The 2021 Victorian Salon des Refusés
This portrait was submitted to the 2020 Archibald Prize.
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Cat #25 Kathryn Tilley
SUE VON HESSE - HEALER
Egg tempera, 24 Carat Gold Leaf, Wooden Panel
45 cm high x 40 cm wide
I chose to paint Sue in this Medieval technique of icon painting and illuminated manuscripts of the 15th century Renaissance period in Northern Italy, because she is a healer who believes in past lives and has a very clear vision of a life she lived in this period. The border is in the style of an illuminated manuscript and would have been used as a spiritual reflection of the life of the female owner . Sue believes that this was a very powerful past life as she was burnt for administering healing to the sick.
The symbolism of the border could represent the rose or “rosary” but in this case is a feminine symbol of Sue’s love of nature in particular, roses. The rose also represents love, beauty, motherhood and purity and shows the quest for realism during this period. Flies in Medieval Art represent death which in turn heralds new life and as Sue is a strong believer in reincarnation, it represents a new beginning for her, a new life. Animals often appear, the donkey most common but, in this case, I have included her dog “Yarkoff” who decided to live with her even though he had a home elsewhere. She believes he is a spiritual animal with insight. The snail merely represent nature and is a creature of the earth as representation of the natural world was common at this time.
The combination of a contemporary woman inside a border of an illuminated manuscript is a very unusual combination but is deeply connected to Sue herself as it is a symbol for her personal spiritual journey in this life. Having taught in a Steiner School for over 20 years and spending her holidays and nights studying alternative health practices of which she has achieved many diplomas, she has been a selfless but driving force in the healing of those in distress. She has shared her knowledge and skills with love, compassion and generosity and has been a comfort and loving friend to all who come into contact with her. I wanted to give back to her all that she has given out to others by painting her and tapping into her inner beauty.