Painting from direct observation, I create intimate studies of people as they use objects, materials, and spaces for protection and empowerment.

I first became aware of the protective qualities of objects while drinking coffee in a mud brick house. I was in an oasis town in Oman with a group of women who met daily for friendship and laughter. Cups stacked in one hand were filled with thick cardamom coffee and passed to each guest. As I raised the small cup to my lips, a luminous flash of red-orange around one girl’s neck caught my eye.

The necklace of intricate silverwork framed an unexpected jewel; a magnificent plastic bicycle reflector. Bicycles were imported into Oman in the mid-twentieth century and this shiny reflector, designed to protect the cyclist, had been repurposed as an amulet to defend the person from the spirits that haunted the oasis.

Other girls wore amulets adorned with glass bottle stoppers, lapis lazuli, carnelian and bone. One wore an inscribed silver disk. On the reverse, scratched into the silver, was the stylised figure of a Jinn. The malevolent spirit known in the West as a genie. The Jinn was shackled to protect the wearer.

Since then, I have been fascinated by this universal phenomenon and the materiality of protection. The repurposing of this everyday item sparked my obsession with the active role objects play in influencing and enhancing our human experience. It has become both the subject of my art and the influence of my artistic process.