Faith XLVII has been creating artwork since the age of 17 and has captured audiences of all ages, ethnicities, genders and religions alike. Her work carries a social statement within each piece she creates and she is recognized as being one of the most well known artists of the 21st century. I have always found the work of Faith XLVII to be powerful, spiritual, sometimes controversial- yet always meaningful and full of intention.
I was fortunate to sit down and speak with her about a multitude of topics and look forward to her visiting again within the upcoming months. Enjoy this exclusive interview with Faith XLVII!
Faith XLVII by Zane Meyer
Faith, knowing that you focus on having voices heard that might have otherwise been muted, leads me to believe you were born onto this planet with a clear purpose.
My purpose has always been somewhat spontaneous and guided by intuition and innate passion. I think you are right, that I’m interested in the voices of those that are muted. There is so much noise in the media and in the world around us, and often the answers will be found when you speak with those who are not talking loudly or have been disregarded or marginalized. I’m interested in the unseen realms of our day to day lives, our subconscious minds, the inherent wisdom in us that we are often blind to; layers of mystical understanding that elude logic.
Do you consistently feel an inner desire to paint what you feel goes unsaid in the political nature around us?
My inner world is very intricate and important to me, and I find communicating with people in an ‘every day manner’ quite bland; I want to have real conversations and communicate through the heart. There are so many aspects of existence that are hard to put into words, by using our creative energies we are able to articulate ourselves in more abstract, metaphorical ways. Hopefully bringing to light new avenues for finding solutions to challenges we are facing on personal and societal levels.
Growing up in South Africa must have opened your eyes to many things that still are very sensitive to speak of. Apartheid, where shall we begin? Did you start painting to make others see the wrongdoings you felt or empathized with? How were you looked upon as a white woman during that time? How different is it now for you as a painter?
I am acutely aware of how my life growing up in South Africa was so unique and has impressed upon me elemental values. I was in primary school during the end of apartheid, so I am very conscious of the journey that the country went through, and is still going through. To witness such injustice and inequality has made me value the notions of socialism, humanitarianism and human rights. It has also shown me the complexities inherent in economic and social structures. The quote of Rudolf Steiner holds some profound truth ‘even if the world appears to be filled with suffering, it is however radiating with wisdom. ‘I am searching for this wisdom. I catch glimpses.
You didn’t know me, yet I fell in love with your aqua regalia part 2 shows when Jonathan LeVine had his second space on 23rd Street here in NYC. I remember feeling like I had walked into a spiritual shrine/house and witnessed that you had mastered so many mediums as a self taught artist. Can you kindly describe to our audience the meanings behind both part 1 and 2 of aqua regalia?
I had been traveling to many cities, and exploring various kinds of spaces, abandoned architecture, decommissioned railway stations, buildings that had faced evictions. I became obsessed with the textures and writings on the walls; this started to heavily impact my own methods of mark making. I began collecting objects, debris in the form of workers punch cards, photographs, cassette tapes, college certificates, x-rays, notes to a distant lover. I was interested in the mythology of them. What stories can we learn from objects once loved and then discarded? These objects became the root of the Aqua Regalia thematic, which is ongoing. It was first presented in London in 2015, NYC in 2016 and Hong Kong in 2016.
These shrines ask the question of the value of things, when emotion is projected onto an object, does it then contain a kind of residue of sanctity. What do the things we value reflect about us? What is mundane? What is precious?
We must talk about the animals you paint and give life to on the streets around the world. The mythological creatures who seem to remind us of their powerful yet fragile beings. The zebras, the lions, the swans. Please talk about where and when you choose the animals as subject matter.
We need to stop and really consider that our hands are now red with the blood of performing the most horrendous and extensive genocide. We are responsible for entire species of incredible animals, insects and creatures to be wiped from existence. Our lack of sustainability in the advance of industrial and technological progress will eventually lead to our own demise. This is utter insanity. We are deeply disconnected from the spiritual understanding of the inter-connectivity of all lifeforms. We lack respect for each other, for animals, plants and organisms on this planet, of which we are a link in this chain. We cannot separate ourselves from the earth. We might be intelligent, but intelligence is nothing without wisdom and our lifestyles are creating a critical chasm in the natural order of things. So my artworks that are odes to the beasts of our lands. They are watching us. They are asking us, as fellow creatures of the planet. When we will learn to see.
Since you have mastered so many mediums, what is next?
My intention is to bring the various mediums that I am exploring into spaces together to create fuller conversations and inform wider perspectives. I’m interested in immersive space. In creating work that can activate change and growth in the viewer. I want people to ache and weep. To heal. To activate healing. This must be my ultimate aim. For the suffering I see and have felt, needs layers upon layers of work for the formation of wholeness.
I loved what you showcased at the Moniker Art Fair last year with your films. It resembled work from Nam June Paik because of the multiple film loops. The gentleman you worked with I had earlier learned studied under him and it read very powerfully. What drew you to film making? I have heard from many that it is a hard medium to master- do you agree?
My favorite video installation to date is ‘The disintegration of Self’ This work is mature, honest, tactile and lives within a four dimensional space. With that work, I am focusing on the inherent beauty and aching destruction of the atom bomb. The textures of the war torn curtains and the echoes of the Sanskrit chanting all lead the viewer to an ethereal space of contemplation about human destiny. I am aware of the power of film and how the moving image captivates our senses, there is such ancient imagery we can access. I’m extremely excited about working in this language moving forward.
Did being a mother yourself change your outlook on your subject matter? Being able to hold another human being within one’s body seems mystical in nature. Did that experience hold a huge impact on you?
Before I had Keya I held negative opinions about men as I had not had seen great role models or had good interactions with men in my life prior, Keya showed me that humans are humans before gender, that we are all capable of being sensitive, strong, loving beings. Keya’s father showed me that men can own their responsibilities with integrity and honor. Great lessons for this life. I’m a feminist and I also hold men dear; as brothers.
Is there something you can share with me that you have not yet shared with another journalist in regards to your work?
I can say through my work, you can feel the search for something larger, something greater than this primary existence. As a child, I had experiences that one could deem mystical. I think as children we are more connected to the source of things. We have not cut out the possibility of spirits and the effect of dreams. As I got older, I reached a point where I needed to dig for this, for this shimmer of magic in life.
The brutal reality of our world seemed so limiting. I guess this yearning is what religion does for people, and I see the value in mythology as metaphor, but I want to have my own direct experiences. This led me to a calling of consulting the wisdom of the ayahueskha plant. I believe plant medicine is an important way for us to get in touch with the deeper truths. The first experience I had I was really asking for answers, I was seeking verification of the other worlds. And that I did find, and I remain forever humble. My work needs to be a part of this exploration. This asking and seeking and digging and bleeding. The cuts runs deep.
What other past experiences do you think had an affect on your work? Was there a particular memory you can reflect on with our audience that may have also left an impression on you?
My father left my mother to raise three children on her own and I saw how she sacrificed and worked so hard to provide for us. I was angry with him for the longest time for his decisions. When he got ill with cancer, we had the opportunity to really connect and I was able to see his own struggle. The night he died I was with him, while he was still alive, I looked into his eyes and I fell into a vast, immense void of space, like I could drop right through him into the universe. I left the room and when I came back he had passed. The room was totally empty. His presence was gone. The room felt totally indifferent, cold, even though his body was still there. How a body can hold living light and then be empty. A few nights later I had a dream of his body lying on the grass and autumn leaves moving over him in the wind. I am not sure of how things work but that experience has never left me. If it is soul. Spirit. I cannot say. But we are incredible and we are immense. This is the kind of depth we need to know in our communication. For life itself is so magnificent and our bodies can hold living light and then be empty.