So how can we stop strangling sea turtles? Esmerelda paraphrases the ideas from EWT:
2017’s resolution is: “Do less.” I’m proud to say that we have been achieving that (as is obvious if you look at the number of blog updates this year).
But “less” isn’t “nothing. Willem is making a model for house that he envisions in Ballito; I am knitting a yellow pullover in the round from the ground up. We’re drinking lots of tea – hot and cold.
As a warm-up exercise, Willem made a model of Fran Silvestre’s Hotel Arcadia.
Two versions of it, because the scale was a trick to get right.
Van Dyke Print
The future of South African visual art is a selection of student work recently at the Arts Association. What I like about going to group exhibitions is that there is a better likelihood of seeing good art (i.e art that I liked) and The future of South African visual art is no exception. The works were technically well-executed and conceptually thorough. There was a big emphasis on process, using some interesting materials like rust and Van Dyke photographic printing. In a small subset of the work, process was all there was. I would like to discuss some of the works that went further, where process was in aid of the bigger concept.
These teacups are by far my favourite. They were accompanied by a large, detailed, realistic painting. We had to stop our two-year-old from touching, but I really wish we could. Oh to feel that dragon latex, and the hair. Eeck. The thought sends shivers down my spine! What a commentary about the legacy of Victorian proper manners that we still carry with us – at what cost are we so nice to each other?
This sculpture of a healthy individual’s torso is made from a damask linen tablecloth, a family heirloom. The artist is directly referencing their experiences as a nurse at a military hospital: first she violently tears her past apart, alluding to the original traumatic event. The scraps are lovingly stitched and glued again – women’s work, the stitching. Is it really the mother’s job to recreate the innocence of her son? Especially because the threat continues to loom, a grenade where the soldier’s logical function used to reside.
Alecia van Rooyen
Oil on Canvas
Alecia van Rooyen
Oil on Canvas
Through our hands we reach: to touch, to create. We stretch out beyond our minds to experience the world. These sensually painted surreal hands invite us to explore the imperfections of our physical forms.
Cara du Plessis
It was almost easy to walk past Cara du Plessis’s sculptural installation. On the day we visited, the water in the glass case had caused condensation, so one had to really get down and peer to see these illuminated feet. I wonder what happens in the different seasons, and I can’t help but wonder whether it was intentional on the artist’s part or whether it is just a happy accident, that this work changes with the weather.
Shweshwe cloth played a role in more than one artist’s work, but these silkscreen portraits by Goitseone Moerane are the most successful, questioning what it means to be a woman, a black woman, a Tswana woman. From the artist’s statement: “multiple layers of history with aspects of removing layers and adding back different layers which inspired me to create the series ‘Seego sa Metsi’ which is a Tswana reference to a woman being the drawer of water, the provider in the most basic forms.”
Charcoal on Paper
Charcoal on Paper
I was happy to read in the artist statement that the mangled proportions in these otherwise exquisitely executed charcoal works are deliberate. The artist is exploring their own psychology through images: giving their inner wild natures the wings to be free, letting intuition reign.
Soap on a rope! Each one is infused with a different smell to create a sensory delight.Lots of religious statements can be made here, but what struck me was the fact that there were so many of them, and that some had been used. Using soap degenerates the original form, eventually eroding it altogether, and just a piece of rope remains.
If this is the quality of work coming out of our art institutions, there is some exciting art-times lying ahead of us! I hope this exhibition becomes a yearly event.
Today is the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Annual Leap Day for Frogs. Happy day indeed! More info on the day can be found on the official website, here (if you press all the speaker buttons at once you’ll have an inkling of what our garden sounds like during spring nights, with the singular exception of the “Giant Bullfrog” announcement).
To commemorate, here is some frog art for your enjoyment.
Let’s start with this perfectly composed image:
I wish I could visit this establishment:
It’s an optical illusion (frogtical illusion, if you will indulge me). A beautiful statement about a specific fungus that is affecting frog populations.
Bronze and Chome
64 x 64 x 36 cm
Contemplating how, when we’re grounded and connected to the earth, maybe we’re not that different from frogs:
Frog Man – Sense of Conscience
A golden treasure:
94 x 132 cm
My mom had this book when I was a child, and this page in particular always stood out – I mean, check out that flying frog! It’s just ridiculous.
I dare you to look deep into these eyes and not care about frogs:
Hyla Aborea (Tree Frog from Suriname)
Brave one receives their reward:
When you lose your king:
This mom will make sure you get there. Kind of like The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.
Red-eyed Tree Frog Mom
And finally, a Watanabe reprise, the footprints serving as a reminder that frogs can only thrive where our chemical and industrial footprint is light:
I just received my water and electricity bill and was pleasantly surprised – a full R500 less than usual. Why am I surprised though? I’ve been working really hard at saving water. Although we’ve had lots of rain, to the point of flooding in many places, it hasn’t rained in our catchment areas which means the dams are pretty empty. (It depends who you listen to though – the CSIR report paints a less dire picture, and even says that all water restrictions in Ballito have been lifted).
We were able to install a Jojo tank, and it is now full. In the case of water cuts we’ll be able to flush the toilets. And that is really where the biggest saving has come in: I’ve been flushing the toilets with captured gray water. Because it’s been raining, the garden doesn’t need any attention, but the bucket in the shower is still there. I also collect water from my son’s bath.
It’s a terrible schlep, but at this point I really believe that this is the least I can do. There is apparently a system one can buy that catches the bath and shower run-off, and it’s not very expensive, and it might be more convenient but I haven’t investigated it much yet.
We’re in this drought, and it is highlighted by terrible flash floods. When people start complaining I’m quick to say “are you really surprised? The climate scientists have been predicting this for 40 years.” That shuts everyone up.
There’s nothing I can do about the weather. I feel it’s good citizenship to be as sparing with my water usage as I can. It’s really hard because I drive past lush gardens with green lawns as they are hosing down their driveway and it makes me so angry, but I can’t change their behaviour. I have to trust that there are enough of us doing the hard work to keep us out of trouble.
“What are you doing?” Willem asked me.
“I’m cutting pages out of the Little Prince Moleskine.”
He looked at me askew. “Why?” he asked with all the skepticism in the world.
“Because these pages are ugly.”
He gave it one look.
“Oh no. Yes, cut them out.”
I had gone through a Wreck this Journal exercise with this book. It also has some other images in, and those I will share later because they are not bad at all.
But these pages have to go. I currently have other plans for this book.
Hermes and Hestia – the snakes still need more green. But isn’t the contrast with the red Hestia flame lovely?
It basically comes down to “Plan ahead. Bring your own water and bags.”
The colours in this photo isn’t what the painting looks like at all. I don’t mind the photo, here it actually looks good. Willem says that it is because the colours are warmer, more feminine, and that’s why I like it more. But, this painting is meant to represent the masculine, and perhaps that’s why I’m struggling with it so much.
Suddenly decided to take a different tack on this one.
Life is too hectic. Out of control. Such a rush. I’m always late for everything. I burn the macaroni. There are maniacs on the road. Office politics. Actual politics!
You are now in the Gallery of Order.
Soothe your eyes for a moment.
Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow
Oil on Canvas
46 x 46 cm
Contemplate “exercises for the quiet eye“
6052 days + nights (8.29 years)
Contemplate the connections
Chaos and Connection
Vellum and insect pins
It’s possible to makes sense out of it, to find structure and meaning
1287 days (detail, side view)
Vellum and insect pins
60 x 18 x 3 inches
Bathe in natural rhythms, in structured gentle colour
acrylic on maple veneer
24 inches square
And indulge in a child-like creation of order
When you’re doing a knitted i-cord, and you actually want to wrap a piece of wire with it, it is possible to knit around the wire.
Two finished and one half way.
It’s not as difficult as it might sound.
In fact, some would argue that it’s easier to just knit around the wire than to try to weave it in afterwards.
But then I saw the patterns on Ravelry that are included in her book Knits for Kitties I wanted to die: they are too gorgeous.
I immediately went to online store and bought the book.
Yesterday the store emailed Willem to say that there had been a mixup and that the book would only be delivered in three weeks’ time. Aw.
But today I walked past the receptionist at work and she said there was a delivery for me. Yay!
The blurb states that the designs in Knits for Kitties are really quick. The blurb is not lying. I’ve already made one blue bumblebee.
Eat healthy food to save water. How does that work? Check out this pamphlet for more information.
A lick of colour makes the world of difference.
It didn’t come up in the photograph but there’s a tea candle in the bowl.
My painted bowl looks too wide but I guess it’s because of the cropping. I hope it’s because of the cropping? It doesn’t matter too much though, the curves that are off are more of a bummer and has to be fixed, and I have to decide what on earth to do with Hermes’s caduceus.
Ah, the joys of a work-in-progress.
Finally had an art class again. Yes, this is all the progress I made after three hours of painting.
The hand is … different. Was going for “better” but it’s not there yet.
And the bottom portion of the background is more blue.
I try to be very careful when adding elements in an artwork: Is this piece saying what I want it to say? Sometimes I’ll get an idea (“More birds! With stones being thrown at them!”) but is that visual image part of this specific work? Mind maps, as taught to me by Emma Willemse, is the tool I use to unpack whether an idea fits or not. The process tends to generate a lot of ideas.
Here’s a pretty pictorial example: I had an inkling that Artemis, the Greek goddess of the Hunt, was linked to frogs. Frogs? Really? I wanted to turn a group of trees in by backyard into an Artemis forest, but the edge of that space is occupied by a pond which is home to a gazzillion tadpoles (this was before the drought).
I started with a frog in the middle, and then mapped five associations with frogs.
On a new page I did the same with Artemis.
See? There is a link. Both are associated with the moon.
The official brief for Conceptual Mind Mapping is this: Start with the first step in the middle, then make five associations. Then take each of those associations and make three associations. Then see if the branches can be conceptually connected in any way. In this next example, I was working with the idea of “healing my mother’s spine”. I started with three items: Heal, Mother, and Spine – and unpacked each of them.
The items don’t have to be good, or 100% relevant, or “correct”. This process opens up the sluices for creativity to flow. Images usually appear as I’m working on the mind map, and I stop when I get confidence in an idea. The artwork for the “healing my mother’s spine” brief turned out completely different from what the mind map generated.
The Mind Map can be embellished. The “five” and “three” rules can be broken. There can be more than three levels, or fewer. The Mind Map doesn’t have to be a mind map at all.
Every time I sit down to paint, I am overcome with fear. What if I mess this up? It’s a battle that’s not getting any easier. I remind myself that even a full-time, renowned artist like J F C Clarke struggles with this fear. And the process! Oh my glob, it’s so painful. I chose my palette so very carefully and yet the Hestia panel looks so lurid.
And yet, this morning, with the winter sunshine spilling from the windows beside the panel, the bowl looks on fire.
My camera has been unable to capture this, but here’s my best effort – see how gentle it is? How alive the flame is? Gillian says “ephemeral” which is a word I have never had the opportunity to say out loud.
Because this panel represents Hestia there has to be a fire element. Hestia is the goddess of the hearth. In ancient Greece, homes were designed with this sacred heart right in the middle. Hestia, who has no story per say, is a presence in the heart of the home, a warm presence that turns the home into a sanctuary.
I also just wanted to share this: the Hermes panel as seen at the end of the hall. The Hestia panel hangs to the left of the glass door. It struck me one morning that Hermes is in more active conversation with Inanna than with Hestia.
Gillian had taken a much needed break during May, but art classes are back in full swing again and finally I’ve been able to work on my diptych. Last week I added more textures to the Hermes background, and although I like the textures themselves, I’m unhappy with the colours. Last night I had my mind maps* open and I started exploring. The basic thing I wanted to resolve was whether to make the Hermes background darker or lighter. But the theme of the snakes and the Caduceus kept on coming up.
I like the visual interest that the snakes give, that it’s not just a vertical anymore.
And yes, I still need to resolve what I’m going to do in the background. Lighter? Darker? And should I make it more mountainous and icy?
*I just realised that I’ve never spoken about how I use mind maps before. I’ll dig for a few examples and do an in-depth post. It’s a technique that Emma Willemse taught during her Advanced Art Classes when she was still based in Johannesburg, and I’ve found it useful to see whether a vague idea that I might have is relevant to what I want the artwork to be about.
From the Endangered Wildlife Trust:
Winter may be creeping up on us, but we have new life to celebrate at the Endangered Wildlife Trust!
With winter creeping up on us, I find myself worrying once again about the Wild Dog population in our country. This is the time when they are most vulnerable to falling victim to the lethal methods used by some farmers to protect newly-born young livestock. The last free-roaming group of Wild Dogs in the Waterberg is particularly vulnerable as they often venture onto privately-owned land. We simply cannot afford to lose more of these beautiful animals, with fewer than 500 individuals left in the wild in South Africa.
Fortunately, at the EWT, we have an answer to this problem. A few days ago 3 brand new puppies came into the world. Right now their lives consist of playing with their brothers and sisters, cuddling up to their mom and generally not having a care in the world. But in a few months’ time, they will take on a huge responsibility.
These little heroes are Anatolian Shepherd dogs. These are among the oldest breed of working dogs in the world. As soon as these puppies are old enough, they will start living with flocks of sheep or other livestock. They will grow up with a strong attachment to ‘their’ livestock and their presence will be a deterrent for free-roaming predators like Caracals, Leopards, Black-backed Jackal, Brown Hyena and more importantly, Wild Dogs. If a carnivore is in the vicinity of the flock, the Anatolian will herd their ‘family of sheep’ away from danger and bark to scare the carnivore away, with huge success. This means that when a farmer has an Anatolian with their flock, they don’t have to use lethal means to keep their livestock safe. It’s a win-win for everybody.
But we need your help to get these pups. Each pup costs R5000 to source and buy from a specialised breeder. On top of that, these pups need inoculations, collars, microchips and regular trips to the vet to make sure they stay healthy and happy. If each of you could donate R300 before June, we will be able to buy the new pups, care for them, and link them up with their farmers before the winter sets in.
If you are able to help us with our Anatolian Livestock Guarding Project, so that together we can save the lives of Wild Dogs this winter, please make a deposit into our bank account, using the reference “Anatolian”,
Endangered Wildlife Trust
First National Bank, Rosebank
Acc. No. 50371564219
Branch Code. 25 33 05
We thank you for your support,
CEO The Endangered Wildlife Trust
The brief behind the Vein of Gold collage is to take a short amount of time (30 minutes) and gather as many images that appeal to you from magazines, then after the time is up to collage them together in a meaningful way. The collage is a tool to find a theme, to find out what’s important.
But finding 30 minutes uninterrupted? With a one year old at home it was nigh impossible. So the images weren’t gathered in one sitting, but a few short (three minutes?) sessions. At some point he took a nap and it was long enough for me to glue everything together.
One thing I’ve noticed, from this and the previous collages I’ve made, is I have troubles with boundaries. I had put down a scroll-like paper for this collage, but you can see the flappy flag-like beach images sticking out the side, and the bottom. Why make a neat edge when you can just do whatever?
And also, see those beach images? I’m dreaming of a holiday.
What else does this collage tell me? I’m floundering. Where’s up? Where’s down? Where to go?
I love that when my husband shows our boy the collage, he immediately points to the Blue Footed Booby in the middle.
Willem is making three micro-studios for close-up and macro photography.
And I’m knitting another jersey for Adele. The pattern called for two back panels that fold over each other, but after I had knitted them I realised that I would rather make it one piece. The two flappies at the back reminds me too much of the hospital gown I had to wear when Finn was born.
It’s made with the same brand of wool as the Maybe Baby jersey. When we went to go buy it, the sales lady said it had been discontinued. Tragedy! So we bought everything she had. Expect a yellow pullover coming up next.
The problem with automatic techniques is that there is little control over what the outcome is going to look like.
Which, on one hand, is like “duh that’s why you use automatic techniques in the first place” but when I saw the results it was more like “no wait actually I knew exactly what I wanted it wasn’t this.”
Which is not to say I’m entirely unhappy with the result. Just surprised to find that I was disappointed by this round of painting/reducing with turps. Hestia’s panel was reduced with turps-soaked lace, it gave a much more subtle effect than what I was expecting. I think the difference was that when I first did this, on the Hermes panel, I had a thinner layer of paint. So that does seem to make a difference.
What do you call those plastic mesh things that they wrap papaya’s in? Anyway I dipped that in turpentine and then pressed it onto a very very thin layer of wet paint to get that background texture. But then I propped the painting up to take the picture and the turps ran away with me.
Squee! I’m loving it.
Taking my cues from the surrealists* to apply more chance techniques. When I work on this panel again next week, I’ll just make sure to turn it upside down because the flow in the Hermes panel needs to go up, not running down.
*and by “Surrealists” I mean “Remedios Varo” – just check out those background textures.
I told Gillian that last week I felt “why do I even bother” about this diptych. She exclaimed “No! You should have talked to me! I’m such a fan!”
And even Willem likes them.
I’ve been reflecting that in the art classes I’m finding it very hard to evaluate the other student’s work-in-progress pieces. Paintings go through so many phases and stages, and we don’t paint perfectly on layer one. It makes me wonder whether I should share my work-in-progress paintings.
It’s just that the process is so darn painful.
“The process, my love, savour the process – it’s all we really have.”
But I live in a product-oriented world and have a product-oriented mind. It’s hard to focus on the process alone.
To be fair, once I actually start applying my paint to these boards, and I smell the paint, and I see the colours, and I get in there with my fingers, then it’s easy. But unfortunately I can’t finish in one sitting. And it’s this in-between-sittings that I’m finding excruciating. Between lessons these panels are hanging in their final spots on the walls either side of the courtyard doors. The arm is the first thing I see when I open my bedroom door. So I’m confronted with this it’s-not-done-there’s-so-much-work-to-do every time I walk in my house.
Maybe I should store them somewhere else.
Maybe I think about these panels too much.
Gillian is loving it, but I’m not so sure. I can definitely see the difference between working from life (left) and working from an internet photo that is printed out so small and was low resolution to begin with (right).
This diptych is going to be painful, if this first attempt at a colour layer is any indication. In other news, because I don’t learn, I started to knit little Chibis as party favours to the kids coming to Finn’s birthday picnic in a week and a half.
Diptych oil on board. Starting with a very thin layer of Terre Verte to get down the shadow shapes. I had considered using Burnt Umber for the base layer, but I really like the idea of starting my painting with Green Earth. I used a big, broad brush and lots of turpentine, using a reduction technique to put the paint down and then pull out the highlights. I’m happy with this beginning.
Last night a fellow student asked about the “symbology” in the painting (he was making a joke, referencing something else, but I didn’t get it. He put on an accent and everything). I asked if he really wanted to know and proceeded to talk about this painting for about the entire lesson.
That’s what happens when you plan a painting for two years.
The concept has remained the same (Hestia/Hermes) but the execution has altered dramatically from 2014. Back then, this was going to be a mixed media piece, with the base layer being a collage of images I had drawn from the internet, the basic imagery being “moon” on the Hestia side and “sun” on the Hermes side.
Now it’s a pure painting of a bowl and an arm.
Except the bowl is more than a bowl and that arm is not just a static arm.
It’s a diptych with lots of dichotomy. It’s about female/male; down/up; spirit/soul; inside/outside; Hestia/Hermes.
Hestia is the Goddess of the Hearth, revered in the plum center of every single home. Hermes is the messenger, the only being able to move freely between Olympus, Earth and Hades.
Hermes’s symbols include snakes and winged feet/helmet, and I’m going to bring that into his side later (maybe as very stylised images superimposed onto the background). Hestia is the fire and her bowl is going to be lit up with a candle on the inside, but I want to paint it dark first and then light it up. I hope it works.
Willem had cut these boards for me at the end of 2013. It took two art lessons to prep them. And finally last night, I started. It took the whole lesson, but it’s worth the time it takes to do the drawings properly. I’ve learnt the hard way that “oh no I’ll fix it in the next layer of paint” only leads to agony. Start off well to end off well.
South Africa, and most of Southern Africa for that matter, is in the grip of a hellish drought.
And now they want to pollute the cleanest waterway we have?
I don’t even have the words.
Just. No. Just say no. Object.
Please add your name to the Action Campaign. There’s more info there on what the prospecting application by De Beers entails, and the devastating effect that would have.
I’m making progress with the tiny baby jersey that I cast on for a colleague. And one point I thought she might have had a miscarriage (we’re not close – I wasn’t even supposed to know that she was pregnant so it wasn’t like I could ask her about it) – but this week it’s visibly obvious that she’s not alone. She rubs her belly during meetings like only an expectant mother does. This pattern is knitted in the round, from the top down. I love the cable, but I modified it to make the fronts symmetrical.
We’ve been wanting to upgrade the light fixings in our open plan living room / dining room for years. We had this idea that Willem would make led strip boxes that he would then attach to the beams on the ceiling (similar in concept to what he did with the toy display boxes). The project never realised. And we were sitting in Grounded, admiring their decorating, and Willem got all fired up about installing hanging jam jar lamps.
And that’s what he’s busy with now. The industrial concept not only looks great, it means he doesn’t have to climb up into the ceiling.
There are going to be 12 lamps in total (six per room). Four are installed.
The bulbs used are the new Eurolux LED Clear Filament Globes. Low power (only 4W) and also has that vintage look that’s popular these days (the effect goes missing in my photos but check out the Eurolux site. These bulbs are much cheaper than the vintage types, and also they are not going to be as hot because they use less power.)
It took me more than a year to pick up the phone and make an appointment. My hair had become straggly and ugly, long on one side and patchy on the other (because, who knew, hair grows quicker on your dominant side).
Every time I saw myself in the mirror, I averted my eyes. I brushed my hair out in the dark, tied it up into a bun, left it alone.
But after a year of little sleep, of major upheavals, of not taking care of myself, it was time.
Afterwards, Charmaine said “Now, doesn’t that feel better? Soft and beautiful. You owe it to yourself to have your hair trimmed regularly.”
It wasn’t her fault that I had stopped having haircuts.
The memory of that awful morning the day before my sister’s wedding brings up a visceral response of hatred and bile in my gut.
I had just found out I was pregnant, but we weren’t telling anyone yet. I was bloated and scared, I had trouble sleeping. I was tired. I was excited – about the baby, and about the wedding.
And the hairdresser, in the name of “honesty,” insulted everything about me, from the state of my hair at the time (I had figured I needed to let it grow a bit so that she has something to work with) to my job (being an engineer is not the fashion. Who knew? Not the nerds I work with). My eyebrows (I guess it’s wrong to idolise Frida Kahlo), my clothing (comfortable for the heavy lifting we were doing in preparation for the Big Event), my not wanting hair in my eyes (she was literally trying to cover up my ugly face with my hair, and guess what? I don’t want to cover my face. I want to witness what’s around me).
Like I say, emotional.
I went for a follow-up haircut again yesterday. Charmaine was so gracious about me being late (I blame the baby, he didn’t sleep well the night before). She respects my wishes. She understands my half-explained instructions. She leaves comments about my eyebrows well alone.
And it feels so much better, to have had a haircut.
I had been sooooo excited when I saw this invite:
Look! A long format painting! I’m not the only crazy person to attempt this oddball shape!
I wrapped up the baby, bullied the husband into the car, and our little family went to attend the artist’s walkabout (the baby’s first. Momentous occasion).
Man, was I disappointed by the real thing:
Oil on Canvas
Okay, once I got over myself and actually looked, there were a number of things going for the exhibition. For starters, her themes are reinforced not only by the symbols she uses and how she uses them, but by all her painting techniques.
The Paradise Lost exhibition was about the sanitation of our suburban lives, and how we somehow long for wildness but refuse to give into that longing, rather manicuring our gardens to perfection in hopes that our lives will follow suit.
But something is amiss. There are snakes on our granny blankets.
And if you look closely, you can see that the grass was painted on a red underpainting: Juxtaposing danger (the snakes, red) with safety (the picnic blanket, grass, green). We think we are safe in our security villages, in our suburban perfection, but are we really? Is “safe” really what makes us happy and alive?
Ms Malherbe talked about cropping pictures from home magazines in close, to get a sense of claustrophobia, that repression that is so common in suburbia. While talking about this next picture, she mentioned that feeling of the undercurrent, something just below the surface. The painting was hung just below eye level, drawing my gaze unexpectedly down.
Oil on Canvas
Snakes featured in more than one painting, but there was this lone wild dog. Ms Malherbe talked about the wild dog as her animus. While reading Women Who Run With The Wolves many years ago, I asked myself if there isn’t a better image for me. We don’t have wolves here in South Africa. We have the Painted Dogs.
Oil on Canvas
The other person at the walkabout kept on asking about the painting technique. It was a little bit interesting to me, but Willem complained about it afterward, saying that knowing the technique didn’t really add value to the discussion of the paintings.
All in all, I felt that the works showed promise but were not quite there yet. I don’t know what there is, and I know my own work isn’t there. Paradise Lost was very close, though. Especially if you consider that I’m still thinking about these swimming pools and snakes months after seeing them.
The friend who inspired me to do the Artist’s Way way back when has a birthday on Friday. He has been keeping up with his Morning Pages, and creating poetry and children’s stories from snippets that stand out. To keep him inspired, he’s getting a book cover from felt, with an image of Erato, the Muse of Lyrical Poetry. Her aspects are the flute and the lyre, and Lyrical Poetry is the closest to my friend’s poetry that the Ancient Greek’s had (one description had it as “personal, moving poetry.”)
After cutting out the felt:
And after a whole day of hand-stitching:
In his Chris Oatley Artcast interview, Jason Brubaker mentions that he thinks about death a lot. He says it apologetically, like its a bad thing.
It’s not. If there’s one thing I learnt from Charlie Morley, it’s that “thinking about death is good for you.” Alain de Button agrees: when we recognise and remember our own mortality, the choices we make in our day-to-day living will be more conducive to happiness. I will do my meaningful work with more urgency. I will forgive the important people in my life quicker, and I’ll be slower to get angry with them in the first place. What’s the point of dallying? Our time together is too limited.
And so, without any further ado, may I present to you a Gallery of Memento Mori (Mortality Reminders)
Butterflies – Series “Memento Mori”
Vivera pigment inks on Arches paper
20 x 30 cm
Skull Study Abstracted
Oil on canvas
Frida Kahlo`s skull with vintage roses
The Anatomy of an Angel
1870 x 980 x 785 mm
These next ones are not as obvious as some of the other work, but then, the presence of death isn’t always obvious.
Something’s a Little Off
Canon 60d. Self portrait. Sparrow wings.
hand built porcelain, acrylic gel
14 ½ “x11“x7 ½ “
And finally, as an antidote: the cycles of nature creates life again from death.
Then,it returns slowly
main part : 137 cm in height (size variable)
Hello! So this is the final day of NaNoDaBlUpMo! 30 days of blog updates!
Did I win? Yes. 30 blog updates achieved. Level up!
Were all of the updates good… absolutely not. Some of them are a downright embarrassment.
I’m tempted to delete them from the site. Unpublish. Remove from the history.
But maybe they should stay. A public acknowledgement of achieving what I set out to achieve.
This brings me to the big problem I’ve got with this experiment: I did not allow time for editing.
Editing is crucial, you guys.
I also didn’t allow time to curate. Another essential. Because there’s a reason I’ve got heaps of unpublished posts. Not all of them are worth polishing.
Okay, I’ve decided to leave the posts up, but to add this:
The best thing about having a baby is experiencing everyday events and objects for the first time.
For example: Finn making his first painting!
I cooked up a batch of edible finger paint (1/2 cup flour and 1 cup water, cooked until thick, then thinned down – and cooled down – with water until a lekker consistency is reached. A generous dash of salt to make it keep longer apparently). A few (okay, a lot of) drops of food colouring and we are ready paint!
He ended up playing with the spoon most of the time, rather than the paint. Next time I’ll add sponges or things to dip into the paint for him to play with.
Also, that paint tastes delicious.
I read somewhere that it is a good idea to have rituals, especially around important cultural events like Christmas. Apparently it provides stability in a family. We decided that making our own wrapping paper would be one of our Christmas rituals.
I want to do a diptych in oils of Hestia and Hermes. In the middle of my house is an open courtyard that we’ve turned into a Zen-style garden. One half has white stones with herms (male), and the other half has dark gray stones with a bench and a wide-brimmed pot (female). The Hestia and Hermes paintings are going to hang either side of the glass door to the garden. The Hermes painting will be visible from down the main hallway, and the Hestia painting is around the corner next to the kitchen.
That’s the plan, anyway.
I have this little white bowl that I use as a candle holder. It was made by my mother and is my expression of Hestia. The only thing I know about my diptych is that this little bowl needs to feature in the Hestia panel.
As a starting point, I decided to draw it.
It’s actually a drawing from very long ago, I found while looking for my tax efiling password (I still haven’t found the password. Luckily the password hint I set up for myself was good enough. So that’s done). I posted it the other day, but I rather like it and decided to use it for the background on my phone. It required recompositioning, and here is the result:
For the first time in my life, I knitted a guage-checking swatch.
And suffice it to say, what I’m knitting and what the pattern calls for is two very disparate knits.
But, if my calculations are correct, the end result will be a jersey that will fit a very tall newborn. And all the newborns I’ve encountered (yes, both of them) have been too tall for the standard clothes. And this baby that I’m knitting for now has a very tall, slim mommy. I’m counting on genetics here a bit.
Working with baby wool is the best! I don’t know why they bother making other types. I know I’m not going to bother buying non-baby soft wool in the future. Not that I need to buy wool, ever. My stash is threatening to take over my cupboard completely.
Everyone’s watching the skies: is it going to rain?
And it did! Yay! It also hailed in some places (aw). But – rain!
This is not going to stop me from turning every drop from my tap three times over before letting it disappear down the drain again. (I’ve mentioned my water-saving endeavour before).
What I’ve done so far:
What more I can do:
Just to point out: these are all in addition to strategies already in place, like water hippos and only running the washing machine when it’s full full.
I dug into an old art journal. I really like some of the images in there.
I’m almost tempted to post a whole series of those pages.
But I’m not going to.
Because art making is hard enough as it is, and my art journal pages are the only safe spaces I’ve got for just playing and making a mess. Most of the pages are really bad. As in: ugly, horrible, hopelessly too revealing of my inner state of mind at the time, not fit for consumption.
But in the context of those pages, that’s 100% okay. In fact, that’s exactly what those pages are good for!
While looking for the Triple Goddess drawing in my art journal, I came upon these pages – my planning. Initially I wanted to play with the dual nature of Persephone – the Kore and the Queen – with the focus on the negative space between the two faces. But that idea got abandoned pretty quickly and I decided to rather update the ancient image of Ereshgikal.
The core of the drawing was as a wish-fulfilling aspiration for Amina Taylor: may she succeed in her goals of liberating women from the tyranny of her country’s ways, and may she do so with wisdom and compassion – the full power of the ancient Goddess.
In the grip of the worst drought South Africa has seen in 23 years, we managed to use almost double our usual amount of water during October.
It’s because we planted 11 new trees, and we’re really trying our best to get some vegetables growing.
But it’s a crying shame and I am terribly embarrassed about it.
Next month will be better.
For a start, I’m putting an empty bucket down in the shower. I was surprised how quickly it filled up! I thought it would last for two showers but it was 4/5 full by the time the water was heated. This bucket will be used to water the trees.
I’m also turning off the tap while I’m not rinsing off so that my shower time is reduced.
This is a good start but I can be doing more. The thing is just that I want to have my cake and eat it, too. I want to save water but also have a thriving vegetable patch.
I’ll think of ways, I’m sure.
We could hardly believe our eyes: the clouds that had been gathering the whole of Friday, finally, finally fulfilled their promise.
I rushed out to drag some buckets into the rain. Who knows how long it’s going to be before we get another downpour. I also moved some of the pot plants to maximize this gift from the heavens. But something is amiss. The rain hasn’t gotten heavier yet. In fact, the droplets are fewer. I looked up.
This drought is getting real you guys.
So, I’m sitting down. I’m throwing words at a page. They are not forming sentences.
I’m doing the work. Where is the Muse?
I’m reminded of the poet Lara Kirsten. For a long time she posted poems about her inability to write poems.
Eventually she worked through it and began writing poetry about other things again.
The muse is in the shadows of the mind. Throw down your art making processes on your paper. The muse is there.
For a very long time I’ve had no pictures in my head. No stories to tell, and no time to tell them. It has been a source of worry: Yoram Kauffman says that “the ability to generate images and relate to them is a measure of mental health.”
No essays to write, no marks to make.
The good news is that sitting down and putting pen to paper begets creativity. The muse is in the perseverance.
I was scared that I would dry up during this National November Daily Blog Update Month. But so far I’ve had so many ideas that the possibility of a creative drought is unlikely.
Sitting down. Doing the work. The muse shows up.
When Creative Fisheries was first launched, Thursdays were Drabbles days. I would write a story of exactly 100 words. Every week. I didn’t have a buffer. It was a simple “oh yeah it’s Thursday let me write a story.” I’m rather proud of some of them, even if most were mediocre and a few were quite bad.
But where have they gone? I don’t even have vague ideas for stories any more.
“You should make pictures for colouring in.”
I’m trying to.
My biggest problem is that, because I don’t do colouring myself, I don’t really know what would make a good picture. I mean, I like the patterns I created here, they’re new for me, but will it colour in well?
I’ve tried colouring in another page that I drew myself but I don’t have the patience for it. Maybe that page was too finicky. I think this one would go quickly. I’m still busy with it though.
There’s a draft post saved about how, when one sits down to throw words or marks at a page, the inspiration arrives, one gets into the flow, and the result is art. But I’m scared to press “publish”. The inspiration arrived today, yes. What if the inspiration doesn’t arrive tomorrow?
This wanting to be an artist is so dang hard. Why do I put myself through it? Why can’t I be satisfied with working all day and watching TV with my family all night? Why do I have to engage in art making? And why am I so hung up on making good art?
It’s time for a new name.
Because this spring has not been warm. The winter was warm (most people’s tomatoes made it through. And all the mosquitoes).
Even the name “heat wave” can change.
Let’s try out “Global Broiling” and “Hellfire Wave”.
When I wake up at three in the morning drenched in sweat, and my trees droop, and the birds wait in the morning for me to switch on the sprinkler, the reality of climate change is no longer a question.
It’s getting real. “Woedend warm”* as my mom says.
I used to believe that the unisex toilets one sees on TV shows is a good idea.
But I’ve been sharing a toilet with men for the last three weeks.
It’s more than the “seat up or down” debate.
Dudes are disgusting.
I’d rather walk all the way down the hill to the girl’s bathroom. There, everything isn’t wet all the time. And we flush.
I guess the big difference is that men don’t have to touch anything other than themselves.
(This post makes me feel like a bad feminist. Maybe there is something other than gender at play here. IDK.)
Why is it that I always imagine that I’ll want to perform a heinous task tomorrow. I’ll have the energy… tomorrow. I’ll have the inspiration… tomorrow. I’ll have the guts… tomorrow.
Following through on a project is a real challenge for me. Ideas and plans, not an issue. And getting started is far too easy.
During the Awareness and Enrichment course I attended earlier this year, an attendee asked “Where can I get ideas?” I had to stop myself from laughing. For me it’s always been more like “How do I choose between the million images in my head?”
This year has been fraught with challenges- my infant son who was in ICU, then bringing him home, then starting work again, pets with dangerous bacterial infections and cancer. My life is spinning out of control. In an attempt to take control of something, I endeavored to finish the in-progress artworks that have been weighing on my mind. A drawing here, a sculpture there, a painting or two. Done and done.
It’s a feeling I’m not accustomed to. And it’s given rise to a new state: uninspired.
I have an idea for a diptych. I know the concept: Hermes and Hestia. But the exact images, colours and composition?
Good luck, the brave and dedicated souls who are going to be putting pen to paper and write a novel in November for NaNoWriMo.
Are you joining them? Heck, no.
I’ve come to realise that I don’t have a novel in me. I have stories, many of them, and paintings and paper dolls and knitted toys and many, many creative creations.
Just not a novel.
I do want to be a writer, though.
And what do writers do?
So therefore at Creative Fisheries I too will be writing during November.
National November Daily Blog Update Month – NaNoDaBlUpMo!
For a long time, I refused to get a smartphone. But I caved. This post is being typed on an app.
Years ago, before smartphones were being used by everyone and their grandmother, I untethered from Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Tumblr.
I just don’t have the personal discipline to manage social networks. I had two Facebook accounts, five Twitter handles, three Tumblr blogs – and they were eating up all my time. Reading the updates, posting my own. When I wasn’t online I was composing updates in my head. It was too much for me. Yes, the real mature adult is able to switch off. But I can’t.
So, I quit it all.
I actively rejected the idea of a smartphone. I see the people in restaurants, sitting across from each other, glued to their respective screens. I’d rather be with the people I’m with.
My father was in a Facebook argument where the other party made a point about the immorality of television. My dad replied: “Here we agree. I got rid of my TV.”
“But what of the children? What do they watch?”
To which my dad replied: “That’s where I got the idea from.” The argument regressed into the guy trying to convince my dad to get a television again. My mom piped in: “Rather than watching TV, I take long walks with my dog, read good books, and engage in titillating conversations with my husband.”
This is what I’m getting at. I’m scared of missing out on the moments with my friends, my husband, my son.
And yet, it is because of my son that I now have a smartphone. I have to work full time. The teacher at his school sends me photos.
And on this device, I can actually receive them.
500 x 334 px
My sister asked me: “Do you get a chance to do other things?”
My baby boy keeps me busy 100% of the time.
I take a quick break in the early afternoons to go to the gym, otherwise I would go absolutely stir crazy. I’ve also taken over the weekly grocery shopping trip, just to do something other than Taking Care of Baby.
We’re currently on holiday with my parents, who have taken over some of the playtimes. I’ve taken those few stolen hours to catch up with my sleep.
Sleep! Oh, how I took thee for granted.
These digital reproduction of a series of drawings by Edward Burne-Jones at the Harvard Art Museums do not do the originals justice. In each drawing, one of the angels is enlightened by God’s Creative Energy. Their eyes are luminous, their faces animated, the creative flow possessing them one by one.
Days of Creation
Watercolor, gouache, shell gold, and platinum paint on linen-covered panel prepared with zinc white ground
102.1 x 35.9 cm
(Click on the images for higher resolution – more detail).
Isn’t this what it’s like when the stars align, time stops, and we can just create? When the paint adheres to the paper in just the right way, when the colours work, when the light falling on our worktable is that quality of bright day moonlight? Ah, to reach these states every time we sit to work!
I love how, as the series progresses, the backgrounds become fuller too. As Creation progresses, there’s slowly a context building around the angels. The globes could have been artworks by themselves, and would have seemed contemporary.
The fourth panel is missing. I can’t help but speculate that while they were out of their original frame, the owner’s child “enhanced” the drawing with xer own crayon marks. Or someone spilt water on it. Or the cat chased a dove around the house, delivering the final blood-spattering blow on a priceless drawing.
Burne-Jones was such a master at rendering the human figure. Just look at those feet. Just look at those hands. I can’t look at this enough.
From the description in the museum:
“Oscar Wilde, who admired the series when it was on display in London in 1877, wrote that the fourth angel bore a ‘crystal glow[ing] like a heated opal.'”
Today we celebrate the work SANCCOB does to ensure the survival of the African Penguin and other seabirds in the wild. The dedicated people at SANCCOB identify, care for, and rehabilitate coastal birds that have succumbed to environmental degradation (and moulting. Moulting penguins are pretty useless and they need help. The people at SANCCOB provide that help).
The second celebration today is our wedding anniversary. We have been together for twelve years and married for nine. I love you, Pikkewyn, and I’m really happy we have created a real family together. You are a wonderful father and a great husband. Thank you.
The penguins for the baby’s mobile are now done. Next up: assembling then together.
Our son, Finn Visser, was born last Friday. It’s been a whirlwind time since then.
It’s prophetic on three counts.
1. My milk has come in so strong that it spurts out.
2. Finn is in ICU where he is being fed through a tube, but once a day we get the chance to nurse. The tube-feeding has made him forget how the breast milk thing works, and he ends up just crying and being frustrated.
3. When I look at myself naked in the mirror, the changes in my body after having just given birth is really profound. I look like an ancient fertility goddess. A more abundant version than in my journal page, and even more abundant than the image of Inanna I had in mind.
So the only points I got wrong were that I’m not slim, and my baby isn’t a frog.
Oh and my milk only makes my shirt wet, it doesn’t turn into the Milky Way.
Getting closer to done.
Yes, I’m unsure about painting yellow on yellow. But I think it looks good in the sidebar, and that’s what counts.
Animated gifs can become ridiculous in scope and execution. This piece below, which also falls under Street Art, is a good example (via engadget.com)
The Biggest GIF-ITI painting on the planet!
A commentator there admitted that he does not see the point of this work.
Why do we make art?
The Little Prince answers: It is useful because it is beautiful.
Isn’t that enough?
Alain de Botton would argue otherwise. Art is useful because it tells us something about ourselves. It guides us towards making changes to live a more meaningful life. It reminds us that time passes, that relationships are hard, that the divine should be revered.
Art is never pointless. I may not always like it, and I may not always get it, but art is never pointless.
It is the time we spend making our art that makes art so important. No artist goes out to just make a pretty picture. Even those that say they do are really doing more: they are making images as a solace for their own souls, and in making their images available to others, we might find solace too.
Yes. I’m arguing that Portchie and Vader Claerhout also made meaningful art. I don’t have to agree with their methods, nor do I have to like the result. But that does not mean their art is pointless.
No art is pointless.
If someone calls it art, it is art. If I walk between the stream and the weeping willow to bring tiny flowers to the nest I wove, and I want to call these actions art, even if it was never witnessed by anyone except the birds and the fish, then the time spent walking and gathering is not meaningless. And if someone wants to spend days planning and executing a series of graffiti paintings and photograph it by satellite, and xe calls it art, then the time spent was worthwhile.
Art is a worthy and noble pursuit. The transience of animated gifs reminds us that time is constantly passing. The gifs loops, reminding us that our psychological processes happen in cycles, that we end up again at the beginning.
This specific anigif talks about the profound absurdity of universal love: The joy the heart can feel; How far-reaching simple things can be.
Our train from Washington D.C. to Boston was scheduled to leave at 10. At night. We had to be out of the hotel room by 11. In the morning. Basically, we had an entire day to wander around. We had a list of record shops to visit; but that would take only a few hours. What to do with the rest of the time?
We had another list of monuments and museums. All the important ones (Air and Space Museum, the National Gallery, Arlington) had already been visited. Of the ones that were left, there were a handful that I wanted to go to – but not enough time for all. How do we choose which museum to visit?
One wasn’t open on Mondays. So that’s off the list. Another one turned out to be temporarily closed. Ka-pow.
We were on Google. We had a million tabs open. We had to choose.
And then I saw her.
A Botticelli Mary.
Madonna and Child (Madonna col Bambino),
also called Madonna of the Book (Madonna del Libro)
Tempera on Panel
58 x 39.6 cm
On special loan from Milan, for a limited time only as the centerpiece of the Picturing Mary exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, which is open on Mondays.
Picturing Mary is a beautifully curated exhibit; with a small interactive portion that explained the aspects of Mary that was focused on: Woman, Mother, Idea. Some of the symbolism overarching all the traditional portraits was discussed: donkeys, dogs, grapes, pomegranates, roses. The ways in which she is depicted: Heavenly and Human, a Flesh-and-Blood Woman and an Unattainable Goal. How artists interact with her, how she becomes a personal muse. How she is just a woman, just like me, gently taking on Motherhood with grace, knowing that her baby is destined for greatness, but also for incredible suffering.
I looked at these images. I reflect back on them now. The baby gestating within the vastness of my cramped uterus is nudging my ribs out of place. I don’t know his destiny. I can only dream. I can only hope to be a graceful and loving mother. I am shit scared about the journey ahead of me, and excited, and I wish he could stay inside me forever, and I wish he could be born now so I can meet him.
Mary is the Ideal Mother. But she was also just a woman. She is an archetype, one that I can embody.
I look at the sorrow, the gentleness, the ease with which she holds her baby. I feel soothed by these images. Mary is an archetype I can access. I can do this Motherhood thing.
Madonna and Child (Madonna col Bambino)
71 x 155″
Playing with textures on the inside of a (clean) takeaway box, I started off using beetroot to stain the cardboard, but ended up painting with acrylic over lace.
With the box folded up:
Okay, so now the question was: what happens on the outside? I painted two large pieces of canvas paper with oils – first a very thick layer of Terre Verte that I scratched into to make a striped texture to glaze over. The next step was to cut the canvas up into scales and stick it onto the outside of the box, which had been painted a bright red. I rather like how the canvases came out before they were cut:
Box with the scales: 3/4 view:
The dragon’s “face”:
From this angle you can see the white back of the canvas, which I am currently busy painting with a mixture of Alizarin Crimson and Indian Red. It’s a really messy process and the green sides of the scales end up getting a reddish glaze over them, and I’m loving the result.
This little box has been sitting in my art shelf for about a year now, but I hope to finish it this weekend. I recon there’s 2.5 hours of work left to paint, and then it’s a question of “is it finished?” I’m contemplating making it more earthy by giving it a layer of Burnt Umber or something similar, but I guess that’ll depend on how much I like the scales once all the white has been covered, and how important it is for the outside colours to be more cohesive (trust me to stick green scales on a red background).
What’s really nice about this box is how it feels to stroke the scales. Almost leathery.
Yeah so I posted my pregnancy self-portrait, and I posed the question “Is it possible to depict motherhood in a non-sentimental way?”
Yes it is.
Allow me to present to you, for your viewing pleasure, some Gustav Klimt works.
The Beethoven Frieze (detail)
Casein paint, Gold, Graphite
2.15 m x 34.1 m
Oil, gold, and platinum on canvas
110.5 x 110.5 cm
We saw the above painting during our December trip to New York, and let met tell you, the details blew me away. It has a lot to do with the birth/death link that is sometimes made – check out the skull on her belly. I wish there was a bigger image but according to Google this is it.
The next one is not obviously about pregnancy, but it seems appropriate in the bigger theme of Life.
Oil on Canvas
195 cm × 102 cm
Who knew Klimt could draw? (The Getty Center). I am in awe of his lines. I limited myself to adding in just this one:
Pregnant Woman and Man
Black Chalk on Paper
44.7 x 30.6 cm
I especially love how the “mistake” in the drawing reinforces the tenderness between this couple. Masterful.
It’s been a while: I painted another fish for the sidebar.
Yes, he’s looking the other way from the rest. But he’s the Scouting Fish! He gets to go against the stream.
And I hadn’t posted this one yet, this is from a while back though:
Last week there were a number of WordPress updates screaming for attention in the WordPress Dashboard, and I clicked on all the “Update everything yes please” buttons. I had made a backup of the databases but not the code installations – hey, I hadn’t touched code in months and besides it’s mainly plugins that updated and they wanted to add the Twenty Fifteen theme which I’m not even maybe using.
Updates … complete.
And a day later, the website she broke.
Don’t know how it happened, but it did.
See, the Archives and Newsletter pages gave cryptic notes instead of, you know, the actual pages. And every time I tried to log into the Dashboard I got “Warning: Cannot modify header information – headers already sent by…” messages.
So. Annoying. What’s the point of a blog if you can’t add posts?! Argh.
Luckily, this FAQ has an “Interpreting the Error Message” section. See, I was looking in the second file listed in the message, not the first one.
The first one, template-tags.php in my custom creative_fisheries_s theme directory, had some leading spaces before the opening <?php tag.
IDK. But I can write this post now so obviously I fixed the problem.
+1 php experience for website coding yes.
I had been looking forward to see Yves Klein’s Blue at the Guggenheim during our overseas visit in December. I had been talking about it so much that even Willem got excited about it.
It was not what I was expecting.
For a start, the museum’s permanent collection was not on display. Rather, they were showcasing a group of artists, Zero, whose mandate was to take the Artist out of Art-making, as a reaction to the post-war Expressionists. Yves Klein was one of the artists. On display was an installation of his blue pigment, scattered like moon rocks on the floor. We were able to lean over the barrier and bend forward, and it felt like one could drown in this blue, the colour stretching beyond the peripheral vision, all-encompassing. I found it an incredible experience. The idea is that the blue pigment is “fixed” by the purest fixative – not oil, not egg, not glue, but using gravity, a natural force that the other fixatives actually try to subvert when we hang our paintings on walls.
Dry pigment in synthetic resin on canvas, mounted on board
92.1 x 71.8 cm
But this was not the most awe-inspiring work we saw at the Guggenheim.
See, one of our most accomplished local artists, Diane Victor, had perfected a technique known as smoke drawings. She draws portraits of missing children, using soot from a candle flame without scorching or burning the paper. The missing children become ephemeral ghosts in these haunting images – and when you are confronted with a wall packed with these staring faces, you can’t help wondering what happened to these children, where these bodies are now after being raped and abandoned?
Soot on Paper
And we always marvel at this – mark making with smoke! Genius.
Soot on Paper
70 × 53.5 cm
So I was surprised to see that it was Otto Peine who first made marks with smoke, followed by other members of Zero. Ms Victor took the concept to the next level and perfected the technique.
But the first experiments with this occurred in the 1960s.
Oil and soot on canvas
150 × 200 cm
And Yves Klein created this next image by pressing wet women against the fibreboard before attacking it with a flamethrower (the same weapon they were using in the Vietnam War at the time). These ghost women pulled my eye even when I was on the other side of the ramp, and in a way, seeing them across the chasm of the Guggenheim museum was even more meaningful.
Charred laminated fibreboard
130.2 × 250.2 cm
C-Print Mounted to Dibond
76.2 × 58.4 cm
With the windows wide open, I listen to the water trickling over the two small waterfalls in the pond Willem built in the garden. “White noise is soothing to listen to,” says the Baby Sense book, but I’m convinced it’s not just the whiteness that is so comforting. It’s the wateriness of the noise too.
I’ve often wondered about this affection for water that is universal amongst humans. Is it because of the life-nourishment necessity of fresh water? Then why is it so comforting to look at the ocean? Is it a deep-celled memory of time in our mother’s womb, sustained in a deep pressure hug by her amniotic fluid? Is it the mitochondria in our cells that remember being their own entities, long ago, when life existed only in the primordial soup of a newly formed planet?
Whatever the reasons, contemplating water is such a delight, and what better way to celebrate than through art? I was alerted to this exhibition by an employee at artsy who is busy promoting Zaria Forman‘s work (I had featured a painting on the Gallery of Perspective). And are all the works in Waterways III not just incredibly beautiful?
Contemplating the artworks, I can’t help but be reminded of the plight in South Africa. We have enough fresh water only until 2025. The aquifers beneath the earth are not being replenished because the full water cycle has been disrupted by lawns and parking lots and chemically fertilised corn fields. We have droughts, then we have floods, all part of Climate Change. And within a few short years, we will not have fresh water.
We can look at the beauty of water, and be soothed by the sounds, keeping in mind not to waste, and to fix our leaky taps when we spot them.
I have a confession to make:
Posting the “art as therapy” galleries takes a lot of courage.
Charing Cross Bridge, Fog
Oil on Canvas
73.0 x 92.0 cm
You see, I have no art training.
Nor have I got any psychiatry training.
I’m just going with my gut here.
I love art.
Art as Therapy has given me a glimpse as to why I would risk my life to see a Carl Jeppe self-portrait: because the act of looking at art is a gateway into my own psyche. Art can provide solace where solace is needed, and provoke deeper inquiry where I have become complacent. Art can help me feel less lonely, and open me up to experiences I would not otherwise be privy to.
I took up the challenge that Mr. de Botton poses, to collect works for my viewing benefit. I do this on a whim, when I’m inspired, and like I said, without any formal training (call me an “outsider curator”, if you will). Sharing these here is nerve-wracking, because, well, what if I’m wrong?
You know who’s not wrong?
They have been collaborating with art galleries and curating specific exhibitions physically in the real world.
Like at the Rijksmuseum.
I’m going to continue sharing my own galleries because they’re fun to do. And if you think I’m wrong, well, that’s okay. Because they’re right for me, today. My gut tells me so.
Welcome, weary urban wanderer, to the Gallery of Abundance. If you feel worn down by the constant contemporary mantra of “Achieve! What you have is not enough! Work harder for more!” then you have come to the right place. In these halls, you will find images of Abundance, designed to remind you that you are enough. You have enough. Go outside, into the sunshine, where there is plenty. Even in desolate places, there is life. You are enough.
In fact, the very first art human beings made were in veneration of our ability to procreate, ensuring an abundance of children.
40 000 BCE
Cornucopia – the plenty of the harvest.
Allegory of Abundance
Chalk on Paper
Reaping from the overflow provided by the earth.
Wheat Field Behind Saint-Paul Hospital with a Reaper
Vincent van Gogh
Oil on canvas
59.5 x 72.5 cm.
Teeming with fish.
Digital Painting on Canvas
29.750 x 20.000 “
Millais reminds us to take for ourselves an abundance of rest.
John Everett Millais
Oil on Mahogany Wood
59.7 x 49.5 cm
Can we let our minds go free and dream abundantly, the only limits self-imposed?
Acrylic on Canvas
60 x 46 “
Celebrate the female body’s ability to provide.
74.3 x 52.1 x 39.4 cm
A skull usually represents death, but here, juxtaposed with a flower, hovering over the desert, it points to the indestructible life-force that will persist even in the most unlikely circumstances, the clouds in the background pregnant with the rain that we just know will transform the desert into a lush, green, teeming paradise.
Ram’s Head with Hollyhock
But these images of abundance come with a strict warning – although there is enough to go around, there is not more than that. There is not enough for un-whetted greed. Africa’s forests are burning, and the snow is visibly melting.
Kilimanjaro – Southern Glaciers, 1898
mixed media on canvas, with inkjet print taken from the earliest known photograph of the glaciers, and lines of poured ash from the ash cone of Kilimanjaro itself
230 x 140 cm
Perhaps, reminded of the abundance already around us, our greed may subside enough to prevent a total collapse.
Tempera on Wood
85.2 × 65 cm
At the age of sixteen, I fell in love with this portrait of Mary. It is a love that has gripped my heart ever since. My eyes tear up just thinking about it. The anticipation of seeing her again in December releases butterflies in my stomach.
Alain de Botton argues that we don’t know why we love the art what we love. I’m reminded of Prince Lir’s line in The Last Unicorn: “I love whom I love.” But maybe, in the case of this painting, a better explanation is warranted.
This woman is gentle, peaceful. The angel is holding symbols of abundance. Love surrounds this trio; they are comfortable with each other.
This painting is making a few promises:
In the computer-based, productivity-focused, always-striving-for-more-never-good-enough consumerist world I find myself immersed in, this painting promises that there is a lifestyle where it is good enough to just be myself. I constantly battle with money – there is never enough of it, and the more money I make the more I spend, leaving me with a lot of clutter and an empty bank account, a constant harassment of “not enough.”
The three figures in this painting are gazing lovingly at the grapes and the wheat. The baby is holding his hand up in blessing. This is good. This is wealth. This is simple.
This is enough.
Okay so that is dissecting Isabella’s Botticelli based on the symbols. Let’s look at the painting simply based on the way the Little Barrel has approached it: the love applied with each brush stroke is so apparent to me. Just the way the light falls on their faces, bright light to see by but not blinding, burning light. As if they are sitting in a cool room with a big window. The graceful hands look as if they could be emitting music.
If you’re unfamiliar with him, Caillebotte was truly excellent at giving the impression (cough) of sunlight — if you’re feeling seasonally unhappy, give his paintings a look.
And although it’s meant to be Yebo Summertime here, we’ve had rain… and rain… and rain. My plants love it, but I dislike getting wet every time I step out the door. And on the rare occasions when we don’t have rain, the sun is beaming with all the energy usually saved for the worst offenders in Hell.
So, for a reminder of soft, gentle sunlight, a selection of Caillebotte:
The Park Monceau
Oil on Canvas
Boating on the Yerres
Oil on Canvas
103.51 × 155.89 cm
Boulevard des Italiens
Oil on Canvas
65 x 54 cm
Although Caillebotte is famous for being an Impressionist collector and supporter, his many works are well worth perusing.
This painting was started as a technical exercise: painting patterned cloth.
(the skull was added to give the painting content, you know, to “put meaning into the work.”)
But it looks like the patterns were painted over the cloth, like they are a separate entity floating above it.
Enter glazing – using transparent pigments to work into the shadows.
The problem with glazing is that it’s easy to go too far. The glaze gives the shadows incredible depth (as I mentioned last week). I’ve been working slowly, painting and then wiping it off again, desperate not to overdo it.
There are one or two folds I’m still not happy with, but this painting is almost finished.
This phase of the work is so frustrating – almost, almost, almost there.
But not yet. Not quite.
Had art classes again on Tuesday, worked on the painting a bit – glazing into the shadows at the top there. For comparison, here’s the previous stage:
I think it’s much better now, there’s much more contrast in the skull, and amazing depth in the shadows. Still a lot of work to do though.
Art making comes in cycles for me. Sure, if I were more disciplined, I would spend the time every day making art regardless of my energy levels. But I’m not that kind of artist, and have made peace with that.
I’ve been playing a bit in my art journal, and there’s a general winding-down in my life that I’m taking as a preparation for motherhood, where my own goals and my personal pleasures will have to take a back seat for a few years. The plan is for me to still continue with art classes once a week, but everything non-baby is put on hiatus.
That’s not stopping me from looking at art, and I really resonated with these two artists recently.
When I first saw this image, I thought “what a beautiful example of gesture drawing.”
And The and Now
11 feet x 8 feet 5 inches x 7 feet 6 inches
Bull Drawing III
11 x 11 feet
But look closer.
That’s not a drawing, on the left there.
It’s a sculpture, larger than life. I find it frustrating when a work is labelled simply “mixed media” because choice of material is an important part of the conceptualisation of an artwork, and I feel like I have the right to know, to have these clues to inform me.
Hanging Deer II
Conté, pencil, charcoal, paper
78″ x 49″
Luckily, her work and the titles she’s given speak pretty loudly on their own. (To me, at least. I’m hearing messages about ethical eating, and considering that 1 November is World Compassion and Vegan Day, the awareness of what has to happen before I get to eat a hamburger has come at a good time. There’s also a component of primordial living, back in the days when we looked an animal in the eyes before killing it, and there are non-vegan groups who advocate this type of eating. What I like about the artwork is how she doesn’t actually give answers, just opens up the questions).
Her work also speaks about decay, and progress, which leads into our second artist today.
Wood, linen, rags, integrated lighting
5 x 5 x 4 meter
At a Georgia Papageorge walkabout a few years ago, we overheard a woman tell her teenaged children:
“There are two types of art: The kind of art that goes with your curtains, like I make, or this kind of art here, where the artist puts meaning into the work.”
mixed media over canvas over board
11 September 2001, 2002
230 x 150 cm
At the time we chuckled at the phrase – “putting meaning into the work” – but at least the woman was honest about her own artmaking.
On Saturday, I attended a disastrous walkabout. One of the reasons it was a disaster was because the artist could not infer meaning from her work beyond mark making and rendering objects that “made an impression” on her. No offense, lady, but a horse is not just a horse, and you don’t draw horses just because you happen to like horses. And playing with turpentine and ink is fun, yes, and although the work was beautiful maybe the objects you choose to draw has more meaning than just being objects that a famous artist had drawn too.
Maybe I’m too harsh in my criticism, though.
Maybe it’s just that she could not articulate the full meaning, due to lack of words, or because of shyness.
After all, visual artists choose visual images as their medium of expression for a reason.
The Sasol New Signatures exhibition is on until Sunday 19 October, and if you have not been able to go yet, well, you may be asking yourself “is it worth pickling all the way to the middle of Pretoria, risking having to walk across the stage of a political rally which may or may not be promoting mob violence*, just to see a few pictures?”
Well, I can’t answer that for you. But I can present to you my favourites from the exhibition, and maybe let you make up your own mind.
5. Elevating the everyday into art. Middle-class society tends to view the people who have to wear these helmets with disdain, but here their lives are celebrated. Not the mob-group-destroying-everything-in-protest-and-not-making-much-sense-when-we-think-about-what-they’re-doing lives, but the individual’s dreams and aspirations.
4. She stares at us with a sceptic look. But then she decides to trust us.
I adore the colours in this diptych.
Staring at this woman for long enough can help us ask questions about our own identity and place in the world. And maybe just implore us to be more trusting.
3. I’m still figuring out how this work relates to the title, and am finding it very frustrating that the image I can share is so small. The devil’s in the detail, here, especially the amazing textures of the lace on this board. It looks as if it was painted on polished semi-precious gemstones. Almost as if the lace works were excavated from the rock.
Robyn Therése Munnick
Mixed media on board
Six part: (6) 50 cm x 50 cm
2. A literal green thumb! This drawing is just exquisite. So fine and detailed. And then, the title, Offering, makes me want to go plant a thorn tree today, as an offering to the earth. The great thing about thorn trees is that their roots lock nitrogen into the ground, so the surrounding plants can have access to this vital nutrient and thrive. The other great thing about thorn trees is that their roots can go up to 60 meters into the earth, to gain access to the underground water reservoirs, and their leaves can grow and provide nourishment to wild grazing animals even when there is no rain, like we’re experiencing right now. So these are just amazing trees of themselves. Thorn trees in art always suggest a reference to Pierneef, so maybe this image is an offering to the art gods.
1. If I were a judge on the panel, this would be my vote for the winner. No contest. I swear, if it hadn’t sold already, I would have pawned my car to buy this.
In fact, there’s a part of me saying that if it weren’t for the heavily guarded front door, I would have tried to make off with it just then and there.
Alas, a moral sense kicked in. Ironically, because the work speaks about animal desires, and how even though we wear the skins of humans, these desires are still pretty much transparent.
And finally, as a special mention, this painting
leaves me feeling almost guilty. Because of the choice of using a recycled pulley to render this beautiful portrait, the sweet picture of a boy playing with rubbish is elevated to a message: aren’t we, the adults in this society, meant to be doing more to carry the children to greatness? Isn’t it our duty to educate and uplift, to try and prevent another generation from being locked in the cycle of poverty?
*although, to be fair, this past Saturday when I went there was the first time ever this had actually happened.
I have a desire to dig into the earth and make land art again. I’ve dabbled in it before, and even attended a whole weekend workshop on land art with Emma Willemse. There’s a part of me that wonders if this yearning is mainly because I’m not allowed to garden without gloves*, and last weekend I was trying, really I was, but I ended up throwing the flippen gloves away and I’ve still got a rash from wearing them. I think my gardening bout lasted all of five minutes.
Also, a few years ago, I made a labyrinth in my garden. I had these plans to plant lavender – I call it my laverinth (get it?). It is meant to be this amazing sweet smelling space to just walk about in, and stand still for a while. This space has so much potential. It leads me to wonder about the distinctions between land art and gardening, much in the same way there is a distinction between craft and illustration and art – when is it landscaped gardening and when is it art? I’m reminded of this article that talks about the importance of presence in making art.
Is that really all it takes?
*It has something to do with being pregnant and having cats that use “outside” as their toilet. I first thought it was bullshit but the doctor says that the baby can be born with serious brain defects.
Strijdom van der Merwe sums it up well on his website:
“as a land artist, he uses the materials provided by the chosen site
his sculptural forms take shape in relation to the landscape
iIt is a process of working with the natural world – using sand, water, wood and rocks
he shapes these elements into geometrical forms that participate with their environment, continually changing until final probable destruction
what remains is a photographic image…”
So, for your viewing pleasure, some photographs of land art that makes my heart skip a beat:
I discovered this great site meant for art teachers.
And I’m going to stop now because otherwise we might be here for the rest of the year.
Now that the tasks for the weddings are over, and there are no more intimate weddings on the horizon, I have some time for myself, for my own projects.
I have a long list of projects that I would like to complete.
But I need to gather energy into myself for that. I need some play. Just for me. The vehicle I’ve chosen for this is to art journal. The pages are for me, but I decided to share this one because I can.
Take a deep breath. You are here.
Whether you have a wide view
Soft Pastel on Paper
Oil on Canvas
You are here.
Images like these, painted with such presence that it is felt even across the boundaries of a computer monitor, remind us that Nature will always prevail, and make us question our own significance.
But on the other hand, the water plays an important role in soothing us. Water draws us in. We are made of water, and our bodies and minds long for a connection with water.
These paintings provide a balm for a busy mind: reminding us to attend to all that is around us, the details and the wider view. Both perspectives are important.
EDIT: I was asked to share this link about Zaria Forman, whose work is definitely worth checking out. Enjoy! Zaria Forman on Artsy
For most of us in the West, the Owl represents Wisdom and Knowledge. Owls are associated with smart people.
The Owl is the sacred symbol of Athena, the Greek Goddess of War and Wisdom.
However, if we go further back in history, we find that the owl is the symbol of the Underworld. An owl can successfully see and hunt in the darkest of nights, so of course will be our ally in the darkest portions of our psyche.
It’s the Owl’s ability to see far where the rest of us only see darkness that makes her Wise.
It is the Underworld Owl that Helen Martins worked with in her Owl House, and it is in this capacity that I’m using the owl in my drawing.
I bought a pair of earrings, which I love, but they illustrate the common misconceptions and unawareness about the importance of symbols in our lives.
Here we have, meshed together unceremoniously, two strong symbols for two aspects of the Feminine Psyche: Athena and Hera – the Owl and the Peacock.
The Owl: wisdom, traveller in the Underworld.
The Peacock: a heavenly bird associated with Mother Mary and the symbol of the Queen Goddess.
Heaven and Earth. The Warrior and the Wife.
Not exactly best of friends.
Another aspect of the drawing is the fact that the bird has outstretched wings. Wings signify flying, freedom, journeys, and can allude to Heaven.
So I’ve done it myself. Unceremoniously meshed Heaven and Hell together.
I’ve spoken about my hesitation to share works-in-progress before. I’m having so much anxiety and issues and hesitation about this piece, but I think it’s because I consider it a work of Capital-A-Art. When I look at the painting I’m busy with (I work on the painting when I just can’t handle this drawing any more) it’s just going so much easier. And it’s not just because the paint is so much more forgiving (a black mark on this paper stays forever, but paint can be covered again later) but because the painting is just a technical exercise. There’s not much more to it than meets the eye. This one, though, is meant to be An Artwork.
I’m not sure if it’s worth making Art.
Artmaking is supposed to be my relaxing, fun, what-I-want-to-do-with-my-time activity. I have enough stress at my day job, why on earth would I put such pressure on myself to make Art?