Gabriel Tamaya speaks right to the spirit. Calling himself a Luminous Cartographer, I was immediately captured by the intensity of his colours, by the clarity of his intentions.
His paintings are rich with symbolism, and his considered answers to my questions feel soothing, reassuring.
His images resonated with me first, but his way of thinking about creativity and the spirit resonate even more. It is with great pleasure that I share his deeply thoughtful responses to these questions. Enjoy!
What does it mean to be an artist? And when did you know you were an artist (aka intensely creative person)?
I can only really speak about what it means to be an artist from my own perspective, as I believe being an artist is a deeply personal thing that is as varied in meaning as there are artists out there. For me, artists help us to engage with the everyday world at the level of the soul. They seek out, hold and express the sacred to be found within the profane, helping us to see that the two are in fact one and the same.
As an artist, I view myself as a mapmaker, journeyer and explorer. The core of my work as a luminous cartographer is exploring thresholds, charting the liminal places and byways, returning with my discoveries to share them with the world through my work and creating maps to the sacred for others to walk.
I have always known I was an artist; even as a very young child I was intensely creative, constantly seeking new ways to express how I saw the world and my experiences. This sometimes got me in to trouble, especially when I was little, as anything and everything was fair game to be used in my many magical creations.
When you consider the words luscious and soulful, what comes to mind? Is there anyone you know who embodies these traits? When do you feel luscious and soulful?
The first thing that comes to mind when I hear the words luscious and soulful are the women in my life. There are three women who are an intimate and integral part my life – my soul mate and wife Luitha , Pachamama (Earth Mother) & Mama Qocha (Mother Ocean.) All of them are, for me, the most luscious and soulful of beings that embody and hold the Sacred Feminine in my life. My work in this life is in part a way of honouring them and my relationship to them, both as a man and representative of the Sacred Masculine.
Personally, I feel at my most luscious and soulful when in my role as midwife to the sacred. It is by holding and embodying the role of the Sacred Masculine that I am able to facilitate the birthing and bridging through my creativity of paintings and signposts to the Sacred into this world.
What do you love most about your body? And why?
I love my body in its entirety, it is a good friend and a wonderful interface through which to explore and experience this world, as well as letting me articulate and express my creativity in so many varied ways.
What brings you pleasure? What senses are involved?
So many things bring me pleasure, I find it is the most simple everyday things that bring me the most pleasure: making tea in my cast iron teapot, watching my children grow and learn to interpret the world in their own unique way, the crinkle sound and texture of waxed paper, frosty mornings painting in my studio, the feeling of having to surrender to every painting I am working on to let it be what it needs to be, spending time in stillness, listening to the song of the land and the forests near my home, the invigoration and clarity that icy winter winds on my face bring whilst walking along the surfline by the sea.
All my senses are involved; I am a very sensual, kinesthetic and synesthetic person.
If you had to throw a dinner and dance party how would you do it?
It would be on a warm, hazy summers eve deep in the middle of the forest at sunset, there would be torches illuminating a path winding amongst the trees to a clearing where the dinner party was to be held. It would be fancy dress, and look something akin to the mad hatters tea party and ‘where the wild things are’, a varied and delicious menu of unexpected delights would be served.
We would feast, drink and make merry, sharing stories and friendship long into the night. After the feasting there would be music – drums, flutes, fiddles, didgeridoos, rattles and singing… dancing around a fire and raising up a wild rumpus long into the night. We would then all sleep deeply under the stars of the clear night sky.
Where/how do you find your inspiration?
I am never or have ever been short of inspiration. It always baffles me when I hear people say how uninspired they are. We just have to look at the world around us, it is the most spectacular dance of the amazing and the bizarre all masked as the mundane. If you’re not inspired… your not paying attention!
My work is all sourced directly from my shamanic work and experiences with the worlds around me.
What does your ideal day look like?
I am very fortunate and blessed to be living the life that I truly want, so an ideal day is most days for me. It will entail working in my studio, spending time with my children and wife, cooking for my family and walking the land.
What advice would you give to your younger self? How old is she when she needs this advice?
I would give no advice to my self at any age.
I have worked hard to integrate all aspects of my life to date, both the very hard and despairing times and the most beautiful ones.I love who I have grown to become, how the dream of my life has unfolded so far and I would not change one little bit of it or do anything to jeopardise it.
So time travelling advice to my younger self would be a definite pass for me.
What is your most treasured possession? Tell a little story about it.
I don’t believe that we truly have possessions (as much as we like to think we do), only ‘things’ that we are temporary stewards or caretakers for. I guess of all the ‘things’ that I look after and tend, my mesa (medicine bundle / altar) is the one I treasure most.
My mesa was hard won, it was born out of the blood, sweat, tears, joy and the alchemical transformation I underwent whilst completing my initiation into shamanism. Over the years, working daily with my shamanic path in this life, I have come to truly integrate the realisation that my mesa is within me, carried in my heart, mirrored in the physical bundle I carry with me in this life and that it is a path of ongoing initiation!
Inspired resources: please share any heart-moving soul-shaking artistry or experiences that have moved you. What made it so powerful?
I would like to share one of my favourite poems that one of my teachers, Chris Waters, shared with me, for which, amongst many other reasons she will always have my gratitude. The first time I heard this poem, it struck deep and fast within me, speaking to some very ancient recess of my soul.
Hearing this poem effected me so profoundly and spoke so eloquently to where I was at the time, that I was compelled to make a video from my many journeys within Mama Qocha, my second home.
I birthed this video / mandala shortly afterward, in an intense 12hr period. I worked non-stop, totally unaware of time passing, until I finally finished and realised it was four in the morning!
My gratitude also goes to Geneen Marie Haugen for sharing her gifts and medicine with the world. Click here to see a video accompanied by the poem.
The Return ( by Geneen Marie Haugen)
Some day, if you are lucky,
you’ll return from a thunderous journey
trailing snake scales, wing fragments
and the musk of Earth and moon.
Eyes will examine you for signs
of damage, or change
and you, too, will wonder
if your skin shows traces
of fur, or leaves,
if thrushes have built a nest
of your hair, if Andromeda
burns from your eyes.
Do not be surprised by prickly questions
from those who barely inhabit
their own fleeting lives, who barely taste
their own possibility, who barely dream.
If your hands are empty, treasureless,
if your toes have not grown claws,
if your obedient voice has not
become a wild cry, a howl,
you will reassure them. We warned you,
they might declare, there is nothing else,
no point, no meaning, no mystery at all,
just this frantic waiting to die.
And yet, they tremble, mute,
afraid you’ve returned without sweet
elixir for unspeakable thirst, without
a fluent dance or holy language.
Who are your favourite artists? And why?
I find many artist’s work beautiful and nourishing. I am a big fan of Gao Xingjian, a contemporary Chinese artist and author who lives in France. His work is mostly tonal, working with vast canvases and demonstrating nothing short of mastery of chinese inks, with which he expresses the most beautiful and profound mandalas. I find the themes of journeys and the human form in relation to landscapes in his work both thought provoking and exciting. I could scry in his paintings all day!
I am also really inspired by palaeolithic cave art and petroglyphs.
I find their primal rawness and lack of pretension very powerful, in a way that really speaks to me and touches a deep part within me.
On the same note I am also inspired by my children’s drawings and paintings. Their raw spontaneity of expression, confidence and decisiveness in mark making is a truly beautiful thing to behold and something I aspire to bring more into my own work.
Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you and your art?
I believe that paintings are created and birthed for specific people, with each one having their own unique journey to make as well as a life of their own to lead. I have witnessed some amazing and nothing short of magical occurrences manifest and orchestrate events so that a specific person is able to find a painting that was created for them.
As a part of ensuring that my paintings are as accessible as possible to those they are created and birthed for, I regularly auction a selection of my paintings as well as donate 15% of all proceeds to UNICEF as part of my work giving back to my community.
I am always happy to correspond with people who are trying or struggling to express themselves and their creativity and offer what guidance or assistance I can.
ps – to see more great interviews, check out the Lusciously and Soulfully interview series.
pps – if you know of any amazing artists I can profile in this series, send me an e-mail with their info – I’m always excited to connect with interesting amazing creatives.