Thelma was born in Pretoria, South Africa in 1969. She has studied and travelled extensively. She always had an interest in art, but did not pursue it as a career until 2004. She has a B.A Honours degree in Physical education and Psychology. In 2004 she decided to study art full time and received her B.Tech degree in Fine Arts at Tshwane University of Technology in 2007.
She completed a further Hounours degree in Fine arts at the University of Pretoria in 2013 and completed her Masters of Arts degree at the University of Pretoria titled, Uneasy bodies, femininity and death: Representing the female corpse in fashion photography and selected contemporary artworks.
Since graduating, she has participated in five solo exhibitions and numerous group exhibitions throughout South Africa. Her work has featured in prestigious competitions such as Sasol New Signatures, Thami Mnyele Fine Arts awards and the Sanlam Vuleka Arts competition.
Which new trends or South African artists do you find inspiring at the moment?
The work of Penny Siopis and Marlene Dumas has specific relevance to my own artistic endeavours and theoretical enquiry. Similar to my work they use liquid mediums to probe and push the boundaries of their female subjects. In accordance to their work my work is aimed at the questioning of female representation, femininity and notions of beauty and ugliness in western culture and the media.
Which South African deceased artist do you most admire and why?
Judith Mason’s paintings, drawings and installations just blows my mind. She was just so ahead of her time and her work can be compared to Francis Bacon’s fleshy, grotesque figures which harnesses our deepest, darkest emotions and embodies primal human urges, like desire and release, and timeless sensations, such as heartbreak and horror. Judith Mason (1938 - 2016) was a painter and graphic artist of symbolic and mythological landscapes, figures and portraits. Mason worked primarily in oils and pencil but also incorporated various graphic media and found objects in her work as well as having made a number of artists' books.
If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?
Diane Victor’s etching “Straight Dress”
How did you get started? Did you always want to be an artist?
Since I was a child I loved to make things such as little drawers from match boxes for my barbie dolls. In primary school art was my favourite subject and I loved making props for drama projects. Unfortunately I ended up in a school with no art subjects and never got the chance to explore my creativity. It was only at the age of 34 and after many years of longing to study art that I finally enrolled at Tshwane University of technology for a Fine Arts degree.
What are some of the key themes you explore in your work?
My creative enquiry has focused on exploring meaning by using fluid, changeable materials and techniques such as ink and watercolour. I have aimed to create work which questions the representation of woman in the media not only as related to beauty but also the pacification and infantilization of woman in advertising and popular culture which hint at male on female violence. In addition I also like to focus on the body as changeable and decaying in contrast to what we see in representations of female bodies in the media.
What should people know about your art that they can’t tell from looking at it?
I really love pushing the boundaries of watercolour sometimes to the point of destruction. Many works are discarded because of my process. I have learned not to get to attached to a work in order to get to that knife edge perfection.
Tell us more about your creative process.
I specifically selected the mediums of ink and watercolour because when applied and manipulated with water and gesture, they are responsive and expressive. This allows the visual form of the female body in my work to be rendered unpredictable and open-ended. I love the element of surprise and accident and always allow these elements free reign. As Penny Siopis states: “The border between form and formlessness is uncertain: where anything might emerge, a patient suspension of disbelief is required in order to let images come into being and visibility.”
What drives you as an artist?
My love for experimentation and materials, becoming the alchemist, creating a language that sometimes only I understand. Images speak in thousands of words that cannot be grasped by the left brain, it is pure magic and intuition. That is where I like to dwell. Judith Mason also regarded “making artworks as akin to alchemy. To use inert matter on an inert surface to convey real energy and presence seems to me a magical and privileged way of living out my days". Judith Mason, 2004.
Do you have a favourite or most meaningful work?
Yes, I created an editioned artist book with etchings that explored my childhood trauma growing up in an dysfunctional family system.
What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?
Completing my Master of arts degree at the University of Pretoria and being accepted as a PhD candidate at Plymouth university in the United Kingdom.
What are your aspirations for the future?
I am looking at creating much larger works and would love to have my biggest Solo yet. I am working on it.