With her enigmatic, highly personal canvases, artist Patricia Torkan pushes painting into a divine realm.
Born in Iran to a privileged family, at age 10 she left her homeland, unaware she would never return. For the next three decades the very private artist focused on education and her own personal growth, honing a positive philosophy of life and acquiring skills needed to share her unique gift with others. Today her life is filled with her twin passions: being a wife-and-mother and painting her soulful canvases.
She began studying art in earnest in 2004 with Master Saeed Siadat taking private lessons on a weekly basis for seven years. Classical pieces came first, followed by the world of abstraction where she worked in different mediums and techniques. As her work matured into an expressionistic genre, she began writing blessings on her paintings, then covering them with paint.
A business major by background (she holds an MBA from Pepperdine University), she believes that if society can send subliminal messages of things we don't need, might she not send positive messages of hope and joy, beauty and love--as well as other positive intentions--into the world through her art?
To that end, she puts her heart and soul into every painting. Her intense engagement in her colorful, complexly layered compositions teeming with underlying images is evident.
The process begins with up to two hours of meditation-- "to become centered and connected, to quiet myself for what is to come," she says. Canvas is laid on the floor in her Brentwood studio along with her paints; candles are lit, flowers placed. "When I start, I can't stop," she says by way of explanation--"there's no time to look for something."
She writes an intention on the front of each canvas--a blessing for someone she loves, a request for healing, another for happiness, joy, beauty--then like a whirling dervish dancing to God, she pours her paints with an ecstatic abandon. A myriad of colors mix on canvases that at first glance resemble abstract expressionist art , but later reveal so much more. Water is added--at times, her own tears-- then white paint joins with the colors---"the symbol of God's light," she says. Upon seeing an image that matches her written intention she stops painting and allows the canvas to dry.
Sometimes an image appears in the abstract canvas immediately...a pair of eyes, a mouth, a small bird. Other times, she takes the painting into the house and looks at it for several months before a vision reveals itself. She paints out the hidden pictures in the canvas so that they are visible to everyone who looks for them. "The process never ceases to amaze me," she says," it always feels magical. I see one image and then when the canvas dries, I see something far more beautiful."
Although Patricia finds truth in every religion she doesn't consider herself a religious person. " I believe in God more than I believe in religion," she says. "I meditate and paint to connect to God."
Friends and clients who own her paintings are drawn to her spirituality and the intimate personal artworks she creates for them. Longtime, girlhood friend Alona Gabbay says, "she draws with a healing energy. What she does is very sacred--her paintings are really spiritual experiences that send love and good out into the world."
Often clients desire the blessing as much as the painting. One such artwork features a large bird. Upon closer inspection, faces of each member of the family emerge, as well as more enigmatic symbols-- a floating woman, a lion, a solitary candle. A few words not covered by paint partially reveal the intention..."health, peace, serenity."
"At first the colors of this painting would not mix with the white paint," she recalls. "I tried again and again, then got down on my knees and starting hitting the canvas with my palms. I was praying so hard, saying over and over again, 'God bring light into their home,' until something released in me--something very powerful." The colors merged.
When asked about her blessings, she humbly replies, "Who am I to give a blessing? Then she answers her own question in the same breath: "We are all made in God's image and each of us may wish something for someone else."
When Patricia Torkan paints, she taps into her God-side and a world of mystic ecstasy. "The experience is so beautiful," she says, "it's like praying all day long."
Barbara Thornburg, Senior Style Editor Los Angeles Times Magazine (1989-2009)
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