Thelma van Rensburg

Thelma van Rensburg

South Africa | 6 artworks for sale

The grotesquerie of trauma:

The large-scale oil paintings from the series The grotesquerie of trauma, 2019-2020, culminated from a body of work created in 2013 wherein I digitally layered images of black ink paintings of female figures onto idealised photographic sources female models. The result being grotesquely distorted figures. The painting process included the utilizing of the aesthetics of the grotesque which is a visual genre of disorder, when applied in my paintings it acts as metaphor for the psychological and physical distress that is caused by emotional and psychological abuse in childhood.

The paintings were created by using a montage of repurposed images from a previous body of work. A montage is a technique of combining in a single composition of pictorial elements from various sources, as parts of different photographs or fragments of printing, either to give the illusion that the elements belonged together originally or to allow each element to retain its
separate identity as a means of adding interest or meaning to the composition. A montage is sequenced to condense space, time and information.

These elements act as memory fragments/ subconscious fragments, suggesting the fragmented nature in which trauma becomes lodged in the psyche. The process used to create these paintings is a personal attempt to navigate trauma. These original body of work from 2013 were cut-up, montaged and recontextualized as an act of meaning making and healing. The original repression of trauma and loss are by these means unearthed and remembered through the act of the creative process. Representing trauma by means of grotesque figuration and the collaging and painting process is an attempt, to express and bring attention to, the chaos childhood abuse causes in the body and mind of a child and as a vehicle to process my own childhood trauma.

Thelma was born in Pretoria, South Africa in 1969. She has studied and travelled extensively. She always had an interest in art, but did not pursue it as a career until 2004. She has a B.A Honours degree in Physical education and Psychology. In 2004 she decided to study art full time and received her B.Tech degree in Fine Arts at Tshwane University of Technology in 2007.

She completed a further Hounours degree in Fine arts at the University of Pretoria in 2013 and completed her Masters of Arts degree at the University of Pretoria titled, Uneasy bodies, femininity and death: Representing the female corpse in fashion photography and selected contemporary artworks.

Since graduating, she has participated in five solo exhibitions and numerous group exhibitions throughout South Africa. Her work has featured in prestigious competitions such as Sasol New Signatures, Thami Mnyele Fine Arts awards and the Sanlam Vuleka Arts competition.
Solo Exhibitions:

The haunting of the never recovered pieces, Longstreet Art Lovers, Pretoria

The allure of the unruly. Black Box exhibition, Pretoria Arts Association.

Surface Allure/ Concealed decay, Art Lovers, Pretoria

Uneasy Bodies: Femininity and death. St Lorient fashion and Art gallery, Pretoria.
Shut up and be still: MFA final exhibition, Van Wouw House, University of Pretoria,
“Poetic Death”, Exhibition of paintings: Art Lovers gallery, Pretoria.

“Fragments of unbecoming”, Exhibition of paintings, Art Lovers, Pretoria.

“Seductress in distress”, Kunsthouse, Cape Town,
“Masquerade”, Exhibition of digital works: Rust-en-Vrede Gallery, Cape Town
December 2008-March 2009:
Layers of Illusion. Exhibition of digital works and paintings: MAP (Modern Art Projects) Gallery in Graskop, Mpumulanga, South-Africa.

Selected Group Exhibitions:

Vulnerables, Johann van Heerden Gallery, Pretoria.

Remembrances, Art Lovers, Pretoria
Awesome Women’s Exhibition, Pretoria Arts Association

Artist book exhibition, Trent Gallery, Pretoria.
1969 group exhibition, Trent gallery, Pretoria, Curated by Thelma van Rensburg.
The female nude by female artists, Trent gallery, Pretoria.

The Art of Humanity at The Pratt Institute-Pratt Institute The Rubelle and Norman Schfler Gallery May 23 - May 28 2016

Loose Affairs-Opening exhibition of Transart’s 2015 Summer Residency SOMOS PROJECT SPACE, Berlin.
Transart Summer residency at Uferstudios, Group exhibition, Berlin, Germany,
Map of the new art, Imago Mundi- Luciano Benetton collection, Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore, Venezia.
Thami Mnjele Fine Art Awards exhibition, Kempton Park. South Africa.
MAP OF THE NEW ART, Imago Mundi. Fondazione Giorgio Cini Sep 1 - Nov 1 2015. Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice

Jan Cilliers group exhibition in collaboration with Art Space Gallery, Johannesburg. Curator: Teresa Lizamore.
Exhibition of finalist in the; For the love of arts competition, Art Lovers gallery, Pretoria
Transforming the negative into positive through art, Trent gallery, Pretoria. Curator: Anna Liebenberg.
Art Alive annual exhibition, Waterkloof House Preparatory School, Pretoria. Curator: Karen Marais.
Erotica Exhibition, Art Lovers gallery, Pretoria.
Salon 1, Melville, Johannesburg. Curated by Andrea Rolfes and Ann-Marie Tully.
Imago Mundi: The Art of Humanity – Treviso, Casa Dei Carraresi Jul 9 - Aug 3 2014
“Fragments of unbecoming”, Solo exhibition, Art Lovers gallery, Pretoria. Curator: Thelma van Rensburg.
Thami Mnjele Fine Art Awards exhibition, Kempton Park, Finalist
Imago Mundi: The Art of Humanity – Rome Museo Carlo Bilotti - Aranciera di Villa Borghese Nov 20, 2014 - Jan 11, 2015.

Jan Cilliers group exhibition in collaboration with Art Space Gallery, Johannesburg. Curator: Teresa Lizamore.
Exhibition of finalist in the For the love of arts competition, Art Lovers gallery, Pretoria
Fried Contemporary Gallery, Affordable Art fair, Pretoria. Curator: Elfrieda Dreyer.
Invited to participate in the Benetton Art project, Small Canvas Project to be accessioned into the Luciano Benetton Collection, which will be shown nationally, and internationally at three venues, including the Venice Biennale of 2015.
Modern Miniatures exhibition through Art Events, at Art Gallery, Nelson Mandela bay, Thereafter to the National Arts Festival in Trinity Hall 2013.
Transforming the negative into positive through art, Trent gallery, Pretoria. Curator: Anna Liebenberg.
Art Alive annual exhibition, Waterkloof House Preparatory School, Pretoria. Curator: Karen Marais.
Turbine Hall Art Fair, at Turbine Hall, Johannesburg in collaboration with Art Space, now Lizamore and Associates. Curator: Teresa Lizamore.
Fashion and Surrealism, St Lorient Fashion and Art gallery, Pretoria.

MAP (Modern Art Projects), Retrospective, U.J gallery, Johannesburg University. Curated by Abrie Fourie.

Which new trends or South African artists do you find inspiring at the moment?
The work of Penny Siopis and Marlene Dumas has specific relevance to my own artistic endeavours and theoretical enquiry. Similar to my work they use liquid mediums to probe and push the boundaries of their female subjects. In accordance to their work my work is aimed at the questioning of female representation, femininity and notions of beauty and ugliness in western culture and the media.
Which South African deceased artist do you most admire and why?
Judith Mason’s paintings, drawings and installations just blows my mind.  She was just so ahead of her time and her work can be compared to Francis Bacon’s fleshy, grotesque figures which harnesses our deepest, darkest emotions and embodies primal human urges, like desire and release, and timeless sensations, such as heartbreak and horror. Judith Mason (1938 - 2016) was a painter and graphic artist of symbolic and mythological landscapes, figures and portraits. Mason worked primarily in oils and pencil but also incorporated various graphic media and found objects in her work as well as having made a number of artists' books.
If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?

Diane Victor’s etching “Straight Dress”

How did you get started? Did you always want to be an artist?
Since I was a child I loved to make things such as little drawers from match boxes for my barbie dolls.  In primary school art was my favourite subject and I loved making props for drama projects.  Unfortunately I ended up in a school with no art subjects and never got the chance to explore my creativity.  It was only at the age of 34 and after many years of longing to study art that I finally enrolled at Tshwane University of technology for a Fine Arts degree.

What are some of the key themes you explore in your work?
My creative enquiry has focused on exploring meaning by using fluid, changeable materials and techniques such as ink and watercolour. I have aimed to create work which questions the representation of woman in the media not only as related to beauty but also the pacification and infantilization of woman in advertising and popular culture which hint at male on female violence. In addition I also like to focus on the body as changeable and decaying in contrast to what we see in representations of female bodies in the media.

What should people know about your art that they can’t tell from looking at it?
I really love pushing the boundaries of watercolour sometimes to the point of destruction.  Many works are discarded because of my process. I have learned not to get to attached to a work in order to get to that knife edge perfection.

Tell us more about your creative process.
I specifically selected the mediums of ink and watercolour because when applied and manipulated with water and gesture, they are responsive and expressive. This allows the visual form of the female body in my work to be rendered unpredictable and open-ended. I love the element of surprise and accident and always allow these elements free reign.  As Penny Siopis states: “The border between form and formlessness is uncertain: where anything might emerge, a patient suspension of disbelief is required in order to let images come into being and visibility.”
What drives you as an artist?
My love for experimentation and materials, becoming the alchemist, creating a language that sometimes only I understand.  Images speak in thousands of words that cannot be grasped by the left brain, it is pure magic and intuition. That is where I like to dwell. Judith Mason also regarded “making artworks as akin to alchemy. To use inert matter on an inert surface to convey real energy and presence seems to me a magical and privileged way of living out my days". Judith Mason, 2004.

Do you have a favourite or most meaningful work?
Yes, I created an editioned artist book with etchings that explored my childhood trauma growing up in an dysfunctional family system.

What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?
Completing my Master of arts degree at the University of Pretoria and being accepted as a PhD candidate at Plymouth university in the United Kingdom.

What are your aspirations for the future?
I am looking at creating much larger works and would love to have my biggest Solo yet.  I am working on it.