We visited Pascale Chandler in her home and studio, where she offers tuition in painting to artists in Durban. Pascale is regarded as an exceptional teacher, with a keen interest in exploring a wide range of mark making, never afraid to experiment with a process that might result in unlocking the magic of the paint. She has enjoyed a long association with the KZNSA and other institutions since 1997, serving as president of the KZNSA in 2006-2007, and as a regional ABSA Atelier Judge in 2006. Her work was featured on the Natal Biennale 1991, at Momentum Art in Pretoria 1993 and The Grahamstown Festival in 2015 and is a part of the Durban Art gallery collection.
Pascale’s work is created in conversation with her environment and her tactile sense of observation. Her paintings are layered with a complex attention to surface, environmental and spacial dimensions - the horse playing a central role - as she explores both the mythical and historical iconography of this subject. She often portrays the idea of an imaginary horse and an imaginary figure setting out on a solo journey of abundant fun - aiming to find an awkward, marionette-like quality.
Catch a glimpse of how she creates her paintings using oil paint, charcoal, cutouts and stencils in our short film:
We chatted to Pascale about her work, her teaching studio and what inspires her playful horse paintings…
SOTA: Thank you so much for chatting to us today and so warmly welcoming us into your studio! Firstly, what do you think is the most important thing people should know about the art you create?
PC: I think it is the process: it is not just what it takes to make an image but it is about the research and how one develops an idea and a subject matter. It is the process of falling in love - that’s what I label it as! I think the more intimate we become with a particular subject matter, the more it evolves and transforms into a new language. Everything I do is motivated by the non-obvious, the secretive, the hidden treasures. I think that adds magic and poetry to the mundanity and ordinariness of life.
I’ve found that working with paper is a wonderful way of simplifying and abstracting as it is about discovery and being that child again. I think the academic training of how to construct a painting is very important as one needs the basic training to fall in love with the medium. But you also have to take chances and accept what the medium does, continuing to - not only develop - but play and explore…
SOTA: Why are you interested in portraying horses? Do you enjoy horse riding yourself?
PC: We did have a horse called Moscow when I was growing up - a very old horse - and as a child I used to ride. I prefer painting animals and nature and plants as opposed to figures - it is an affinity I have with nature. My dad was a vet and I spent a lot of time with animals, so I feel far more earthbound and in touch with nature. Seeing it grow - the observation of that is a very a fulfilling and calming process.
Also, I never learnt to drive so I walk everywhere. When one walks, unlike in a car, you are aware - you look down, you pause. It’s a sensory thing. You pick up things, things that are discarded, things that have been left behind by people, and I really enjoy that. Public transport also allows me to connect with the community in a direct way so I feel more grounded and more rooted.
It is also seasonal. When things flower and observing the change of seasons has been a theme I have explored with the Fillies. Winter, spring, summer, autumn… I’m not too sure why, but I think it is quite a central motivation for me when constructing the horses. It is kind of like a time-lapse - they are very organic and playful. Durban is a very lush city and the colours are so bright and I’ve had a very neutral palette for a very long time so it was a way for me to explore colour again in a non-traditional way. Using paper cutouts and inserts has allowed me not only to be playful, but to create almost little maquettes that ignite a completely new sense of image-making.
SOTA: Lastly, tell us about your teaching studio here in Durban?
PC: I think it is important for artists to work in isolation but also to have a network. My teaching studio here has existed since 1986. It has grown and evolved over the years and now I find that the artists that have been with me, sometimes have refused to graduate! The value of that is about interacting with other artists, discussing ideas, creating a platform. It is about triggers - about the fact that in isolation we become a lot more introspective and we tend to go around in circles, so it is very nice to interface with other artists. I really love that I have provided this for the painters here for the past 30 years.