Grace Kotze is a Durban based artist who employs the traditional techniques of image, colour, composition and mark in her work to evoke an emotional response in the viewer.
Kotze produces surface planes of colour that seem to span infinity yet remain relatively flat. Working primarily as a painter, she also curates, teaches and sculpts. No matter what discipline she is engaged in, her concerns are with furthering her own and others understanding of the visual language of expression and image making in the fine art field.
We were very excited to chat to Grace about her latest body of work depicting birds and animals, sharing the pure beauty of nature in an inspiring and fun way.
See more of Grace's paintings and sculpture for sale on her online portfolio.
Hi Grace, tell us about your new work - what are you focusing on in these current paintings?
My new work draws inspiration from the great sentimental values we attach to animals, they inhabit our mythology, are present in design in almost every field, we pay to admire them in parks, study them, watch documentaries featuring them, and invite them to live in our homes. Wherever we look we pay homage to them.
How do you find the animals and furniture and what guides how they come together in your final design?
I am constantly looking out for animals and birds to paint, I sometimes discover them in parks, zoos, client’s exotic gardens and game reserves.
I don’t have access to the sort of objects that I am painting at the moment, but fortunately due to the generosity of many public galleries we have online open access to many wonderful images.
When looking for subjects I don’t have preconceptions, but when I find the right one it sits true. This sounds haphazard but there is a space in my creative being that when something rings true with my emotional state it just settles and it’s impossible to ignore. This is the same when pairing objects with animals, when it’s right it’s impossible to ignore. This process can take many hours of searching and pairing.
What does the process of painting these animals look like for you? Can you break down the steps you take in planning and painting them?
It can be a very lengthy process where I can take hundreds of photos and only end up using a few. I very occasionally have to outsource for animal images as I can’t always source the exact image. I hate this though as I love to witness them moving and interacting which gives me a direct and almost tactile experience. This aids the painting process and somehow speeds it up as part of the “getting to know” process has already happened.
I had no idea pheasants made such endearing little noises until I photographed them, they stole my heart which I am sure will lead to me painting them again.
From time to time we have peacocks in our area which I have helped to safety away from cars to their home at the nearby park. These and many experiences have drawn me to painting animals and birds and helped with their execution.
Once I have settled on the images I collage them together on my computer, square up the finished image and canvas. I never used to use this process but it speeds up getting the correct proportions and allows me to focus on the many other technical elements involved in executing an art work.
Although I spend many hours planning a composition it is not uncommon for me to change my mind in the process of painting where I alter the composition, add elements or scrap the painting all together.
This is important as a composition may look good on a computer screen but once translated into painting on a larger format it often appears very weak.
A very important thing about using multiple sourced images is to change shadows, tones, colours etc. to make sure the painting works cohesively. Each image is photographed under different light coming from varied angles and having different tones and colours. These all need to be adjusted otherwise the painting will look very artificial.
What do you want to achieve in your work?
In all my work I look for an element of emotion then find ways of highlighting them with colour, tone and composition. The animal pairs and groups explore the strong bonds that exist between them, often bridging species. I see this as a very precious element in nature.
The single birds display veneration, something all living creatures deserve where they should be treated with respect and preservation.
This respect is an emotion that is a strong undercurrent whenever I am painting a living creature.
Can you describe the perfect location where you would like to see your work displayed?
Ideally I would like my work in buildings where they can give pleasure. Working on the planning and execution of each work is such an organic progress that l would like the process to continue where viewers can form their own relationship and the living process continue.
Practically they shouldn’t hang in direct sunlight which can damage the paint and also cause glare on the painting obscuring details and colours.
Acrylic on canvas, 130 x 90cm
“Beyond Words” is a painting exploring the profundity of beauty and romance, two things that are often seen as frothy and overlooked. But in their purest form they generate wonderment and positive sentiment and should be revered and nurtured.
The pure beauty of nature should be respected and conserved, if this was the case our world would be in a much better state.
Romance is not just a feeling between people but an attitude to life, it’s one of seeing the little things that are often overlooked and enjoying the delight in living.
Deserving of a throne: Peacock and Deserving of a throne: Golden pheasant
Acrylic on canvas, 50 x 55cm each
These two paintings explore the pure beauty and perfection of birds and how they are so deserving of being adored. Every time I paint or photograph a bird I feel that it is a great privilege to do so. In pairing them with valuable antiques I hope that this will show.
See these and more paintings for sale by Grace Kotze on her online portfolio.