Which artists, books or music have inspired your work?
My inspiration comes from a wide range of artists and mediums, each sparking some interest or relevance in my own art practice. I admire the work, style, and process of the Scottish artist Joan Eardley (1921-1963), with a focus on a space or a theme that is never spent. Each time it is revisited, a different aspect speaks.
The work of printmaker Jemma Gunning from Bristol excites me. She works mainly in lithography and intaglio, recording the fading heritage of her area. Broken buildings and empty spaces that nature has repossessed. Her work is dark and loose, but at the same time precise and balanced. Some of it reminds me of the printmaking and charcoal work of Kentridge, the artist who drew me into printmaking in the first place and whose work keeps evolving and speaking. What interests me in other artists, is what they are thinking and how that translates into their body of work. I am also drawn by process and how that is evidenced in the final piece.
Which South African deceased artist do you most admire and why?
JH Pierneef is the artist who catches me every time. His technical range, subtlety of dirty natural colour, use of grey blues for shadow, skies that tower and tumble, his venture into cubism and certainly his translation of the landscapes into woodblock prints, are all things that keep me thinking. In relation to his relief printmaking work, his cutting style, flow, and evident cutting lines appeal to my love of process in the finished product.
If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?
I would have to go with William Kentridge. What he says is relevant to me, speaks to me, his thoughts interest me. His work stirs me. I’d go with something that I would love, one day, to be able to do myself, a very large-scale printmaking piece, probably “Reeds” or one of his untitled waterfall monotypes. Both mid 90’s, dark and highly contrasted, velvety lines, red thoughts, circles, scratches.
Pick three artists who you would be honored to exhibit with – and why
Willemien de Villiers – both her stitched work and her paintings and mark making, rhythmic and symbolic, are beautiful to me. World class. I am very excited that she agreed to exhibit in our planned group show next year.
Emma Willemse – her work is powerful, and her thoughts are evident in the body of work, seen as a whole. Intriguing, deep conceptual work. I would love to spend real time with her, talking through ideas and concepts, building up a body of work that talks for me. Exhibiting alongside her.
Karin Daymond – painter and printmaker from Mpumalanga, concentrating on landscapes and light, shadow. I admire her low contrast colour graduation, her understanding and evidencing of perspective and depth. That I miss the inland probably plays into this.
How did you get started? Did you always want to be an artist?
I have always made things and art. It was part of the way I grew up, the culture of my family and the place I spent my formative years. I never considered having a career in art as a young woman, partly because my time making art at school was controlled and hemmed in by rules that I didn’t enjoy. So, I followed what seemed the most appropriate course for a girl who had thoughts and wanted to make a difference: law. But at the same time, I never stopped making art, even when I was working in a large corporate. When I left that career after 14 years, my art seemed like a natural thing to pick up on, and I soon had paintings in galleries, finding myself producing work that was in demand, trying all the while to pull my way of thinking into the work.
Taking a year off gallery work to rebuild our home, and my subsequent move into printmaking, was the first big step in my art career as it allowed me to refocus on what I wanted to express. The next big step was my move to woodblock, an authentic medium that allows me to work to my strengths. Upping the scale all the while, and then once again bringing my painting background and approach to my printmaking work.
What are some of the key themes you explore in your work?
My work is mostly about the space I find myself in and my reaction to that. I use my art to connect to the place, eliminate other distractions, concentrate on aspects that draw my attention. I use my landscape work to tease out feelings in others, encouraging them to find a connection and value what they sometimes fail to notice. Another key theme that comes through in my stitched work, is a kind of personal journaling that allows me to lay onto the cloth, ideas or events, thoughts, worries that I have. This may be prompted by something that I notice as I go through my days, or something intimate, arising from my role as a mother and adult who talks a lot with younger adults and teenagers. I am interested in what they think, and this means that I feel concerned when they are not heard or supported or are misunderstood by the gate keepers. A recurring theme is things that other people don’t see. This prompts a lot of my amateur photography. To present layers of simultaneous time on one surface, is something that I keep circling back to, in my printmaking work.
What should people know about your art that they can’t tell from looking at it?
My work is all about how I feel and what I think. I’m looking to present that, in the form of art. My objective is to connect with people who find my ideas or sense of presence in a space, relevant to them. It brings them peace, or it resonates: Yes, they feel the same. Yes, they remember how it feels to be alone. Remember those yellow rocks at Kommetjie. Have you ever seen such a rich yellow? Or my art may be talking about this: Yes, I exist, and I want to shout out and I have had something to say, and nobody will listen. Here I am, trying to tell the people that I love, that I am gay. That I am a boy and I love another boy called Theo. That I am a girl and I want to be a boy or be someone that is neither. But the people who love me, don’t love me enough to listen. Maybe, that I am scared or frightened or have experienced an emotion that you shut out. Maybe, I have done something dangerous, and it exhilarated me. But I can’t tell you, so I scratch it into a wall.
These are the type of things that I want to express in my work. In that way, I act as a mediator, between a space and what has happened there, or a feeling, and the viewer of my art.
What are the most essential items in your studio and why?
Large areas to work on, walls to hang my work in progress and completed work, so that I can see it as I develop an idea. My printing press. Superb tools that I save up for and invest in. Cutting tools and brayers in particular; the latter custom made for the work that I am planning. The best paper that I can find for the work I’m doing. I always have something experimental on the go, and I can see that too. It may find its way into my work, or it may just facilitate a progression in my technique. I also like to see my work that is not fully developed, for example ghost prints of large monotype prints.
Tell us more about your creative process.
In terms of my physical process, I build up to a piece, sometimes tackling aspects in a different media and usually on a smaller scale. I experiment with process to find a way to lay the piece on the paper or cloth. Water colour sketches done plein air, are an important part of my process, as is taking photos and videos to remember details that I want to revisit. My work is done alone, as it allows me to concentrate. I think a lot and visualize processes and the sequence of making a piece. Its something that I learned in a corporate environment when I often worked in technically difficult situations. My stitch work is more intuitive, less planned, and I allow it to slowly develop without a preconceived idea of the outcome, only the thought I want to express. I tend to have periods of intense art making followed by time spent in consolidation, thought and planning. I work in series, revisiting a space or an idea until I have exhausted it. I will present my thinking in as large a format as I can manage in my studio, and then I will shrink it down to its essence and tell it again. Or vice versa. I think I do this to feel the edges of the idea. Sometimes I will circle around and tackle the same thought again, even years later.
Do you believe an artist should use their platform to influence society? Why?
I believe artists should tell their story, that art without a story is more of a decoration. Firstly, the artwork should be relevant to the artist and in this way, relevance is presented to the wider society and the viewer. Yes, artists should use their work to talk about things that are important to them. The message needn’t be overt or spelt out. But it should be the authentic thoughts of the artist. And in this way, voices are heard.
Do you have a favourite or most meaningful work?
My woodblocks are the pieces that I find myself most invested in. The process allows me the time to fully translate the feeling of how it was when I was in that space, onto the surface. But my stitched pieces are really the most personal. I can’t say that I have a favourite piece, but I am always happy when a piece is found to be meaningful and is invested in, as its my way of reaching people I don’t know and may not otherwise connect with.
What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?
In terms of achievements that are recognized by others, being a Top 10 Finalist in the StateoftheART Gallery Award in 2021, has been a highlight. This has been personally important as it affirmed my journey and art practice. It gave me access to different artists, working with a new team and ultimately access to a market that I didn’t have. Apart from that, the slow and steady progression I have made, though hard work and staying close to myself, and the many sales of my art through wonderful galleries and from my studio, is an achievement that I’m proud of and this is starting to facilitate relationships with people I like to work with.
What are your aspirations for the future?
I’m looking to grow my skills, reach out my thoughts, connect with more people and artists, develop my thinking through concepts and ideas that need time to take form. I’m looking to take part in interesting exhibitions, juxtapose my work with different styles and mediums, access different markets. Essentially, I’m looking to grow as an artist. Of course, selling my work is crucial to this development, as it funds my work and life, and it also forms the basis of an increased reach.