A Pilates-Art-Creativity Dialogue

How did you become an artist?

Art and beauty have always been my passion. My first words as a child, was to ask for the moon, as I wanted to bring its glowing light down to earth!  At the age of 4 my parents brought me to a Kandinsky exhibition at the Guggenheim and I jumped around with joy! I was magnetically drawn to art to explore and express the beauty and rhythms I felt through being alive. I trained at Camberwell College of Art and Goldsmiths College during which time I was fascinated by sculpting the human form in clay, at a time when everyone was very political and writing on canvases. I wanted to make creations that were beauty-filled and I felt out of place in that era, so I took a year off. It took me 30 years to return, this time to the Art Academy in London to complete my fine art training.

In between, I trained to be a State Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist, captivated by the body and how to help people transform their experience of life on all levels. I then worked for UCL’s Health Behaviour Unit focusing on psychological methods to change lifestyle behaviours, and subsequently applied my learning in the NHS in a wide range of contexts.

As Lead Mental Health Dietitian/Nutritionist for a Borough in London, I initiated a Food and Mood Group in which we helped patients to identify their life passion, connect to this and then substitute this for unhelpful or self-harming eating behaviours. We encouraged physical activity, singing, writing, painting, sculpting, anything creative connecting to their individual passions, to transcend their problems.

During this process I reconnected to my own passion for art, and realized that I actually wanted to be doing it – focusing on nutrition of the soul, as well as the body.

So after over 20 years as a clinician, I went back to college and retrained as an artist.

Why did you decide to practice Pilates?

I have always been interested and explored integrating the physical with mental, emotional and spiritual levels.  More recently, I was interested in developing core strength and this was particularly important after a knee injury.  I find it easy to connect to non-physical ethereal realities but I know that to be truly integrated we must fully embrace the physical level, to express the subtler forms.  I love a challenge and now I am applying that to inviting my body to be as fit as it can be and be truly grounded.   In the same way I challenge myself to be the best I can be, and work towards transforming areas of resistance to this.

What is the effect on your body of Pilates?

I feel stretched, elongated, more centred and grounded and I am really enjoying my physical body in a way that I had not been able to previously.   I feel more present, more alive and more expanded.   My body tends to be hypermobile and I easily overextend without realizing it.  Pilates is helping me to learn to bring myself into a more balanced stable state physically.  Simultaneously I work to apply this experience mentally to bring extremes of experience to a central balance.

What impact has Pilates had on your art?

My initial passion in art was sculpting the human figure with clay, then painting icons and oil painting.  My most recent focus has been on light art, creating optical sculptures with thermoplastics and then uniting this with newer low energy light, projection, digital and interactive technologies.  The result is a versatile kinetic art medium that transforms architectural surfaces into live performances with dynamic light effects that respond to peoples’ movements. The resulting installation creates an infinitely changing, interactive, immersive light and colour experience.

Working with light is one extreme and quite ethereal and since starting to do pilates and focusing on the physical, to counterbalance this I have been feeling a renewed interest in working with clay. Below is a model for a larger sculpture that I am currently working on.  Although it is in clay it is about lightness!   My light art is about the heavens, the clay work is about the earth and in time I aim to unite these two polarities.  I am gradually bringing the elongation, opening and balance that I experience during pilates into expression through my artwork.   By becoming more aware and present in my physical body, I hope to express the connectedness and openness to both the heavens and the earth.  By doing so, I hope my pieces will become a source of contemplation and inspiration for others.

Both within my own art practice and my workshop facilitation, I seek to inspire, enable connectedness and illumination through aligning with the invisible, interconnected rhythmic communication that permeates all things. Movement, emergence, and discovery may be facilitated, potentially enabling expression and connection where it had previously been disabled.  For me, Pilates reinforces this process.

What are your aspirations for the future?

As I become increasingly attuned to my body and being fully here now, I hope to increasingly transmit this via my artwork, in whichever form I am working in.  Also I plan to increasingly facilitate creative workshops, which I already offer at the Art Academy, and throughout the country by invitation.


I would like to thank Sharon Thompson of Essentially Pilates for her caring, supportive and excellent approach to opening the Pilates world to me.

Light Portal 1.  Limited Edition Print.  Photo of Light Sculpture.  © Lorna Carmen McNeill 2015
Light Portal 1. Limited Edition Print. Photo of Light Sculpture. © Lorna Carmen McNeill 2015
Maquettes for larger sculpture © Lorna Carmen McNeill 2015 Masking Tape & Wire
Maquettes for larger sculpture © Lorna Carmen McNeill 2015 Masking Tape & Wire
Maquettes for larger sculpture ‘Preparing for Flight’ © Lorna Carmen McNeill 2015 Wax & Wire
Maquettes for larger sculpture ‘Preparing for Flight’ © Lorna Carmen McNeill 2015 Wax & Wire


Post Author: Lorna Carmen McNeill

Lorna Carmen McNeill is a fine artist specialising in sculpture and light art with a special interest in inspiring creativity and improved well-being through her art.  She is a tutor at The Art Academy, London, offers innovative interactive workshop experiences for businesses, charities and groups, community development art projects and private tutoring. Her works are widely collected and reside in both public and private collections. They are currently on display at the Art Academy, Hospice of St Francis Berkhamsted, and Trinity United Reformed Church, St Albans.   They were recently showcased at Nesta, the Barbican, Womad, e-Luminate and Wac Arts.