Contemporary votive illustrations: Swimming in darkness

To accompany our current exhibition ‘Infinitas Gracias: Mexican miracle paintings‘, we’ve been working with professional illustrators to produce contemporary votive illustrations based on stories submitted by visitors to Wellcome Collection and to our website. Just as Mexican ex-voto paintings were made by painters to tell stories of thanks, we want to hear contemporary stories of gratitude and explore the process of exchange between storyteller and illustrator.

Amy Goh: Swimming in darkness

Amy Goh: Swimming in darkness

Amy Goh’s first illustration is for this story:

Some friends and I had driven north from Auckland one night. We missed the turn-off to our destination and by the time we realised we decided to continue north, as far as we could go. We took a back road and drove through a herd of wild horses, running through the headlights. We hit the dunes and the car was stuck in the sand. I went for a walk by myself. There is quicksand in places. The sky was blanketed in cloud so neither the stars nor the moon were visible. The land is low here. I walked for what seemed like hours; the beach stretches on forever. I then had the reckless idea of going for a swim. I stripped off and swam out through the breakers. It was summer and the sea was warm, so I kept swimming. I then recalled the stories about this beach, there are rips and holes and currents that can carry you away. I was far from shore and disoriented, too far to hear the sound of the surf, or to see the dunes. Just a human body swimming in darkness far out to sea. I prayed and chose a direction and eventually found the shore. I kissed the sand and collapsed. It took hours to find my clothes and I somehow found the car, and my friends, one of whom had not left the car all evening for the fear of horses. Words can sometimes be prisons for meaning and if I were to try and explain I could not capture this experience in its true context. All I know is that blind chance and dry logic will never capture the mystery of this life. Gratitude is easy when you know how.

Hamish, Ninety-Mile Beach, Aotearoa/New Zealand, 1999.

You can find out more about Amy Goh’s work and explore more votive illustrations on the Wellcome Collection website.

Could your gratitude inspire a votive? Tell us your story, and it could form the basis for an illustration.

3 thoughts on “Contemporary votive illustrations: Swimming in darkness

  1. I love this illustration, Amy’s work has a depth that is only enriched by words. There is something crystal-like about her line work, the way she blends objects, shapes, and figures allows the viewer to be creative in interpretation. Thank you Amy, gratitude is mine.

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