Artistic Inspirations: A Q&A with Rah Rivers
We have just launched our latest range, Floral Abbey, both online and in store this week. It is a beautiful range of ladies products featuring a design infused with a soft femininity and spirituality. The design draws inspiration from many elements within the Abbey, including the rose windows, the Litlyngton Missal, the High Altar Cross and the coronation crown. This design is based upon an oil painting by Devon artist Rah Rivers which we specially commissioned for this range. To celebrate the launch of this new range we have talked to the artist behind this piece to better understand her work and her inspirations.
Your work feels very spiritual with the inclusion of angels and sacred hearts being a recurring motif. We were first inspired by your beautiful wall of peace you created after the Paris attacks, do you consider yourself a spiritual person?
I grew up in a non-religious family. I was drawn a number of times to families who went to Church. I wasn’t introduced as a child to any other kind of religion or spirituality…When I went to University I quickly found my way to a Buddhist Centre. My quiet personal questioning of life was met, for the first time, by the Buddhist teachings and the silence of meditation.
I continue to be inspired by spiritual teachings, particularly by a man called Adyashanti… he talks about both the teachings of the Buddha and Jesus. He is the first person to introduce me to Jesus in a way that really gets my attention. Most specifically he talks very eloquently and from a very felt sense, about Jesus as love.
My work comes from this place of quiet that I have discovered through meditation. For the last few years I have been exploring how this way of working may be an offering to the world. The day the news broke about the Paris attacks last autumn, I found myself sitting down to paint a miniature angel. It was a way to be with the pain. It helped. It didn’t stop my heart hurting but it soothed something and allowed the pain to just be there, without much thinking and without resistance and struggling against what had happened. I continued to paint many more angels for weeks and to wonder at making work from this place. These little paintings were a way of hoping for the world and loving. As such they became a ‘Wall of Prayers’. People really responded and very soon I was sending them all over the place. People would write to me and tell me why they had bought one, to help them through a difficult time, to remember someone who had died, or for someone else who needed the gift of some loving. These little Angels have been my most explicit experience of drawing on a quiet love and offering it to others.
Where is your studio and what objects do you surround yourself with to gather inspiration?
My studio is currently in the centre of Totnes in South Devon. I don’t really surround myself with objects for inspiration. I am inspired by simple folk art from around the world, naive art, religious art and pattern. Art with common themes that is connected to ordinary life and expressions of love and gratitude and reverence. I am especially inspired by how people across the world and religions have visually expressed devotion and love throughout the ages.
Visitors are welcome to my studio and I tell people if they are making a special trip to contact me first by email.
Tell us about your journey with this project, had you visited the Abbey before and what was it about our buildings and collections that inspired you with your design of the painting?
Here’s a curious little story. A month or so in to painting my wall of prayers, I sat with a visiting friend in my studio and told her what I would really most like to do next would be a commission for a church or maybe the local Abbey near to my home. Two hours later I was checking my emails and saw a message from Emily Cross at Westminster Abbey, asking if I would be interested to do some work with the Abbey Shop. Clearly that was an immediate yes!
It was a total honour to come and visit the Abbey with a view to creating some work. I loved it. I loved the carved angels particularly and the painted repeat patterns to be found throughout the Abbey. I came to an evening service and was most privileged to be led to a seat right in the centre with the choir boys. That was most moving. It was a spirit of reverence, of light and spaciousness that I tried to capture, the connection between the ‘earthly’ and the ‘heavenly’ or the world of form and spaciousness. I was particularly inspired by the rich sense of history.
How are your paintings created and what are your trusted tools when creating the works?
I work in oil paints on wood. I tend to work quite slowly and just have to go with this. Images emerge in their own time and often a painting has many layers. I work in silence. With making work it seems it is a balancing act to keep myself out of the way and let the work just appear. This takes some focus but in a way it is what fascinates me the most. When it works I can enjoy the relief of this very natural flow and the surprise at what appears.
To view the range of products inspired by this beautiful painting, please click here.