The Secret Artist #3: The Lost Art of Letting Go

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Letting Go? Holding on?

Only one of the above is a story of Transformation.

This is the story of The Goddess.

The female figure was a surprise. When she first appeared I felt both intrigued and confused. Why was she here? What did she want? Finding this figure waiting for me on the canvas was unusual.

goddess sequence

The idea came to me that she was some sort of Guide. Perhaps my imagination was in overdrive. My approach to painting is to weave a world from suggestions of narrative, symbols and abstractions. I consider it to be an adventure of present moment awareness; action, marks and movement come before words, reflection and analysis. If she was a Guide, then my job was to listen. Right from the beginning there were conditions.

I was cautious from the offset, every mark felt loaded. If I went too far she might disappear. I already had something to lose. I did not feel free.

I was fearful of losing the image of this Guide, yet she continued to hold her own within the unfolding scene: teetering on the brink of being submerged, but still she remained. Each incarnation she was different, altered, bathed in her surroundings. It was as if she was the gold of the rushes, the fluorescents of the vines, the jewels in the sky and of the darkness. I was fascinated by her reincarnations and her fearless orchestration of the world around her.

Over time it became more and more difficult to maintain the presence of the female figure and to honour the momentum of the painting. I felt pulled in different directions, yet still I avoided painting over her. Even though this is exactly what she, as my Guide, was urging me to do and had been right from the beginning. It was me who was resisting, I was the one who was in the way. After many months I had become attached to her, but because of this attachment I was losing the flow of the painting.

One day I woke up and this time when I met the canvas I knew it was time to release her back into the ocean of consciousness from whence she came. Otherwise we were stuck and the painting wasn’t going anywhere.

The next session of painting was different. This time I gave myself fully to the process without hedging my bets, no longer leaving space for the figure to return as she had many times before. I surrendered to the marks and gestures that appeared before me. I was back in the flow.

Immediately a vibrant energy returned and the painting made huge strides forwards. It felt like I had stepped through a gateway. Much like in the hero’s journey. My final test was to demonstrate, without reservation, the learning I had received from the Guide. I chose to trust the process and in that moment all hesitation was gone.

goddess sequence

So often we live life as if we have something to lose, rather than something to gain. Nature is the embodiment of loss and renewal, yet still we separate ourselves; insisting upon our own rules, imposing our demands, attempting to bend reality to suit our picture of how we think life should be.

The tree does not hesitate to drop its leaves. The plant does not agonise over the wilting flower. There is a synchronistic, harmonious pattern to all of life in accordance with the Laws of Nature.

Ironically the painting that has taught me the most about surrender, loss and renewal is the painting that has the biggest hold on me. Perhaps because I know her secrets: the skins she has shed, those lost images beneath her surface, compressed into hidden layers.  But now… so do you!

I began this blog to explore sharing. With your help I am learning how to be more open about the creative process. Not all of my paintings were such a journey to create.  I consider Adam and Eve and The Goddess to be the parents of my painting family tree. From these two great teachers, my art practice was born. The principles I have learnt from these paintings I carry with me, into my practice and into my life. Through them I have come to understand that the experience of painting is mine, but the painting themselves are not. I am learning to let go.

ultimate Goddess

The Goddess is a mystery. She is an open mirror and a gateway, for all who behold her.

The Goddess will be featuring in an exhibition at A-side B-side Gallery, London. From the 6th -17th November 2015. Click below for details:

See you next week.

Love and best wishes,


Gemma Kauffman’s practice encompasses a variety of strategies and media, which include painting, performance, installation and film. Theatrical and fantastical, her work is both compelling and dynamic. Kauffman is an advocate for the creative spirit of all people and has during the last 10 years pioneered transformative approaches to social engagement.

Are you a Secret Artist? Do you believe in the creative process? Interested in learning more about the journey of this Secret Artist? Then please subscribe HERE!          

One comment

  1. Rachel Bailey · August 8, 2016

    Hi Gemma, I am really enjoying these blogs. I am trying to take them slowly so they don’t merge into one. This in particular really resonates so far, perhaps because I too have a goddess figure who has insisted on taking centre stage in my making. I love the sequence of paintings. You have inspired me to go back to my own blogging – collapsed recently out of fear and because it wasn’t going quite where I thought it “should”. The relationship between narrative/figurative elements and the dance of abstraction is so interesting. I was a very formal abstract sculptor until a great relationship crash caused me change direction and mine some more personal and messy stuff. My work became much more autobiographical/figurative – although still safely enigmatic unless i choose to make the links explicit between art object and myself. I am still not sure how far I want to be seen although that may make for a richer interpretation of the work.
    Your blogs have made me think of Marion Milner and Winnicott – and their ideas about the necessary oscillation between integrated (imperfect but human) and unintegrated (inchoate omnipotence) stages. I may not have expressed that quite correctly but that is how if feels to me. The goddess emerges like a psychopomp to hold your hand and lead you down and then you are able to let go and tolerate and manipulate the formlessness?
    Even writing a response to a blog is rather scary – better post now before I bottle out!
    Thank you.


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