Baha’i Blog aims to celebrate creative and artistic expressions that are inspired by the Baha’i Revelation. Sometimes we hear about these artistic expressions from friends, from the artists who’ve made them, or sometimes they pop up on our social media feeds. Every now and then I follow a trail that leads me to an artist I’ve never heard of and artwork that takes my breath away.
Ania Telfer is one such artist, the creative mind behind such work. And I am absolutely thrilled to share with you a small gallery of her work, and a few of her words about her creative process.
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up in Toronto, born to Polish immigrant parents. My upbringing was between Europe and Canada and so I grew up feeling a sense of global identity, although I was not raised as a Baha’i. There was trauma in my upbringing which led to some darker times in my life as a youth. Finding the Baha’i Faith precipitated a spiritual alchemy in my life, both inwardly and outwardly. I speak five languages, and am always learning bits and pieces of more. I love children and animals, chai, chocolate and chicken. I love to laugh and nature makes me happy. After many years of living and working in various parts of the world, I have been in Edmonton for over a decade. I live with my husband, four kids and several furry and aquatic creatures. A horse has always been, and continues to be, an ardent wish. My paintings can be viewed on my site: www.aniatelfer.com. I’m very active on my Instagram and Facebook feeds, lots of in-process and time-lapse videos to check out. Recently, I published a board book combining my love of spirituality, children and animals. This can be viewed and purchased here.
Baha’i Blog: What inspires you?
Art has always been a major part of my life. But I didn’t realize how important it was to me until several years ago when I had several dreams with powerful artist figures. When I processed these dreams with the help of a Jungian therapist, I felt an inner demand to engage with my creativity, which at that point, I had almost completely set aside in order to deal with the responsibilities of being an adult. A striking photo series, “Artist As Mother” was created through responding to this dream which can be viewed on my photo website under galleries at www.aniarchy.com.
From the Baha’i Writings, we know that dreams are one of the worlds of God and that there are many mysteries and truths which can be found therein. I believe that my dreams were a message from the spiritual world pointing me towards creative work. Since creating the “Artist As Mother” series, I realized how important creativity was for me and I resolved to make it a daily practice. Overtime it has developed to a professional status, where my art is now sustaining a studio practice and providing some income.
My foundational belief is that art can rescue the world. Our world is in desperate need of healing and I feel very passionately about the intersection of creativity, spirituality and healing. I work intuitively, paying attention to my inspirations and feelings. The colour, texture, movement, shape, words, style and tone combinations I choose are intuitively intentional to create a feeling of joy in my heart. I believe that one of the roles of art is to create a feeling of awe. As the artist, I feel awe when I look at my completed pieces, and I hope that the viewer can feel awe while standing in their presence. I believe that art is a gift from the Creator for our healing and this internal feeling of awe cannot be accessed but through art. When we are uplifted by awe and feel reverence and joy in our heart, we activate our healing potential. As a person who has experienced trauma, I know first-hand the healing power of creative energy. I have studied art therapy and am convinced of the power of art to heal.
Following Pat Allen’s Open Studio Process, I believe that the canvas itself has an intention for what it wishes to be; I see myself as a vessel for creative energy to flow through and manifest itself in a finished piece. In this sense I feel that I paint the spiritual world and the truth of the statement from the Baha’i Writings, that all art is a gift from the Holy Spirit and when the painter paints she is engaged in worship. Painting is my temple. Art is my devotion.
Baha’i Blog: What is your creative process like?
I am very messy when I create! To spend time thinking about organizing while I am creating takes me out of the flow of the creative process. I find it very irritating to have to think about where to stack canvas that’s wet or protecting the space around me. I like to have a large studio in which I can make a mess. Ventilation is something that’s really important to me as well, I like to have fresh air, especially working with acrylic paints and I like to bring my dog to the studio. If there’s no windows then the air gets a heavy paint smell and I feel bad for my dog because his sense of smell is so much more developed. Music is important to me while I paint. I get inspired by the creative energy from the artists to which I listen. At times I may stop to do yoga, dance, smudge, say prayers, or reflect while I am painting to get the energy flowing. If I get bored on a canvas I switch it up, to get something interesting happening. Often writing parts of “The Tablet of Ahmad” on the canvas has a giant effect! Sometimes, I paint in semidarkness to inspire intuition to guide the mark-making. Messages from dreams make their way to my canvases and at times guide the finished product. I love creating with my kids! Creativity births creativity and children as so naturally creative! We have made several large canvases together, which we are putting together for an upcoming gallery exhibit.
Baha’i Blog: What are some words of encouragement you might give to someone interested in pursuing the arts?
Get creative. I developed this concept of “creativity flow” a few years ago. I needed to be creative, otherwise my energy got blocked and I felt stuck and unhappy. As Pat Allen says, when she is away from Art too long her life becomes “a dutiful martyrdom”. For me it is the same, I feel like I’m a robot when I don’t engage creatively. So, it didn’t matter what I was doing, it could be taking a photo in an artistic way and posting it on social media, it could be painting, could be dancing, it could be a 10 minute doodle before I went to bed at night, drama with the kids, or an an “ad” type text message with a photo and caption attached sent to my husband about something that needed to be done around the house. I realized at that time that it could be anything, as long as I was engaging with creativity, my capacity for loving life and being creative increased.
Sometimes when I’m in front of my canvas and I don’t know what my next step is, I need to nudge myself to just take action… the rest of it will flow. From the Baha’i Writings we know that prayer is answered through action. Inaction results in nothing happening. For me creativity and spirituality are one, and prayer is painting. We need to take action with creativity in order to receive its healing potential. My advice is to start and to develop a creativity habit. Any person who is successful creatively requires discipline. So we need to trust the process and embrace it.
Creativity is our natural birthright; it’s as natural as breathing and when we are away from it for too long we become stuck. I’m one of these people who is highly sensitive to energies and for me it’s vital that I engage with creativity. I’m so keenly aware of its lack in my life, which negatively impacts me, my family, my house and my community. I become a more vibrant person for full of life and service capacity when I engage creatively. I think that it’s vital for everybody, not only us sensitives. As a world, we have become a society of consumers versus a society of creators. Anthropologists agree that the definition of “human” is linked to when we started to intentionally create art. I think that many of the imbalances in the world such as traumas of war, injustice, violence, environmental crises, divorce, abuse, greed and materialism are due to the fact that we have stepped away from our nature as creative beings. When we embrace our true creative nature we can bring balance back to ourselves and to the world.
Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much, Ania!
You can find out more about Ania’s work by visiting her website www.aniatelfer.com (paintings) or www.aniarchy.com (photo work) and you can follow her on Instagram and Facebook. To take a look at, and to purchase, a copy of her board book for young children with excerpts from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, please visit her Etsy page.
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