31 Oct Wil I Om – Interview with the Artist
Wil was brought up in Walsal in the West Midlands and comes from ‘a normal working family’. Dad a mechanic and guitarist in a band, Mum worked in a shop. He was more interested in music than art as a child but has vague recollections of drawing Disney characters as a kid. He tells me creativity has always been important to him. I asked if he had always been an outsider “Yes, even at school, I was a skateboarder, used to dye my hair, had piercings. I bunked off the lessons I didn’t want to go to and did music instead. I got into activism, I’ve always seen that the status quo is not beneficial and right for most human beings”.
A mental breakdown inspired his healing journey into art. In 2013 Wil became a personal trainer, spending four years as a fitness instructor. “I’d found what I enjoyed doing and wanted to assist others in that, I was into making up creative ways to exercise”. It was hard work and tiring but Wil somehow found the time to start his own business as well, providing the entertainment for Asian weddings. Wil was a self-described ‘white guy with dreads’ but his childhood in the West Midlands had immersed him in Asian culture and music.
“I wrote the songs, booked the performers, mostly drum and brass bands. I was really popular, most of the people who booked me were Punjabi, but I also organised the music for Hindu and Muslim weddings, for Diwali and other events. I’m really into multiculturalism, I wanted to uplift people, give musicians work. I sometimes perform myself, mainly I play the Dhol Drum. It’s a spiritual warrior instrument, used for spirit drumming, it helps relieve depression.”.
Eventually Wil burnt himself out, he was doing the personal training, running the business, performing at the weddings. He’d split the business, but found he was doing twice the work for half the profits, then his business partner left, taking the profitable side of the business with him. Next he got into selling natural medicine products, but found himself threatened at gunpoint by business rivals, got PTSD and fell into depression.
By then he was living in Birmingham, he was meditating a lot and spending time in a vegan restaurant a few minutes walk from his flat where he’d drink coffee and write in a notebook. “I was walking in the woods at every opportunity, spotting white feathers everywhere, seeing the nature. One day I encountered a fox, we watched each other, it was an intense experience. I got to the coffee shop, ordered an Americano, I had a watercolour pencil and a brush in my pencil case. I started drawing the fox, the coffee was the perfect colour. I painted that fox, then I just kept drawing”.
“I was going through a lot of mind altering stuff at the time, so my recall is a bit blurry. The Shaivite way is to go deeply into these things. I can just about remember, art got me into a flow state everytime, It felt like the calm against the chaos, I was in the world but not of it. Lots of the pictures I don’t even remember doing. Generally they followed an encounter with an animal, some connection”.
Wil’s art incorporates elements of geometry, he tells me “Sacred geometry permeates through all things. I love to use it, explore it, it all ties in with the spirit. I use the coffee cup or saucer drawing round them for my moons, or different shapes. If people look at my images in an altered state a lot more emerges, the geometry will move, the spirit of the animal comes out. Art is supposed to take you to different places, the geometry helps with that”.
“All my pieces are of spirit animals, I feel connected while I paint them. For the elephant one I’d already done the geometry – painting round a saucer, then I asked someone in the cafe what their favourite animal was, they said elephant, so I painted one. I love elephants, they are my sister’s favourite animal.”
Are your family supportive of your art? “They love my art and want me to do well, my Mum thinks my work should be way more popular than it is. It’s frustrating to really care for someone but not be able to help them. That’s where self empowerment comes in. But I think they’d be happy with anything I did, as long as I’m happy. Art and music gives me hope. That’s what I’d like to have come out of this experience, people should be able to profit from their passions. It’s the pushing down of those passions that creates depression. If i had my time again I’d have done art at school”.
I ask Wil how he feels about Heart of the Tribe? “It’s my first exhibition in a proper art gallery, though I had some work in Blue Cedar before. I came to Avalon (Glastonbury) as part of my healing journey three years ago. I was sleeping in the car, going to Excalibur (the vegan raw cafe in the High Street), painting and drawing, going to sacred sites, crop circles, stone circles, following the ley lines. It was a creative phase but it was a dark phase. I met someone who said they were opening a shop in the town and wanted to stock my work. I thought it was an amazing idea, I hadn’t even thought about selling my art before. I was learning to trust again, but I was giving away my power. I printed my work myself, getting it prepared, but a year later and still nothing had happened. After that I thought ‘Who do I want to align with?’ then Heart of the Tribe came about, I just needed to apply. They are doing the printing, the marketing, it is a proper gallery, exactly what I was looking for. They’re selling my art at realistic prices. Finding your gifts, working out what your art is worth and finding your self worth. That’s what it’s all about”.
Where are you going next? “It would be nice to move out of two colours, but I dont think I’m finished with the coffee yet, I like to work with natural dyes on recycled material, I’ve worked with beetroot and turmeric. I want to paint on hemp paper, I want my work to be as eco friendly and organic as possible. I like the idea of postcards with seeds inside, that you can plant. I’m looking into doing coffee art workshops, online courses perhaps. They might incorporate healing sound. I’m getting more into all sorts of devotional music, Om chanting, didgeridoo, drum circles”.
“I do feel hopeful, everything is progressing, I feel like I’m getting ready to be ready, for the next thing, making constant steps. The healing arts are absolutely necessary, creative expression is valid. Where the gallery is going, workshops, musical projects, collaboration, It’s inspiring, interesting, it’s all massively positive.”