Which new trends or South African artists do you find inspiring at the moment?
The art world feels very vibrant to me – the variety and constant experimentation that is happening. I like the idea of working with different media, William Kentridge being an amazing example of this. To me, exploring new ideas and ways of expressing these is very evident in South African art. The variety of art that is available, for example, at art fairs, seems to reflect our very diverse country.
Which South African deceased artist do you most admire and why?
Ernest Mancoba for deciding not to do what was expected of him and being true to himself. I love the mark-making in his later works on paper, mostly titled “Untitled” and undated.
And I love Robert Hodgins for saying this: "Being an artist is about putting something into your subject matter that isn't inherently there. You are not at the mercy of your subject matter, it's the content, and what you put into it, what you do with it, what extract from it, and what you put it with, that is so exciting. If you are aware of this, then you begin to build on the content of your whole life.”
If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?
A painting by Joan Mitchell, from her “Trees” exhibition – probably Cypress (1975). There are so many art pieces that I love, that it is very hard to choose.
Pick three artists who you would be honored to exhibit with – and why
Banele Khosa: I have been taken by his work since I saw it at the Zeitz MOCAA. The colours, looseness and fluidity of his paintings really appeals to me. In particular, is work is sensitive and an authentic expression of himself. I was able to purchase a small digital print from him and it is was wonderful to interact with him – an open, friendly and gentle person.
Debbie Field: I have done art lessons with Deb over many years when living in Cape Town. She has become a close friend. I love her work, her sense of colour. She is an all-round brilliant person and artist.
Dianne Victor: It would be brilliant to exhibit with a well-established artist – and we have a common interest – horses. Her work on maps is particularly interesting to me. I love maps, having studied geography at university.
How did you get started? Did you always want to be an artist?
Art was not offered as a subject at the high school I attended. When our class was preparing the massive wall paintings for the Matric Dance, a friend’s brother (an artist) suggested I consider studying art. Although at the time I did not take this suggestion seriously, I have realized in retrospect that the urge to create has always been with me. I have always expressed my creativity in personal journals, school projects, cooking, designing my home and even in the layout of the reports for my environmental projects. I often thought about taking art classes and had a particular yearning to paint in watercolour. On mentioning this to my husband, he gave me a Christmas gift of a small water colour paper pad and some paints, which lay dormant for a few years. In 1996, I was lucky enough to find Jane Gray – an art teacher based in Hout Bay where I lived at the time. She was offering watercolour classes taught in a non-traditional way – just what I was seeking. Her emphasis was on working intuitively and in a way that would access and express one’s own individual creativity.
What are some of the key themes you explore in your work?
Humankind tends to take a cerebral approach to Nature and the environment in which we live. I have experienced this first hand in my work as an environmental scientist. Western culture, in particular, has tended to see nature as ‘other’ and to determine its value based on its usefulness to humanity. This commodification of and our disconnection from nature underpins the various environmental crises that humanity currently faces. I am particularly concerned with the connectedness between nature and humankind. Our emotional and physical wellbeing is strongly influenced by our relationship with the planet. I have been working with these themes since I started to paint. In recent years, I have been using the subject matter of water, a focus which grew out of experiencing the 2017 fires on the Garden Route, which started near where I live. Water is fire’s opposite. Water’s vitality reveals itself through its connection of the underground to the surface; of the trees to the sky; of clouds to the earth; of rivers to the sea. Our bodies are made up of mostly water - an absolute manifestation of our connection to nature.
What should people know about your art that they can’t tell from looking at it?
My preference is to engage with nature on an experiential level, which means that I lie under the trees gazing at the sky, I feel the leaves and bark of the trees, I stand in the rain, I attach painting implements to the branches of trees when the wind is blowing and I use branches, leaves and the rain as painting tools. I do all of this in my endeavor to feel and get as close to nature as I can. I also love to spend time in the bush, with wildlife and many of my paintings are inspired by these experiences.
Tell us more about your creative process.
My preference to is to use an abstract expressionist language in my work, as this enables me to capture my feelings, experiences and sense of nature. It also allows me to explore my familiarity with the scientific language of data, theories, mapping, limits and boundaries, coupled with the knowledge that in nature there remains much that is unknown and that cannot be explained purely on scientific grounds. Seeking to express these ideas and thoughts is a constant exploration using colour, texture and mark-making – these are central to my artistic language.
I usually work on several pieces at one often on different surfaces and of varying sizes. Some paintings happen quickly and others take years to evolve. I normally start a new work by placing paint on the surface in an intuitive manner. As the work develops, I move backwards and forwards between instinct and conscious assessment of what is on the surface. In a sense, this is a conversation between me and the painting – I often find that when I stand back from the painting and just be still – that the painting itself shows what should happen next. Sometimes – in fact – more often than not, there is a ‘grapple’ period, which is very much part of the process of resolving the painting.
Do you believe an artist should use their platform to influence society? Why?
Artists should aim to influence society. I think it is an advantage that art is a form of non-verbal communication. As it is a visual form of communication it can give expression to issues and questions facing humanity on an emotional, psychological and spiritual level without the limitation imposed by language or words. Throughout history, art has served to reflect the state of society and the world and to question and probe this. Art can be thought-provoking and raise questions in the mind of the viewer. This in itself can influence society and contribute to alternative ways of thinking.
Do you have a favourite or most meaningful work?
This is a very difficult question to answer as each painting has its own experience and meaning. I guess the answer is ‘no’ I don’t have a favourite – I have several favourites.
What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?
My greatest achievement is to have people experience a strong connection to my work – to feel drawn in by it the more they look at one of my paintings.
What are your aspirations for the future?
My aim is to produce art to which viewers can connect emotionally and that engenders a sense of wonder about Mother Earth. Most of all, my intention is to always be authentic in my art production and to be recognised accordingly. One of my key objectives is to gain a wider audience for my work.