"It’s like his gift" says Jasmine Aras - a mother from Wootton Bassett who is pursuing her dream of becoming an artist in memory of her son.
Jasmine Aras, 34, has debuted a brand-new exhibition which she hopes will launch her dream of becoming a professional artist, thanks to her late son.
Jasmine joined North Swindon’s Kingdom Arts Foundation to pursue her career and give back to a charitable cause after she lost her son, River, in 2014 when doctors could not detect a heartbeat when she became full-term. River was stillborn two days later.
In 2015 Mrs Aras hosted her first solo exhibition in memory of River to mark the first anniversary since his passing, raising £1,000 for the charity Swindon SANDS (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society) to thank them for the support they provided to her and her husband Muhittin Aras.
During her stay in hospital Jasmine received a box, - which was gifted to the hospital by SANDS – containing River’s handprints, footprints, a lock of his hair, a hand knitted blanket and a letter from a mother who also experienced a stillbirth.
Jasmine said: “The fact that I was able to leave the hospital with something was huge, it was so powerful.
“Six months later I then plucked up the courage to contact SANDS and went to a meeting, which felt like a really big step, but it was so wonderful because people in SANDS they would ask ‘what’s his name? What does he look like?’ and people are obviously very scared to ask that because they don’t want to upset you. But everyone at SANDS understands – even if you have a really good support network you really need to meet someone who knows exactly how you feel.”
Swindon SANDS continued to support Jasmine and Muhittin when they became pregnant with their second son, Romeo – who is nearly three. Having always wanted to be an artist Jasmine now wants to kick start her dream of becoming a professional painter in memory of River, but to also push forward with this new turning point in her life.
Yesterday saw Mrs Aras debut her second solo exhibition at Kingdom Coffee House as part of her ongoing series ‘The Colour Collection’ which will be displayed over the next two months. Still wanting to give back to SANDS, 10 percent of the profits made from her paintings will be donated to the charity.
Jasmine said: “My life changed again by having another child, but I’ve kept going in River’s memory – this is my dream and I really feel like he helped me get back to that.
“The collection represents new beginnings and striping things back to a simplicity. In my bio I wrote ‘When you hit the floor, that’s when you find your foundation’ so when I lost my son it made me re-evaluate everything in life, but it made me find my foundation in many ways in the same way this collection is about stripping all of that away and starting from the foundation, – just colour and application – and making something joyful and colourful.
“I’ve always wanted to be an artist, – I studied art all the way through school and university – and it’s something I just always assumed would happen. Of course, when you leave university life takes over as you try and get a job, so it was something that was always in the background. I was putting it off, I guess, waiting for that magical moment when someone would make me an artist then you realise that’s not going to happen. You have to do it yourself.
“After losing River, and then having my second son Romeo, it changed our lives so much and it really put me on a course where I started taking my dream of becoming an artist seriously again, and I really feel like River really gave me that gift and sparked me onwards.
“Whenever I put down a paintbrush too long, or I have doubts, I think ‘no – this is for River, I must keep going’. So, here I am today at my launch preparing to go to a contemporary arts festival. It’s very exciting!”
In 2018 the Kingdom Arts Foundation and Kingdom Coffee House was set up by Kingdom House Ministries’Church Leader, Chris Delni Offord. As an artist himself Chris wants to support artists living in the North Swindon area and share his experiences on how to pursue a career in art. Jasmine and fellow artists from the Kingdom Arts Foundation, - Jasmine Sara, 29, and Lisa Hardings, 36 – are now gearing up to exhibit at the Surrey Contemporary Art Fair later this month, of which Chris has been an attendee over the last few years.
Chris said: “They [Surrey Contemporary Art Fair]kindly gave the girls, through me, a 50% discount – so instead of paying £1,200 for a stand they’re splitting it between them, otherwise they couldn’t afford it. So, they’ll be taking a six-meter stand with them, and for the first time ever they’re going to try and sell their art which they’ve never done before.
“All three of them in a way are very similar because they’ve got the same problem that most artists have which is a lack of confidence – they never think anyone will be interested in their own work.
“We get them to discuss their art in a different way, and start to talk about their art, – have a conversation – and that’s really important for an artist.
“I am trying to encourage them to spread their wings to work and network with other people.”
Jasmine added: “The art foundation has really started me going again. I’ve been put under a lot of pressure, - in the right way - to really get going. I realised this is exactly what I needed: a community of artists and support – especially from Chris, because he’s already done it. It also allows me the opportunity to potentially give back to other artists.
“I really want to thank Chris, and the Kingdom Arts Foundation, for helping emerging artists in the local area.”
For further information about Jasmine Aras' paintings visit www.jasminearas.com
For further information about Kingdom Coffee House, and the Kingdom Arts Foundation, visit www.swindonlink.com/6494/new-community-café-adds-some-more-colour-to-swindon/