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Podcast Interview with me on A Baha'i Perspective.
Ania is an artist and a musician. With her art she provides venues for collaborative painting and she performs live painting at live public events. In the interview Ania describes these for us. With her music she composes songs, the lyrics of which, are from the Baha'i writings. For the interview she demonstrates some of the songs she has written especially for her children to help them learn these spiritual writings. She describes how it is important to tap into the creativity in us to reach and understand spiritual reality.
EMERGING TRANSFORMED-ANIA TELFER AT AWE EDMONTON
By Monika Blichar
Standing in front of a piece and contemplating what a work’s meaning has inspired people from all walks of life. Curiosity, wonder and a sense of timelessness occur when we encounter such works which also force the viewer to be present in a world where we are often bombarded with message of being the exact opposite. Edmonton artist Ania Telfer does exactly this-on purpose she forces her audience into a world of grandeur and style that is unique and has us wanting more. I caught up with her today to learn more about her process and what inspires her to create.
What inspires you to make art?
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.
Several years ago I had a dream about a very large artist figure. Through Jungian therapy, I was encouraged to develop my art more. I created a series of digital photos about my frustrations stemming from not being able to engage in art as much as I wanted, due to demands of raising a young family. This series is available for viewing on my photography website: www.aniarchy.comunder galleries, “Artist As Mother”. This got the creative energy flowing and it hasn’t stopped since!
When did you start painting and how has your worked evolved since you started?
Art has always been vital for me. One of my earliest memories is colouring on the floor in a sun splashed kitchen as a young girl. I took art through high school and completed one year in university at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where I studied photography. I graduated from Concordia University in Montreal with a degree in Communications and a minor in Photo. For many years, my main profession was in photography, and I exhibited my photos in some group shows and one solo show in 2007. Although I painted from time to time, it wasn’t until a few years ago, I became more interested in painting for my mental health, and joined Art Mentorship Society of Alberta, an organization which promotes mental wellness through arts. A year ago, I fully embraced my artist self and I began painting seriously on large canvases. Since then, I have received a grant from the Edmonton Arts Council, and have had my work in several shows.
I am a mixed-media abstract and figurative artist. I am inspired by the dynamics of aesthetic extremes and how they transition smoothly between each other, creating harmony. I am inspired by the spontaneity which can be created when working intuitively with the canvas, materials and environment, combined with the structure of a purely rational, analytic and cognitive approach. Most often my works are done on canvas; however, I paint on paper and murals as well. I use liquid and heavy body acrylic paints, oil pastels, pencils, paint markers, dripped wax, and other marking tools in my works. My work retains layers thus creating texture and characterization that add visual appeal to the final piece.
As for the artistic merit side of my work, since receiving a grant from the Edmonton Arts Council, I have been able to afford a studio. I have seen the quality of my pieces grow quickly in a studio space; I am able to concentrate on the rational study of the abstract and create a higher quality of visual design; I am actively pushing myself and seeking inspiration to develop myself further as an abstract painter. Specifically, there are more dynamics in my pieces such as those listed above, adding greater aesthetic value to the work. These pieces can be viewed on my artist site: www.aniatelfer.com
We met via social media. How does social media help you market your art products today versus what you had to do say 10 or 20 years ago to “get out there?”
Social media is wonderful. It’s an amazing tool for connection. I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s when the digital age was nascent, all communications were done by phone and letter writing. I have more ability now to connect o people all over the world. I follow artists in Japan, Russia, Europe and South America. And I am followed by others in international areas. We can find mutual inspiration in our creativity like this. I can’t imagine trying to market my art without social media.
This will be your first Art World Expo . Will you have any never before seen work or show specials for our event on April 12?
Yes, I will have several new and colourful pieces which have never been shown! My work is a playground and when viewed in person, due to the grandeur of the canvas, the viewer really feels like she is stepping into a colourful wonderland. I encourage you to come and visit! I will also be running an Instagram contest, and there will be a canvas given away for one winner! Make sure to give me your emails, so I can send you a special post-show promo for an original painting!
Your IG profile says that “Art can rescue the world.” Can you elaborate?
As mentioned above, art can rescue the world…. Arts allow us to consider on an intuitive level, uniting the body, mind, intellect, spirit and emotions in a process which reveals deeper levels of who we are (Paintner); we engage with our whole selves and, by definition, enter a spiritual state. When we allow creative energy to flow through us, we emerge transformed. This transformation affects us individually, but also collectively. “[E]very part of the universe is connected with every other part by ties that are very powerful and admit of no imbalance, nor any slackening whatever” (‘Abdu’l-Baha). Working with creative energy is healing and when one is healed, we are all healed.
Our world is very left brain centered, the arts access the right brain, thus creating further integration which creates higher cognitive capacities, more fulfilling relationships and a more authentic expression of self. All of these elements combine foster more stable social systems geared towards empathy and care for the environments and people around us. When we do not engage in creativity, we become divorced from our spirits. Sadly, we see this internal divorce in the world today: war, corruption, over emphasis on materialism, greed and power struggles. I believe that creating art can rescue our world from these negative patterns and systems. For myself, when I am away from my art for too long my life becomes a “dutiful martyrdom (Allen), I feel like a robot, a walking dead. Creativity is as natural as breathing, but as a society we have moved away from our nature in this regard, and we have become a culture of consumers. We need more spaces for creativity and we need artists who are able to inspire others to be bold and creative. My paintings are created with intention to heal and grow through the Creative Source, the pieces act as ambassadors for healing in the world and when the viewers connect with me, either in person, through social media or artist statements, I further convey to them the healing power of the artistic process.
Just for fun, if you woke up and suddenly had access to an unlimited bank account, what would you tomorrow?
I would pay off our house and lines of credit, buy two Arabian horses, a Groenendal dog, a home in the countryside, with a stable and art studio connected to the main home. My dream is to have a Dutch door to the living area, where the horse can poke his head through and be a part of our family. I’d leave our family enough of a budget line for our necessary living expenses, allowing my husband to take some time off from full time work to concentrate on his own spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health; I already feel like I have had lots of time to develop my health in these areas, but he’s been working to support the family and hasn’t had that time. This would also free us to devote our time deepen our marriage and to raising our children in the best way to foster their capacities for service to the world of humanity. I would take our family on a trip to someplace hot with an ocean.
I am anxiously concerned for the traumas in our world today. In Canada, we are so fortunate to live in a country with good infrastructure, health care, peace and free education. After meeting our financial necessities, I would donate to several charities which I currently support, such as the Baha’i Fund, UNICEF, Food for Children, World Wildlife Fund, Halo Trust Fund and I would start up my own organization promoting healing, connection, community building and wellness through arts.
Ania belongs in the realm of abstraction and spirit. Time spent pursing art is time spent in worship. She is passionate about the intersection between creativity, healing and spirituality and believes that when we engage creatively, we heal ourselves and by extension, the world. Ania has lived in diverse places, such as India, Israel, Switzerland, France and Korea, as well as many provinces in Canada. She speaks five languages and is a first generation Canadian. Ania finds spiritual inspiration in the Baha’i Faith and believes that truth is found in all faiths, so she samples truth as she finds it. Ania has a gypsy soul which is most at home wayfaring the landscapes of creativity, while painting, musing out the window, spending time in nature, practising yoga, drinking sweet and strong, milky chai, communing with the Creator, hanging out with animals, or nurturing children. Horses and dogs are her favourite animals. Her favourite colour is whatever is on the end of her brush at the time.
Follow Ania on Instagram @aniatelfer or Facebook Ania Telfer Artist
“I PAINT THE SPIRITUAL WORLD”: THE ART OF ANIA TELFER
By Sonjel Vreeland
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?
Ania Telfer: 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?
Ania Telfer: 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?
Ania Telfer: 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?
Ania Telfer: 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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