Biography and CV

Childhood

Growing up in Hove, UK in a non-observant, dysfunctional, Jewish family, attending a Christian school and trying to make sense of traumatic childhood experiences raised questions of self and identity, stimulating a spiritual search from the age of 11.  Trauma was a wonderful, although not pleasant, teacher: when 9, nearly losing my mother to tuberculosis, parental divorce and the suicides of my brother as a child and later when I was 29 the suicide of my alcoholic husband opened my mind to impermanence, the transience of all things and that life definitely didn't seem to be how I was conditioned to believe it was. This led to questioning the meaning of life, undergoing an awful lot of psychotherapy and embarking on a spiritual quest.

Discovering the Power of Art

Wanting to learn more about the mind, as a young adult in the 1980's I worked as a nursing assistant in a psychiatric hospital where I was invited to participate in an inspiring six-month staff art therapy group. This experience was a spingboard  opening me to vast possibilities of expressing my mind through art. This led to practising as a committed artist exploring the mind and inner experience as subject matter. Contemplating Mark Rothko's paintings at the Tate Modern and listening to Mahler's Resurrection Symphony conducted by Simon Rattle further opened my mind to how the arts can reach beyond purely visual and aesthetic dimensions to be powerful transforming, healing, revealing, and spiritually awakening experiences. I began to understand that for me the role of art was to include both the suffering human condition and also point to our timeless universal essence. A new journey began exploring art, psychology and spirituality. 

Spiritual Search, Art and Spirituality

My husband’s suicide in 1981 was the trauma that woke me up spiritually, and catapulted me into a search for my spiritual home. I studied Christian Essene spiritual healing with the College of Spiritual Psychotherapy and Kabbalah with a rabbi’s wife. Wanting to follow my increasing desire to integrate art, psychology and spirituality, I embarked on a BA Hons degree in Painting (1987-1991) at the then Brighton College of Art. I began studying Hindu and Tibetan mandala painting, the work of Agnes Martin, Jackson Pollock and Richard Pousette-Dart, Paul Klee and Kandinsky and travelled to India to research Indian women artists and miniature painting. I recall asking a tutor on my degree course, ‘How do I paint pure consciousness?’ to which he replied, ‘Become pure consciousness, then paint’. I would also add, ‘By painting you can discover pure consciousness’. Discovering how to do this became my creative koan.

 

My art work became increasingly abstract as I searched for ways to make visible a sense of how things seemed to me beyond their superficial physical appearance. In 1991 I wrote a dissertation, ‘The Symbolism of the Center in Religion and Sacred Art’, which investigated the relationship between sacred art and the perennial spiritual teachings. Interest in the perennial philosophy led me to look east, before arriving in 1991 at Tibetan Buddhism, my spiritual home. In the midst of all this I discovered the joys and challenges of parenthood with the birth of my son Jacob in 1990, following fervent prayers for something that would help me destroy my ego. 

Discovering Buddhism

In addition to exhibiting and practising as an artist, in 1995 I began a more committed, formal Buddhist study and meditation in the Tibetan Buddhist Kagyu-Nyingma traditions. I was so grateful to receive teachings from authentic, realized, spiritual masters including Ato Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche. In 2005 I discovered my main teacher, Mingyur Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher holding lineages for Mahamudra and Dzogchen, which includes shamatha and vipashyana meditation. These lineages offer progressive training in the path to enlightenment that particularly suited my mind and turned out to be life changing.

 

Beginning to Integrate Dharma and Art

I also began studying traditional Tibetan thangka painting for two years with two nuns. Although a beautiful art form, I increasingly felt drawn to investigate ways of integrating meditation with contemporary, rather than traditional, fine art practices. The desire to deeply inquire into ways of integrating Dharma and art practices led me to study for a Masters Degree in Fine Art (2005-2007). For my examination exhibition in 2007 I created a short video, 'Letter to My Mum' in response to my mother asking why I wanted to ordain as a Buddhist nun.

 

A week after my show closed, I was ordained as a Buddhist nun in Oxford UK by His Eminence Thrangu Rinpoche.  I remained a nun for seven years, living in semi-retreat in my house in Suffolk UK. In 2014 I was increasingly feeling that while being a nun had been extremely beneficial for myself and hopefully others, I needed to be more naked and integrate ongoing spiritual practice with creative practice, teaching art and everyday life as a lay person, for both my own and other people’s benefit.​ 

 

Since 2007 I have been developing projects integrating art and the meditation practices given to me by Mingyur Rinpoche, along with teaching art and mindful creativity coaching. Contemplation and meditation define the subject matter of my art, informing and underpinning activity before, during and after creative activity. I am discovering that the process of integrating art, Dharma and everyday life is a contemplative, mindful and transformative practice observing deeply ingrained conditioning and also inquiring into the nature of knowing and not-knowing in everyday life and when making art.  

Interest in my work led to being invited as a speaker by the Institute of Oriental Philosophy for their conference, Buddha Mind - Creative Mind? and Channel 4 TV 4Thought programme. Dr Mick Collins also discussed my work in his book, The Unselfish Spirit, following seeing The Stripper, a one hour play about my life and work devised in collaboration with director Pema Clark, and performed at the University of East Anglia, UK.

​​

Deepening  explorations of mindfulness, meditation and art have led to recently receiving a MOFSA travel grant to the USA and a scholarship from Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in Massachusetts, USA to participate in their six month course Dharma and Art - A Practice of Investigating Perception which included two week-long residencies.

 

With the kind generosity of a further grant from MOFSA and Arts Council England,  I am currently developing a project with the working title Awakening Through Creativity. This body of art work is intended for exhibiting in 2021 at Diss Corn Hall arts venue (pandemic permitting), where I will also run Mindful Art Workshops and give an artist's talk. In addition to exhibiting, the documentation from this project will form the basis for a course and a resource book on the practice of creativity as a support for meditation.

CV

Ed­u­ca­tion,
Pro­fes­sional Train­ing

  • Mas­ters De­gree Fine Art (Dis­tinc­tion), Nor­wich Uni­ver­sity of Arts

  • BA Hons Fine Art Paint­ing (2.1), commendation in Art History, Uni­ver­sity of Brighton

  • Diploma in Coach­ing (Dis­tinc­tion), UK Coach­ing Part­ner­ship

  • Post Grad­u­ate Cer­tifi­cate in Ed­u­ca­tion, Uni­ver­sity of Cam­bridge
    (fully qualified art and photography teacher)

  • 7307 Fur­ther & Adult Teach­ing Cer­tifi­cate, Uni­ver­sity of Brighton

  • 8 week Mind­ful­ness Based Cog­ni­tive Ther­apy, Uni­ver­sity of Ban­gor

  • Mahamudra Med­i­ta­tion Courses/Retreats in Ti­betan Buddhist Kagyu Tra­di­tion

  • Dharma and Art, six month course, Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, USA

Ex­hi­bi­tions

  • Transference, Halesworth Gallery, Suffolk

  • The Strip­per, (Col­lab­o­ra­tion with Pema Clark), Uni­ver­sity of East An­glia

  • Lu­mino­grams: Cam­era-less Pho­tog­ra­phy by Zangmo Alexan­der,
    Be­yond the Im­age Pho­tog­ra­phers Gallery

  • Work in Progress, Meet­ing House, Diss

  • Bud­dha Mind - Cre­ative Mind, Institute of Oriental Philosophy, Taplow Court

  • MFA Show, Fine Art, Norwich University of the Arts

  • Faith and the Arts Mul­ti­faith Art Ex­hi­bi­tion, Arts Council England

  • ‘Jour­neys’, Paint­ings and Prints, Harleston

  • ‘Lo­tus in Flower’, Cambridge

  • ‘Lyri­cal Ab­strac­tion’, Michaelhouse Gallery, Cam­bridge

  • John Innes Cen­tre, University of East Anglia, Norwich

  • Paintings by Zangmo Alexander, Hor­sham Arts Cen­tre

  • Norfolk and Norwich Open Studio

  • Suffolk Open Studio

  • Brighton Art Fair

  • Fresh Art Fair, Business Design Centre, Lon­don

  • BA Fine Art Show, Brighton School of Art, University of Brighton Art Gallery

  • Brighton Li­brary

  • Brighton Cen­tre

  • Bond Street Gallery

  • East­bourne Li­brary

  • Fox’s Gallery, Lon­don

  • The Ar­t­house, Leeds

 

Awards, Scholarships, Residencies

  • 2020: Arts Council England Award

  • 2019-2020: MOFSA project development grant

  • 2018: MOFSA travel grant UK to USA

  • 2018-2019: Barre Centre for Buddhist Studies Scholarship for Dharma and Art course, Massachusetts USA

  • 2018-2019: Barre Centre for Buddhist Studies Scholarship for two residencies, USA

  • DEFRA award for website design, equipment purchase

  • South Norfolk Council award for business development

  • Norfolk Visual Art Fund Award for community art workshop development​​

 

In­vited Speaker and Pa­pers

  • 4Thought, Chan­nel 4 Television Broadcast: Can Art Make You Be­lieve? talk

  • Bud­dha Mind - Cre­ative Mind Con­fer­ence:  Art and Meditation Practice talk

  • Bud­dhism and the Artscommissioned paper for arts organisations on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Art and Bud­dhism for Arts Coun­cil England

Publication

  • Alexander, L., (2009), Women’s Wisdom: Natural Wellness Strategies for the Menopause Years (Findhorn)

  • Collins, Mick, (2014), The Unselfish Spirit: Human Evolution in a Time of Global Crisis, Hampshire: Permanent Publications

  • March 2020, Leaping Clear online journal
    https://www.leapingclear.org/zangmo-alexander-video

 

Work in Col­lec­tions, Residencies

  • Dharma and Art Course, two residencies, Barre Centre for Buddhist Studies, USA

  • ​Imperial Health Charity Art Collection

  • Pri­vate Col­lec­tions USA and Eu­rope

  • Artist in Residence, Michelham Priory, Sussex

Work Experience

  • Painter, Photographer, Mixed Media Artist in studio practice since 1991, UK

  • Mindful Creativity Coach, pri­vate prac­tice

  • Meditation Teacher, private practice

  • Art and Photography Teacher, one-to-one and group, private practice and schools

  • GCSE and A Level Art and Pho­tog­ra­phy Tu­tor, private practice

  • Director of Full Moon Images, publishing art prints

  • Director of Rainbow Arts, offering Art, Craft and Pho­tog­ra­phy for hard to reach mem­bers of the com­mu­nity, the el­derly, men­tal health, so­cial ser­vices staff, women's groups, chil­dren's hol­i­day work­shops

  • Vis­it­ing Lec­turer in Paint­ing, Brighton Uni­ver­sity at East­bourne Col­lege of Art and Technology

  • Cre­ative Stud­ies Lec­turer, East­bourne Col­lege of Art and Technology

  • Art Cer­tifi­cate Lec­turer, Brighton Uni­ver­sity

  • Fa­cil­i­ta­tor of women's art groups for self aware­ness, per­sonal de­vel­op­ment, self ex­pres­sion and stress man­age­ment

  • Re­spon­si­bil­ity for en­tire Art and De­sign Tech­nol­ogy Cur­ricu­lum, pri­mary school Nor­folk​

Per­sonal De­vel­op­ment | CPD

  • Back to Be­gin­nings, Tara Rokpa

  • Bioen­er­get­ics Ther­apy, Brighton

  • Spir­i­tual Psy­chother­apy, Tun­bridge Wells

  • Per­sonal Jungian Art Ther­apy and Psy­chother­apy

  • Reg­u­lar med­i­ta­tion courses and re­treats 

  • 2007-2014: Or­di­na­tion as a nun in the Ti­betan Bud­dhist tra­di­tion

  • Art and meditation short courses

alexanderzangmo@googlemail.com | 044 (0) 1379 897393 | Studio: Botesdale, UK

All rights reserved. Site copyright Zangmo Alexander 2021