.

Spinach Soup for the Walls has won the Gold Award of the national Wishing Shelf Awards. Spinach Soup for the Walls is published by Local Legend.

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