“You don’t have to go to church to pray. When you paint you look carefully and that’s a celebration of beauty in itself. That’s prayer.” So said Anthony Fletcher, good friend of Maxene and former vicar of St. Andrew’s church in Kyrenia. Those words, spoken almost ten years ago, set Maxene off on a new road in her life. That of a water colour painter.”
“I started painting seriously after I came here to Cyprus in 2000. This is such a beautiful island full of light and colour. I feel a tremendous energy here. Once you feel Cyprus’ magic it never leaves you.”
Maxene sits happily on the floor among her paintings, cross-legged and smiling as she tries to explain to me how she feels when going out with her water colour sketchbook. “My way of savouring the island is through painting, whether it is a simple village street, a harbour scene, or a beautifully carved old door.” Maxene doesn’t just fill in spaces with paint, she very loosely develops the atmosphere first, then paints the contours into it, so allowing the viewer to share the fleeting moment of her perception, to smell the scent of the flowers.
For 27 years Maxene was a passionate teacher and the deputy head of a large school in Herfortshire. She was born in North London in 1953 and had a normal happy upbringing. It was curiosity and a strong spirit of adventure that set her off travelling in Europe and Africa, at one stage setting up powerful links between an orphanage in Nakuru and her own school and raising lots of money for the children there. She seems to be doing everything in her life with passion and joy: “That’s true. I do feel blessed to live on this beautiful island and to have so many friends around me. Singing is also a great passion of mine and I am a very proud and enthusiastic member of the Kyrenia Chamber Choir.” I had met the choir when they were rehearsing Karl Jenkins’s choral mass “The Armed Man” for the concert end of October at Bellapais Abbey (see my website for the report under cultural events).
I knew Maxene’s work from her first exhibition in 2003 at the Round Tower. “I hadn’t really thought of exhibiting but again, it was the vicar, Anthony Fletcher, who encouraged me to share my work with people and it all went from there.” Her last exhibition was at Shayna Beach Bar in Catalköy and it was a great success. She donated 10% of her profits to the SOS Children’s Village about which she is very enthusiastic. “SOS children don’t start life with the comfort of an own family. I have such a happy life – I want to give something back.”
Constantly striving to become a better artist, she is always trying to improve and to learn new techniques. She spent May in Istanbul as a student of the renowned artist Ilhami Atalay where she learnt about collage. She has also finished a year course with the Open College of Arts in which she focused on composition, oil and acrylic techniques.
“You have to be open, to seize opportunities which are so often right there in front of you. My philosophy is to be positive, to look for the good in life and in people, but to stay humble - there is always something else to learn.”
I drove home peacefully and thought that Maxene’s philosophy was a message I would like to pass on.
Copyright Heidi Trautmann 2009