Vilas Silverton is a ceramic artist currently living in Bristol. He explains how practicing meditation in the Sri Chinmoy Centre has re-awakened his love of art and influenced his work.
Like many children, I loved drawing and being creative, but through my teens and twenties I allowed this love to lie dormant while insecurity and a lack of self-confidence took the upper hand. In my late twenties, however, something quite remarkable happened. I started upon a journey of self-discovery that came through the process of meditation.
Through this process, I have slowly grown in a confidence that has allowed me to follow my dreams. Previously, I gave my time and energy to causes I thought noble or worthwhile. After some time, however, I came to feel that my giving was lacking a foundation, I was ‘running on empty’ and could not sincerely keep working at things that were not making me happy. It’s not that I was desperately unhappy, but there were a number of unresolved issues in my inner life that just wouldn’t go away no matter who I spoke to or asked for advice. I felt the importance of following a way of life that would make me happy and then I could really offer something worthwhile to the world.
So, I quickly realised that what I loved before, I loved still, namely Art and I should do it while I still had the chance. My path in the Art-world has taken me through drawing, painting and printing, sculpture, textiles and photography. But what I really love is ceramics, and this is the subject I went back to study at University and what I currently practise as a self-employed artist.
Since I started practising meditation about the same time as my love for Art was re-awakened, the things I make have definitely been affected by my spiritual practice. I now know that when I am in a good consciousness, I am happy. And when I am happy, the chances of my making a good piece of work are greatly increased. This in turn, means that the piece has more to offer those who see it.
The range of work produced is largely a result of my inner promptings. Figures and animals were the first items I felt happy to show to the public and were characterised by a spiritual intensity and ‘monumental’ feel.
The largest of these is a tribute to my patron saint, Edward the Confessor, a saint who was once king of England. While researching his life, I was inspired to make the piece after reading the following story:
King Edward was once passing through a village where a church was being consecrated to John the Evangelist. Looking down, he noticed a kindly old man begging for alms. The only thing that the King had was his ring, and so this is what he gave.
Later, two English pilgrims became lost while in the Holy Land but the old man appeared before them to comfort them and said: “I am John the Evangelist. Take this ring back to your king who gave it to me, and tell him that in half a year he will be with me in paradise.”
Then the two men fell asleep. When they awoke they found they were surrounded by flocks of sheep and shepherds who answered their questions in English as they were on Barham Down in Kent.
The two men hurried to King Edward, gave him back his ring and six months later, King Edward died.
More recently I have made vases to give expression to my love of flowers. These are also more light-hearted and constructed in different ways to my earlier ‘sculpted’ figures and animals. Flower-shapes have also appeared as Incense Burners and as wall-mounted reliefs. I made a fountain in the form of an Elephant while at university and have also worked on several public art commissions.
While a student, I was asked to write a short statement for an up-coming exhibition that featured some of my pieces. After meditating on this problem, I realised that the answer was really quite simple and so I said:
“I like to make pieces that make people smile”
To this day, my ‘philosophy’ has not changed, and I like to use this phrase when people ask me to submit a short paragraph about my work. In some instances though, I am able to provide a longer statement, and I usually say the following:
“My work is based upon and flows from my inner life of prayer and meditation during which I focus on the spiritual heart. For me, this is the source of joy, peace and oneness, which are qualities I hope to offer to people who see the work.
Focusing on the spiritual heart also encourages a childlike simplicity that I feel shaping my life and work. This could explain my preference for bright colours, simple shapes and cheerful, happy things.
As a medium, I am particularly drawn to clay because of the infinite number of ways it can be shaped, treated and used. Its limitless scope is a continual inspiration to me.
Ultimately, I like to make pieces that make people smile, and in this way, make the world a happier place."
Vilas on joining the path