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“Excellence and rest can coexist in God’s culture” – Artist Carissa Gan on her life as God’s canvas and Wildflower Culture as her ministry

Carissa Gan never saw herself as an artist. The journalism major spent seven years as a copywriter and content marketer, always believing that writing was her forte. 

But when Malaysia went into lockdown in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Carissa began to dabble in art as a form of therapy. 

She’d post some of her abstract creations on social media, and friends soon began encouraging her to create an account just for her art. 

After prayer, Carissa named her brand Wildflower Culture

“When we look at a field of wildflowers, no one tends to them except God. It’s His garden. Wildflowers are free to grow, sustained only by Him,” Carissa, 33, shared.

It is this culture of freedom, excellence, rest and reliance upon God that Carissa hopes to help others find through her art. 

Carissa Gan, artist behind Wildflower Culture.

Her art is God’s canvas

Carissa’s art is marked by earthy tones and buttery shades inspired by nature, photography, and books as well as time with the Word of God and prayer. 

As an abstract artist, Carissa uses colours, textures and different application methods intuitively. 

She finds great joy in mixing colours and creating blends that evoke a wide range of emotions.

“I always pray before I begin any piece, about the colours and process. God can use colours to minister and speak; it is a language of the soul,” she said, detailing her process.

The abstract process is largely intuitive, through which Carissa is learning the art of surrender and expressing His narrative. 

“Stories from God’s heart to yours. That’s my personal mission statement for Wildflower Culture. When people see my art, they sense something different,” she explains. 

For example, a girl who recently lost her mother commissioned a painting expressing the truth that God is good, no matter the circumstance. 

“Jia Zhi told me that she felt a divine exchange taking place as He gives beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness (Isaiah 61:3) because of how the colours intertwine with each other. She experienced a sense of hope and redemption,” the artist shared humbly. 

Another client, SH of Street Thirty Three, wanted an entryway artwork reminding her and her husband to always let go and let God, and live a life that serves and glorifies God. 

As Carissa prayed over the process, she felt the word “Abundance” for them. 

After discussing the colours with the couple, she sought to create a piece that conveys how God can and will continue to exceed their expectations.

“They hope to live their lives like the little boy with five loaves and two fishes, and SH told me that the artwork serves as a beautiful reminder of God’s love and presence in their lives,” Carissa finished by saying.

Abundance, a commissioned piece by Carissa Gan.

Creating from a place of peace

In September 2022, Carissa stepped out in faith and obedience to become a full-time artist. 

“I come from a culture of striving, as do so many of us,” Carissa said. 

This culture of perfection, performance, FOMO (fear of missing out) and profit over people is what the world seeks. 

But Wildflower Culture takes on a different approach, what Carissa calls a ‘heavenly culture’. 

“God’s culture is completely different. It calls us to be unrestrained in living out who He has made us to be, and to value purpose and progress over perfection,” she explained. 

Many full-time artists burn out because of the pressure to create, pay the bills and achieve perfection. 

The kingdom way, Carissa contends, is rooted in surrender. 

“There is room for rest. Profit is not the ultimate goal, neither is perfection. We create from a place of peace, not pressure. Excellence and rest can coexist in God’s culture,” she stated.

Hanging on to God’s promises

Wildflower Culture’s art is often reflective of Carissa’s life experiences and encounters with God.

Last year was one of the hardest years of her life, she said, due to personal circumstances. 

“I felt as though I was carrying this ocean of grief inside of me,” she said simply. 

Many of her paintings were birthed in that season, but instead of focusing on the depression and sadness, she chose to focus on God’s promises. 

“I felt I was constantly breaking, hitting rock bottom. But I knew that as long as I was hitting the rock of God and breaking against Him, I would be safe,” she said with conviction. “He picks up the pieces and holds us together.”

Two of her pieces, In Every Victory 01 and Oceans 01, were recently displayed at the 2023 Christmas Exhibition by Sound of Art Gallery in Singapore. 

In Every Victory 01 by Carissa Gan.

Jesus is seen in the way we live

A firm believer, Carissa believes that one’s faith is mostly seen in the way one lives. 

“Can one be an artist and a gospel-bearer? Definitely. It’s in the way we live, the intent of how we do it,” she explained. 

As a small business owner heavily reliant on the digital space (Instagram and her website), the artist is learning to follow God’s lead in the way she uses the platforms. 

There’s the pressure to ‘maintain’ Instagram and keep posting, but I’m learning to follow God’s rhythm, not the algorithm,” she said with a smile. 

In her experience, Carissa hasn’t had to shout her faith. Upon seeing her art and interacting with her, people realise something different. 

God’s culture shines through.

Expressions of God’s heart

One of Carissa’s 2023 collections, Slow Down, was a series of minimalist pieces (Garden, Midnight and Cloud) on the theme of rest.

It wasn’t a planned series. But as she began to create, the three pieces came to life.

“The whole series ended up being about encouraging people to slow down, going back to the culture of rest which is something I feel God always has in His heart for people,” she said. 

She also posted some reflections on rest, as a note to self. 

Little did she know that other artists would resonate so strongly with the artwork. 

“After announcing the “Slow Down” series and the meaning behind it, I was really moved when a lot of artists and creative entrepreneurs openly expressed how the paintings and story resonated strongly with them,” she shared.

Carissa believes that God wants to break the cycle of burnout so many creatives face, and grant them true rest.

It revealed to Carissa how easy it is to burn out as a creative, especially when one’s passion is also their main income stream. 

Creatives are often plagued by fears of not doing it right, not doing enough or simply not being good enough. 

According to Carissa, it is one of the dark realities keeping many on a hamster wheel that prevents true rest. It’s something she’s still learning with God too.

“It’s a cycle He wants to break, because He is the true giver of rest. So I feel that when I release control of the narrative and act based upon what He puts in my heart, my art reaches the people that He wants to reach,” she said gratefully. 

Going only where He leads

In June 2023, Carissa was invited to be a guest teacher at the Virtual Art Summit 2023: Return to Play alongside 15 other artists from around the world. 

She had the privilege of introducing a fun and fearless approach to abstract painting through her “Creating Courage” class during the art summit.

She also collaborated with Mori Official, a Singapore-based social enterprise to create a line of products for the Hope and Joy collection.

The self-taught artist has received invitations from art galleries in Europe, New York and other places. 

However, she is intentional in seeking God for the greenlight before she agrees to any exhibitions or ventures. 

“He reminds me that He will take me where He wants me to go. If that’s not where He wants me to go, I have to surrender,” she said soberly. 

From journalism major to abstract artist, Carissa is going where God leads.

Sometimes, exhibitions offer themes glorifying worldly ideals or expressions which Carissa says do not always sit well with her.

“Wildflower Culture is God’s. It was His dream before it was ever mine. So whatever He says goes,” she said firmly, adding that every open door has been God’s doing.

This belief is the bedrock of her identity as an artist because she never saw it coming.

But she knows that it is a path that God has led her to and is excited for what comes next. 

“I’m just privileged that I get to partner with Him [in this journey]. God gets all the glory for where Wildflower Culture goes because this is His story.”

To find out more about Wildflower Culture, click here.

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