• Thelma van Rensburg

    Thelma van Rensburg
    • Artist Statement
      • In my current body of work, I seek to offer a feminist critique on the representation of women in the media, where the visual image enforces the partially biased construction of femininity. The focus is on the representation of women in contemporary fashion photography and visual texts, and specifically the way in which a link is constructed between femininity and death, for example in the artwork Ophelia of Millais and the writer, Edgar Allen Poe’s words: “the death of a beautiful women is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in world”

        I specifically work in the mediums of ink and watercolour because when applied and manipulated with water and gesture, they are responsive and expressive.
    • Biography
      • MA Fine Art (University of Pretoria)

        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.  She received her B.Tech/ Honnours 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 She 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 three 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.


        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, Pretoria.
        Poetic Death, an exhibition of paintings: Art Lovers gallery, Pretoria.

        Fragments of Unbecoming, an exhibition of paintings, Art Lovers, Pretoria.

        Pin-ups, an exhibition of paintings: Rust-en-Vrede gallery, Cape Town.

        Seductress in Distress, Kunsthouse, Cape Town,
        Masquerade,  an exhibition of digital works: Rust-en-Vrede Gallery, Cape Town
        Layers of Illusion, an exhibition of digital works and paintings: MAP (Modern Art Projects) Gallery in Graskop, Mpumulanga, South-Africa.

    • Interview
      • Which new trends or South African artists do you find inspiring at the moment?
        My main inspiration is the grotesque in art and feminist art in particular.  I am inspired by Marlene Dumas, Penny Siopis, Similar to their work, my creative enquiry has focused on exploring meaning by using fluid, changeable materials and techniques such as ink and watercolour.

        Which South African deceased artist do you most admire and why?
        Judith Mason because she depicted the female grotesque with brilliance and immense foresight.  She was also prolific in many mediums such as painting drawing and sculpture. 

        Which exhibition that you have visited made the greatest impact on you and why?
        Penny Siopis’s retrospective exhibition at UJ Gallery because it gave me the opportunity to see her physical works and truly immerse myself in her use of medium and subject matter.  I addressed her work in my Master’s thesis which I completed in 2016.  The opportunity to see these works therefore helped me immensely with the writing process.

        Where do you get your inspiration for your work?

        Popular media such as magazines and the internet.  I can spend hours searching for the right photograph to work with.

        Do you have any rituals or habits involving your art-making that you can tell us about?

        I have about 20 visual journals that I work in simultaneously.  I use these to pre-draw subjects that I find hard or just to play around in with paint, drawing and writing.  I also use them to rant and rave in when I feel stuck or unhappy.

        What do you like most about being an artist?
        That I can spend a lot of time on my own.  I also love playing around with mediums and are constantly searching for new mediums to work with.  My biggest treat is to search for art shops when I travel overseas looking for the exciting products.

        How do you handle bad days when you experience artist's block?

        I search for images on the internet or read Julia Cameron’s book, The artist way who deals with artist block.  Her insights and inspirational quotes are immensely valuable to any artist.

        What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?
        Completing my Master’s degree in Fine art at the University of Pretoria in 2016 and curating the exhibition for my Master’s.

        Do you feel that you want to make a difference to the world or in people's lives? If yes, how?

        Yes I do.  The aim with my work is to bring to people’s attention the atrocities women face in Western culture and the world at large.  Femicide in South Africa is the highest in the world as well as women killed by their intimate partners.  Apart from this there is also immense pressure geared toward women by popular media representations to fit in to the western ideal of beauty, which is young, slender and Caucasian and most often digitally enhanced to achieve such impossible standards.

        What are your plans for the coming year?
        For the coming year, I have applied for acceptance into the Doctorate program of the International School: Transart Institute. Transart calls themselves the “unschool art school,” and embodies the idea that participation in a vibrant and current graduate experience requires possibilities untethered to geography. They believe that education is not just a paper-chase and is most relevant, effective and powerful when vitally connected to projects and initiatives in the world—beyond the walls of the academy.