Hurricane of Angels

(No.2, Vol.9,Apr-May 2019 Vietnam Heritage Magazine)

Ninety–nine different sizes of angels packed tight are noisy, cramped, whispering creatures all clapping their wings together, building to an all-encompassing crazy. A noisy, intense dream that threatens your current world. Inspired by an experience where I felt that I was in the eye of the storm, the world filled with madness around me as I held my nerve in the midst of it all. I called this Hurricane Angel One. The second angel hurricane is the physical representation of the experience of looking back after the first hurricane had passed. The madness dissipated; it is lighter, has more space, is a gentle murmuring build of delicate whispers. It is only once the hurricane has passed that you will know where you are in your new world and how much of the old ones needed to be blown away. You may find you carry the ghost of the hurricane with you, reminding you of how your life can be made a new. This is Hurricane Angel Two.

I came to the Art Space in the evening. The spacious café at the Anantara Hoi An Resort had  several guests having dinner at the tall central table. There are lots of photos and paintings; black and white and coloured on the walls and along the path to the inside. Impressive photo portraits by Réhahn on the raw cement wall and images of ordinary street scenes hanging in a row caught my attention. After a while looking at the pictures, I asked the waiter where the newly launched art work, “Hurricane of Angels” by Janie Lawson, was, as I was invited to Anantara Hoi An Reosrt at its opening, but couldn’t arrange the trip on time. The waiter invited me to sit on the sofa in the front area of the café where there was something twinkling above and moving gently. He said this is a Hurricane of Angels. I sat down and looked up with suspicion. My imagination of angels must have come from classical art where angels are beautiful babies in white or nicely dressed girls with wings. And here I first saw something like dragonflies and looking closely, I saw figures of men made in forms of bones with wings. They evoked a mixture of feelings–tiny creatures, severe, hard, extreme with sparkling diamonds on their wings. They were swinging gently when a breeze came by, and when we talked to each other, they seemingly also made whispering sounds. It was interesting that those angels can react to the conversation of the people around the table, as they are very light, and  the noise from the conversation can make them swing, cling together or part. Then the waiter led me to the second Hurricane of Angels. The artwork hung above a sleeping chair.I couldn’t resist laying down and watching hundreds of angels silently and gently move above me.
The next morning, I met Janie Lawson, the author of the sculptures that altered my imagination of angels and strongly provoked my curiosity. Janie Lawson was very sweet and open to share her story of the artwork.
“As a kid, I would be in a chair at the front of my family home – my legs and hips in plaster casts, my friends playing in the street close by while I was happily drawing.  As an adult, an idea began to form inside me – a pearl made by the grit of my disability, that maybe, just maybe I chose to be this way. Perhaps in the last life, I moved too fast. I believe it is possible I may once have passed by the beauty in the small things. The reflection of the clouds in the puddles on the road, the cracks in the pavement where the oil pools and sparkles. It could be that I didn’t have time to run my hands across the bricks of the wall on the street and imagine the life of the person who had built it. Could it be that I had agreed in this latest life to have to tread my path more slowly? To have the opportunity to see more of the beauty around me? At twenty-seven, after many hip and leg operations and on graduating from St. Martins School of Arts, I had my first total hip replacement and bone graft. The x-ray was shocking. My own hip devastated, the new one strangely sculptural. I had become part sculpture and was grateful for the cooperative skills involved in keeping me on my feet. I thought of the person who made the metal implant, I thought of the person who made the metal implant, the surgeon who planted it, the medical researchers who together came up with this strange and helpful fix, the nurses’ training, care and humor, the anesthesiologist who kept me on pause while I was rebuilt.  Prior to the operation I would watch others walk or run and imagine being able to move without pain; I decided that would be like having wings. I began to make winged creatures – my kind of angels, a sort of hope that one day I would fly – in my own way.
Recovering from the operation, I made more angels and more still. It was the thing I could do – sit and sculpt with wire, crystal and a pair of pliers. I would be mindful to think positively as I made them. Wanting them to be filled with good energy and hope, I sculpted those tiny angels into bigger sculptures made up of multiple angels. To my surprise, people wanted to buy them, it seemed people really loved them and they sold in London, Tokyo and Europe.
My favourite angel story is that when my first small angel mobile sculptures were displayed in The Ritz Hotel in London, Yo Yo Ma saw them, bought every one of them and asked for more. He wanted to hang them in his music room to inspire him while he composed. Sometimes I listen to Yo Yo Ma while I make my angels; that symmetry makes me smile.
I have wanted for a long time to make bigger art work and this door opened for me when I moved to Hoi An last year. I made a crown of angels for a writer to wear while she wrote. She wore the crown to a gallery, which is how Bridget March first came to see my work and encouranged me to do more. My angels are part me and part all the people I have ever met. I found a metal worker with a magical heart who I commissioned to make the Fibonacci spirals on which my angels are suspended and a team of creative help me thread the sculptures together. There are parts of many people in my work. Their hopes and wished, dreams and heartaches – because I believe that when you work on a sculpture, part of you goes with it. I encourage you to take a seat under the angels, take your time, I hope you too see beauty in the small things. The way that I have been lucky enough to spend my life doing”
Janie Lawson gave me one of her magic angels in a nice wrapping. I feel blessed to have met her and received the special energy from her work.  I went to sleep with a new image of angels, which silently encouraged and inspired me. They are not from the legends, they are very true.
Talking with Lawson and to learn more about the artist’s dream, I wished that her works could be introduced to more and more audiences. Personally, I think a spacious luxurious place with a black background would be also excellent for viewing the sculpture – wired strong angels with the sparkling of crystals on the wings. 
 Janie Lawson has been living in Hoi An for nearly two years. She graduated in Art & Design – Richmond College, London. BA Hons. Fashion Design – Saint Martins School of Art, London and had exhibitions at London Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week bi-annually 2003-2006. Exhibiting sculptural millinery and jewellery.

Text by Le Thanh Hai Photos provided by Janie Lawson
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