check in at Casa Amatista, an artists´ retreat

by Norman Warwick

The villa stands at number 11 Camino Las Huertitas, La Vegueta, Tinajo, Lanzarote (left) but be aware that this is no High Street address, even by Lanzarote standards. Having seen the address on a poster we decided, for the first time in the five years we have lived on Lanzarote to employ the services of Suzie Sat Nav. We explained to her that we knew the area of La Vegueta to be somewhat untamed and uninhabited so she might have her work cut out to guide us to the actual address we were looking for. I liked Suzie Sat Nav much more than English her English colleague, Sally, who always talked too much and wound me up. Suzie keeps schtum until she has a need to speak, which given that usually there is only a turning once every twenty miles or so on Lanzarote, is not very often. She turned us up a sidetrack to the front door of a premises secluded from the main raod by a low valley. She then took us on a swift detour around to the front of the house where we parked, I swear, on to a small, vertical, car parking area ! As we stepped away from the vehicle we gazed down into what looked like a very pretty but modest finca style accommodation. Before we had taken a couple of steps towards the house, we were hailed and greeted by Shraddha Bhagalia, one of five artists showing in the exhibition called Journeys Of Transformation.

We had arranged with her on the phone the previous day to visit the showing and to conduct an interview with her but we were absolutely delighted to be joined within a few minutes by two of the other artists involved.

Shraddha Bhagalia

So intriguing was the title of the exhibition that we began to ask Shraddha  why it is so called even before we got the hello and how are you out of the way.

´We named the exhibition Journey of Transformation because many of these paintings were created during the Lockdown,´ she told us. ´when the only thing we could do was to journey inward.  Each artist faced their own challenges, but we also felt a sense of liberation from the demands of the outer world — giving space for creativity…. For each of us there was change and transformation…. ´

We learned throughout the course of a our visit that Shraddha’s  own personal artistic quest is the exploration of light and energy. She explained that she seeks out the mystic spaces where spirit and matter fuse and mingle.  It was evident In her paintings, of light pouring down; shimmering and illuminating the outer landscapes of volcanoes ocean, skies – as well as the inner worlds.

She cannot remember a time when she was not painting – but her art began to flower when she lived in New Mexico – in Southwest USA – a landscape very similar to Lanzarote.

Shraddha has been particularly inspired by JMW Turner and, perhaps less surprisingly, Georgia O’Keeffe ( left) who positively affected the development of American modernism and its relationship to European avante garde movements of the early-20th century. Georgia herself produced  a substantial body of work over a period of more than sixty years as she sought to capture the emotion and power of objects through abstracting the natural world. We should remember, too, of course that O´Keeffe even included skyscrapers of New York into her work, and there aren´t too many of those to be seen on the Lanzarote horizons.

What we find, instead of skyscrapers perhaps, are the labrynthian mazes crossing huge open floor space into un-noticed rooms and halls, as here in this gorgeous and deceptively huge retreat

Painting in acrylics and inks, Shraddha incorporates volcanic sand, clay and natural other materials to create her textures, adding depth and vibrancy to the images.

A shamanic healer and a Reiki and Colour Ray Master, Shraddha feels that healing ourselves, we heal the planet.  For her, art and life are not separate. 

Shraddha grew up in Mumbai, India and in the USA.  She now lives, both in peaceful Dorset, on south west coast of England, and on the beautiful island of Lanzarote.


Email: shrad999@gmail.com

Instagram: shraddhabhagalia

Whatsapp: +44 7900 172936

Intrigued by her pursuit of light I said rather naively that Lanzarote´s wonderful light, that like of St. Ives in Cornwall, must lure many artists to its domain. She pointed out, though, that sudden shifts of light as are caused by the wind over the vast landscapes of Lanzarote are somewhat troublesome to an artist

Zhana Barge

Fortunately my blushes were spared because we were quietly joined from out of nowhere by Zhana Barge, who turned out to be not only an artist in the exhibition but also the owner of the ´gallery´ that is housing it.

Zanna owns and runs the beautiful Villa Amatista as a Retreat and Events centre in this inspiring Oasis in the heart of the Island.

Dee and I were not surprised at what I learned in later reading about her whilst researching her for this article. As we had discussed on our way home in the car the Villa is spotless and pin bright clean and yet loses nothing in atmosphere for that.

What I read described her as a true visionary and certainly her art manifests in countless ways.  Villa Amatista is a prime example: each room, each plant, each walkway and secret corner has been carefully and lovingly envisioned and brought into reality.

In her paintings, Zanna told us she re-imagines her soul-family in the other realms and dimensions. 

Her paintings come fast and spontaneously – her brush following her vision in a fresh and intuitive way.

Zanna was born in Scotland but has made her home here in Lanzarote since 1998.  Among her other creative pursuits, she is also an experienced craniosacral therapist.

We chat about her work for a little while and she tells us that before she can begin a major project she has to empty her mind of all distractions to creativity. She therefore undertakes a form I can only describe as speed painting to rid her mind of all detritus, but when she then shows us a wall with a large dominant painting on the left and five smaller works squared in two pairs beside it on the right there is nothing to suggest they had been painted with anything less than 100% love and care. I asked whether these four smaller paintings were in any way sketches, plans or blueprints for the subsequent major work. Although her answer was a definite no, I felt I could see similar colours and tones and blends merging throughout and perhaps slipping into the larger work, perhaps even subliminally. It matters not a jot. What matters only is that each of the five pieces was quite wonderful, with the seemingly abstract smaller ones yielding to allow us to form our own ideas of what they represented and the larger one forcing us to reconsider our idea of iconic and traditional portraiture.


Email:  zanna.amatista@gmail.com

Tel/Whatsapp  0034 630 832 142

We then followed Shradda and Zanna down spiralled stone steps into vegetable gardens and areas of wild flower and sheltered resting places and suddenly, from over a hill, there came walking towards us a ghost from my former life. When I was working as a music journalist decades ago I became firm friends with an American musician called Tom Pacheco, who wrote several wonderful songs including Jesus In A Leather Jacket.

Juan Pena

I knew, of course, that this was a trick of the artist´s light, but the approaching man had Tom´s slow walk, the same posture and the same long hair blowing in the wind. He introduced himself to me as Juan Pena, another of the artists exhibiting in Journey Of Transformation.

Juan told me he was born in February 1963 in Madrid and at an early age he began his relationship with painting and drawing, representing everything he saw.

He is a man of mantra and aphorism it seems and he used the phrase “On the way to canvas, to paper, to nature,” many times throughout the afternoon to describe his process.

He developed his global and detailed vision on his walks through Madrid, always carrying under his arm a notebook that was full of still lifes, natural portraits, people, situations, sketches of the faces around him, the feelings, the corners and the details of the city.

He attended a training in Castilla la Mancha, in which he worked on sculpture, painting and bas-relief.  Here he lived and worked with different artists, especially with Antonio Lopez García with whom he feels identified, enriching his own work.

Years later he would take a course with him, in which painting living models taught him that the presence of whom one paints is essential to represent reality.

I interrupted him at this stage just to challenge that point because we had all been looking at his paintings all the time he had been speaking. I pointed out that on only one of his paintings could I see a single human being. He laughed off my observation, though, by saying there is a human presence in all his work even if that presence is not visible.

He resumed his brief biography to conclude for us that he learned volume, foreshortening, a sense of depth, and patience. His full dedication to painting led him to the domain of water-colour, oil, acrylic and drawing.

Knowledge of nature is important to represent it and that is why a large part of his works are created outside, in times of light that permeates every brushstroke.

His relationship with light was very evident on one particularly huge, dominant canvas that totally dominated the back wall of the room. The work shows a solitary (the adjective is mine) child sitting on his beach, facing out to sea away from us, feet stretched out into the lapping water. The gender from this angle is non-specific but the scene is almost idyllic with just the slightest of chills in the air. Daylight is flickering in a myriad colours in the shallow edge of a tide that might be about to come in or go out. What are we to make of that? The child is protected (or trapped) by rocks on the left hand side and there is an impression of an endless deserted beach on the right. The sky is cloudless but not blue and the only orb we can see in the sky is hazed so as to obscure whether it is the sun or moon.

There are reminders to me, as a writer, of a poem by Masefield, the English poet of how ´I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky, and all I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by.´

On the other hand I am struck by its similarity to the closing scene of a modern disaster movie in which a father and his grown up, estranged daughter sit on a very similar beach to await the tsunami, caused by a meteorite impact, that will drown the world.

This painting might haunt me forever. Why is this seemingly young child alone?  Where are the child´s parents or guardians? Why is the child looking out to where the edge of the sky meets the end of the world? Is the child singing the last boat home, grieving for a fisherman father or brother who has never come homereturned? Or is this a child blissfully at play, so content in a safe and secure environment as to see over the horizon a golden future approaching?

It matters not what the answers might be that we conjure up, for what is wonderful is that a single painting out of the mind of a solo artist can make us ask so many questions.

All the time Juan was talking so passionately I kept wondering why he so forcibly reminded me of my friend Tom Pacheco. As he looked at his painting to illustrate a point, I noticed his eyes. Jerry Jeff Walker, another American song-writing friend once wrote of a dancer, who worked under the stage name of Mr. Bojangles, that ´he looked to have the eyes of age.´ Tom Pacheco had those same eyes and so has Juan, they are full of wisdom, some sorrow and great compassion as if he has somehow lived a hundred lives.

to  learn more about Juan Pena contact:

Email: bambatuba2017@gmail.com

Phone: 650 89 39 10

Website: https: //www.totemjpc.com/

Imstagram: totem.art.jpc

The works of the five artists, collectively and individually, enhance even this wonderful venue, which feels like Downton Abbey in some ways and Tolkien-esque in other ways. The passages to the rooms seem hobbit-size and yet the rooms they lead to are huge and airy and spacious.

To walk round the grounds is to step on to the set of the film Lost Horizon on which a Tibetan paradise, Shangri la, lies just over a ´bridge´ which can only be crossed in one direction.

That was a fictional bridge, of course, because entrants in to a heaven or paradise aren´t usually allowed out again, (or are they?) and I thought Dee and I were going to suffer the same fate as we tried to leave this real-life retreat. The place our car had climbed vertically to park on took on more of a similarity to the wall of death as we left, but once we were on the road we chatted excitedly all the way home about the most magnificent setting we had ever seen, about the friendliness and warmth of the artists we had met and about how I am going to design a residential creative writing course I could offer to deliver in the fabulous setting. I used to run creative writing classes in Blackburn Cathedral, and that was spiritually pretty close to heaven but this would be a pretty different kind of paradise.

All I had to worry about now was getting this report concluded within the week so as to be able to include it here today on Sidetracks & Detours. Fortunately Shraddha, ever the professional, sent me over the details of the two artists we had been unable to meet, thus enabling me to deliver to on time.

The two other artists who form this quintet who have curated this exhibition, and by whom all the work being shown was created, individually and autonomously during the island´s longest period of lockdown, are Marie Christine Chambon and Francesca Cerami.

Marie Christine Chambon

Marie Christine Chambon, we were told, has learned that the greatest Wisdom there is on Earth is Kindness.

She has learned the power of Sweetness. She has learned, too, that there is a key, capable of opening all doors. It is called Delicacy. She has learned that when a Soul has suffered, what it needs most is Beauty, for that is the only thing that can truly heal it.  Union of Doing and Being is within us, and is our greatest and most subtle power.  She has also learned that practicing an Art is a Royal Path to the Reality of our Being and that the best gift she can give herself is an Artist’s Life.

For twenty five years she worked in personal and spiritual development. She has led many trainings and seminars on healing, energy, the sacred feminine-masculine, the Tarot, the progression of the Soul, its stellar origin, the rays, the dragons, the seven great Initiations possible on Earth, etc …

´I paint sometimes without understanding what I am receiving,´ she says. ¨I also paint “Soul paintings”, for those who have asked me (I connect to their Being, I ask to receive the symbols that will allow them to join and vibrate their Soul Mission and I paint what I get).

During seven years, I received and painted a Tarot-Oracle of 83 cards (or 83 tables!) which is called Oumrazaï, accompanied by a book bearing the same name (one represents the feminine energy, the other Male Energy).  After the Creation of this Work, I had the feeling “to have accomplished my Soul work”, the one that I had assigned to myself.  And since then I have felt in another part of my Life, a part where I am learning that the best way to “Serve” is to simply vibrate Love and Joy.´

for futher information contact:

Email: mcchambon888@gmail.com

Website:  www.oumrazai.com

Dhamma Art, says Francesca Cerami, the fifth and final member of this artistic quintet, is art that sustains you from falling into a state of despair.  It dissolves knots, nurtures your creativity, feeds critical thinking and activates your transforming energy. It enables us to release our emotions and be happy!

Francesca Cerami

´Every work that I create is a magical object,´ Francesca says. ¨Each one is unique, transformative and charged with Life.  I invite viewers to take a deep breath and look at the painting.  What story does it tell you? Listen … let the sensations appear in the body.  Now look within: what do you feel?  Where do you feel it?

My works are created during a healing, cathartic creative process that releases emotions, from a space of love and compassion.  Sometimes they are the manifestation of perceptions and information that come in dreams. Divine energy flows and takes shape through me, in my works.

They tell stories of relationships, attachment, desire, emotional dependence, abuse, reaction, change, transformation, personal development, search for vision, resources, and personal skills.  Some works narrate the passage between life and death, the magic of transformation and the journey towards a state of pure energy.

I feel the urgent need to produce, capture and objectify, through my works, my experiences, knowledge, feelings, my inner world, for the benefit of the active and attentive viewer.  For me, art is a creative reflection in the form of images and constitutes a powerful means of assimilation and aesthetic creation of the world: essential aspects of reality live in them.

Dhamma Art has been generated through years of self-inquiry and research in the art field. My trajectory has been multidisciplinary: I have a degree in Fine Arts, I have studied sociology, anthropology in a master’s degree in International Cooperation. I am a specialist in Art Therapy with a 4-year master’s degree and holistic therapies (Yoga, Massage, Reiki).

Visitors to Casa Amatista can of course, seek to purchase any of the exhibited Works by any of the artists, but Francesca also offers Personalized Artwork, which can be ordered when visiting.

¨It’s simple and fun,´ she told us. ´We meet, to get to know each other.  I invite you to feel the sensations in the body, to tell me your story.  I see you, I hear you and I feel you. My hands are an instrument that channels your mood and creates an image.  You will be impressed! 

The portrait is my way of declaring and living in Love.  It is created in your presence, or you can give me a photo of the person you want me to portray. At the end of the work we will meet to reflect on the process.

A portrait is to be seen and felt in the most intimate parts of your being.

You recognize, through the drawings, your characteristics, resources, shadow areas.  Undressing yourself in front of compassionate, loving and attentive eyes, I will reflect an image of yourself that you may not yet know, that can help you see how beautiful you are and become the best version of yourself.´


Telephono –  +34658742182

Email:  hola@francescacerami.com

Website:  www.francescacerami.com

Instagram : _francesca_cerami

Although these five artists had half-expected to see their work exhibited in its ´own´ room the fact is that when they first saw what each had produced, some works by different members of the five almost demanded to be shown together. Visitors are therefore afforded an almost unique opportunity to see not only an artist´s catalogue grouped to provide an overview of their work, but also odd instances where a connection between different artists and their work can be identified.

The exhibition has been extended to the end of November so to find out opening times and to find out the schedules for a full programme of stand alone workshops in November call + 34 630 831 242

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.