Eugenia Gajardo is a psychotherapist and counsellor but to label her only thus would be siloing her and understating who she is.
People may be surprised that Eugenia’s formal training in painting began a year before, in September 2013, with two eight-week classes at Singapore’s LASALLE College of the Arts, followed by six months at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. She gave herself seven years. Within one year, Eugenia had created a collection of emotional landscapes, a body of work that is amazing, one that she has channelled beyond the technique.
For those who know Eugenia, it is probably less of a surprise. Eugenia is very accomplished. Born in Santiago, Chile, she left at the cusp of womanhood to explore the world. She has since lived in the US, France, Switzerland, and the UK, before making Singapore her home for the last 38 years. With an aspiration to become an artist since young, even while she may not have been painting these years, Eugenia was always becoming the artist she already was.
I have lived within the world and also retreated to an ashram. I have worn ball gowns and shaved my head and been an ascetic. I have been in the corporate world but also the spiritual world. I have been my own laboratory of personal change and transformation. I have suffered deeply and I inflicted suffering. I have been rich and poor. I have been suicidal and I have enjoyed life deeply. I have been married and gone through divroce. I have been a lover, a wife, a mother…I have cheated and been cheated. I have been a controller and I have also submitted. I have rediscovered and changed my values in life. I have forgiven and been forgiven. I have been a survivor and have learned how to live. I have been a victim and become free…so I actually understand through personal experience most issues people come to me with.Eugenia Gajardo, Up Close and Personal with Psychotherapist Eugenia Gajardo
The art exhibition, BECOMING, was held from October 18 to November 2 2014. Eugenia gave two talks about her art, her process, her journey, her becoming. She spoke about being vulnerable, just as she is. “Would you love me? Would you accept me? Would you criticize me?” This channel of expression – the painting – has allowed Eugenia to become herself, as she is.
Organically I surrender to my art like water to the river. I surrender to your judgment like river to the stones. I fuse into existence like clouds into the sky.
to become that that I am, no matter war, no matter why.Eugenia Gajardo, Becoming
This language of painting she has chosen, she likened it to how she learned words. Eugenia used to read the dictionary as a child and found words, secret words, “so I would write and write. I began to see the colours and the shades of words. Was it anger? But anger is huge – so many things are related to anger. It could be disappointment. I wondered about language and I expressed myself with poetry. With painting it is the same. At the beginning I didn’t know the colours. First black. A lot of black. And then white. And eventually I discovered colours. I discovered orange but orange was not just orange. And it goes on.”
How has becoming you allowed you to become the artist?
I am an artist. I have always been an artist. I just found the courage to bring it out all the way and expose it. I found the courage to manifest it. I brought myself to the tipping point where fear was no longer an energy to pull me back. It became an energy to go towards, and to go through.
What within you felt this was the time? What space opened up in your life?
When the question IF NOT NOW, WHEN? arose. When I had done other things that were important to me: develop a profession that I adore, a passion that would sustain my art, that would support my becoming an artist (too old to be a struggling artist)… So, my psychotherapy and counselling profession was established and solid, and provided me with a platform from where to develop the artist and let it fly.
How does being okay with discomfort allow you to move through stuckness in your process?
Feeling that I am okay was totally fundamental, because I am throwing myself out there – naked, vulnerable, and defenceless – to be judged, for my art and for who I am. There is no stuckness in that space. There is just being and energetic movement forward.
What is your process?
I have my canvas and my tools. I have no idea what I’m going to do. Nothing. I have no idea what colours I will use. I just line them all up. And then I look. I see white. And I look some more and it’s still white. And then I just know and my hand moves and I pick up something, then something, then something. It is all in the moment. And then it’s done.
You have said you do not paint from an external inspiration but an internal impulse and pull. You paint from flow. Does this mean that perhaps sometimes when the external reality is seemingly at an impasse, you paint your internal processing of the external?
The external reality is never stuck, can never be stuck as life goes on no matter what and never stops. One gets stuck inside, that is what stops us, inner negative energy. If I feel insecure and afraid, and that leads me to avoid and procrastinate and I get stuck, I deal with it ASAP. I am aware of it. I feel it, go into it, experience it, and then I breathe in deeply and breathe out until the energy within me moves and dissipates. With the out breath I move forward and take the action that I need to take to make things happen. So, I feel it, breathe it, and choose to let it dissipate, thereafter, unstucking myself and moving forward.
Painting is your own personal meditation. What role does the breath play in both? How does opening up to and anchoring in your creative flow allow you to gain awareness and stillness? When your art is so bold with colour and brushstrokes?
Painting is part of my life, of who I am. It is part of me being me. The Breath is critical in my life. After years of meditation practices it has become an integral part of my life. I use the breath – pranayama, breathing practices, and have developed my own practice. I experimented with it for years and found my way…. A way.
The breath helps me to dig deep and connect with my core. It helps me move energy, to shift. It helps me open up and give and receive, to face up, and to stand straight and in my core.
As for the opening and anchoring, I have the awareness and then I anchor in what I am aware of, then I just allow what is meant to flow, to flow, whatever it is, lightness or darkness or a mixture of both.
In one of her talks, Eugenia explained the idea of being centred and in the flow. She took us through her painting Duality.
“If you look at the left side of the painting, it’s yellows and reds. It’s life, energy and passion. If you look at the right side, it’s darker. In the centre of that painting there is a core. This core is me. It’s you. It’s who we are. Our mind has two sides – the light side and the dark side. Life has a light side and a dark side. We need to find our inner strength, to find our centre, to not allow the dark side to take over, or the light side to do the same, but for the integration of both. We can’t just be happy all the time. What is wrong with the darkness? I keep my centre. I keep my core.”
This statement brought us closer to understanding Eugenia. And maybe a pearl of wisdom on living life. It is good and free advice that we can all consider and dig into.