It’s not easy to walk away from a successful career. But when someone has a calling like Australian painter, Helen Andronis Ibrahim did, it’s almost impossible not to take the risk.
As she recounted in a recent one-on-one interview, “I became very sad in my heart when I knew I wasn’t following my path. At some point in my career as a hairdresser, I knew inside of me that I wasn’t following my dream and what my soul was here to do.”
Clearly she was open to letting some outside forces guide her to a happier road. “What’s interesting, and what I have come to discover,” she explained, “is that the universe works in mysterious ways. It brings people into your life to open certain doors that create certain paths as a reminder to wake you up. Fortunately, I was brought many, incredible people.” Helen continued, “One especially, who is a very close friend of mine, showed me my destiny and taught me how to walk it; a woman who I cherish and love. Her name is Teymara. She told me everything that my heart already knew to be true. And so off I went and started my journey — a journey that led me to an incredible life I live today as an artist.”
As the hairdresser shed her smock, an artist, going by her Greek pseudonym, Eleni, emerged. Admittedly, the transition took hard work, dedication and focus. Frequently drawing inspiration from the earth and natural sources, Eleni noted, “I would describe my work as very tribal, very raw and very intense. Every piece has a story. There is so much to tell.”
And the tales that Eleni portrays in her work go far beyond the canvas. When describing Eleni’s work as “raw,” it not only contributes to the soul-baring aspect, but also to its physical form. Features of earth, like bark and twigs, sometimes hair, are collected to add a Three-dimensional aspect to her work, in addition to fine layers of paint. Her works holds true to her natural roots, and harness the energy of the people she has met along her journey of becoming who she is today.
“I feel that the story leading up to the painting is far more valuable than the end result. I feel that’s what people experience,” she acknowledged. “They experience the energy and hard work behind the painting and they want to know the story behind it all. That’s an incredible feeling. Curiosity and emotion is what art is about.”
After traveling amongst Indigenous tribes, those who have always sparked a soul-driven interest, and eventually guiding herself to America where she spent some time in Arizona with the Hopi tribe, an irreplaceable, extraordinary inspiration was shaped. The Australian-born artist often depicts the Indigenous people in her work, spreading their message, their wisdom and their tales.
“I have always been inspired by and fascinated with tribes around the world. The unique art they create, stories they pass on, music they chant and spiritual beliefs they live by; above all, the incredible connection they have to this planet and all of its beauty.”
One such soul was Elder Kunmanara Randall, a teacher and leader for Indigenous land rights, education, community development and cultural awareness. Eleni has pledged to share his story with the world. “He was a bridge between cultures and world nations,” she comments. “He worked to create an understanding so that Indigenous and non-Indigenous people can live and learn together, heal the past through shared experience in the present.”
Beyond his international impact, the elder touched Eleni personally. “He inspired me through the gentleness of his soul and the forgiveness in his eyes and taught me to trust once again, in who I am,” she revealed. “What an inspiration he has been in my life. He is a true healer and has touched and healed the hearts of so many in this country and across the globe. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to spend time, listen, learn and create with him. He has inspired me and will now guide me for what ever is to come.”
The result of their connection is a painting titled I AM. In 2014, Eleni was approached by the See.Me gallery in New York to show her work on an unexpectedly massive display, along with other international artists. Not many people can crow about the fact that their work was digitally displayed on a 25 story building in Times Square. And yet, Eleni isn’t boastful. “My main priority was to get this painting of Kunmanara Randall displayed to many, so that they could feel the energy of the exceptional man he was and always will be.”
The gallery also displayed Eleni’s Native American painting titled TRUST, which was just a sketch at that stage. The work marked Eleni’s first foray into working in the United States. She explained her decision to travel to the Hopi Reservation in Arizona as “the time to ‘trust’ that I will be guided by my intuition. To ‘trust’ this was the next part of my journey.”
And, the adventure seems to have been transformative. “What a beautiful and peaceful tribe the Hopi people are. I hope I have captured that in my painting in every way possible. My painting represents a certain type of trust- the trust that everything will work out just the way it needs to.” It’s clearly a concept that Eleni is proving to be true, time and time again.
To find out more about Eleni and her work visit her official website.