Khayelitsha, outskirts of Cape Town
Gated Community, Higgovale, Cape Town
This work is an investigation into my relationship with my homeland, a lost past retrieved through memories, the privileges white people still have as apartheid persists, and the idiosyncrasies of the psychological effect of separateness. The diary I kept will be used as source material as I reconsider how politics and memory cast shadows on our lives. The disconnected bubble of white entitlement happens simultaneously with political and criminal violence, increasing the desire for gated communities. It is also a painterly enquiry as I explore new ideas and methods of working.
Thursday, 24 October 2018
First Exhibition, in our Studio Spaces
Khayelitsha, 2018 (left), Higgo Crescent, Higgovale, Cape Town, Gated Community (right)
Working with a photograph I had taken from the car in Khayelitsha of a black woman just passing (it was too dangerous to get out) I noticed the way she looked at me. I was white and out of place. My research is not about poverty voyeurism, although there are tours to these townships. Ian Calvert and I were on our way to see 18 Gangster Museum, a Red Bull Amaphiko project which addresses social issues directly in these impoverished communities.
I was also generously hosted by my friends Lee and Bruce Thomas, who live in an exclusive gated community at the foot of Table Mountain, in Higgo Crescent, Higgovale, the suburb where I too used to live.
I wanted to make work that addressed the relationship, despite job creation, of the difference in position between a black woman and a white woman in close personal proximity of this sometimes superficial relationship in white homes. I used Photoshop to create a negative image of the Black woman to make her an invisible ‘non-person’ as she travels between the opposite realities of rich and poor in her daily commute, almost unnoticed.
In my first tutorial I got the impression that Mark Fairnington did not think the idea of the two lives in one painting would work. I discussed my upbringing and close relationship with landscape in South Africa, and his response was, “Paint the paintings only you can paint.” Ever since, this has been a compass for my practice
White Guilt, 2018, Oil on canvas in first exhibition, Studio 4
The introduction of the figurative was difficult and life drawing helped my anatomical rustiness.
Life Drawing Class, October 2018
At the same time I was experimenting with duality in much smaller quick acrylic paintings. Here, showing my mother from a family archive in the 1950’s, using a women’s magazine illustration style popular at that time and happy in her perfect world, in contrast with the dark painting of my father’s car which was stolen, and found in a banana plantation 60 kilometres away. The sinister presence in the second painting is important as I began to think about implicit and explicit politics in paintings. The paintings inform each other and show how perfect white life has the threat of crime, car -jacking now, as its shadow, even then.
My Mother’s Privilege, 1950’s, 12 x 12 cm, Acrylic on MDF (left), Stolen, 1960’s, 12 x 12cm, Acrylic on MDF (right)
16 June 1976, Soweto Riot Day, and my 15th Birthday
This was a milestone in South African politics being the beginning of the dismantling of apartheid. What started as a peaceful protest by black students not wishing to study in Afrikaans, the language of the right wing government, became violent when police opened fire. The iconic image Sam Nzima took on this day of the shooting of 12 year-old Hector Pieterson, when approximately 566 students were killed, this photograph became the symbol of the uprising. Nzima was a photojournalist working for the black press, The World. He hid the spool in his sock, just before his camera was confiscated. The image went ‘viral’ and exposed the tyranny of the South African government. For many years he never owned his own copyright. He also never took another photograph. He was a hunted man. It is used widely, usually without permission. Nzima died a week before I could ask his permission. Instead I have permission from Sharyn Carroll, Project Coordinator SWOVA, Community Development & Research Society.
Soweto Riots 1976, death of Hektor Pieterson, photograph by Sam Nzima
I started to think about other iconic images and their power. Who owned them? I wanted to know the stories behind images like The Napalm Girl, which was instrumental in ending the Vietnam War. The real story behind this image is not the general perception, being that the US army was responsible.
Changing Sam Nzima’s image made me feel as if I were violating something sacred. I thought I might refer to the event in a title instead to give it its historical context. I looked at Luc Tyman’s treatment of the difficult subject of the Holocaust. There are many inhuman parallels between apartheid and the holocaust.
Hedges, Keeping Politics Out, Oil on Pressed Cotton Paper, 75 x 55 cm
25 October 2018
Conversation with Geraint Evans
“WRITE IT DOWN! EVERYTHING YOU JUST TOLD ME!”
I write in so many places. I stayed on in the canteen and wrote it all down, in one place, in one go. In here.
We discussed the use of iconic images and how politics can be both subtle and overt in art. Cornelia Parker’s Clouds are an example of how a title extends the understanding of her work because the images were taken with a Nazi leader’s camera.
Open Casket of Emmet Till by Dana Shutz was another political painting Geraint mentioned. The furore and subsequent protest it caused and the question whether she had the authority as a white woman to tell the story of a black boy who died from racial brutality, became a demonstration in itself.
A week before University started I went to a fascinating talk called Art and Lies by Ashraf Jamal, a renowned South African writer, teacher and art historian. He introduced new voices in contemporary South African art. Kate Gottgens’ work especially connected with her painting, Prescience, 2016. I researched her afterwards and found that her work is generally about the politics beneath the surface of her suburban paintings. This has informed decisions I made, including her use of the portent of gloomy green. Combined with the unexpected, this made me think differently about the way politics could be implicit in a painting, especially when the subject is the everyday. What became important to me was the treatment of the image as part of a narrative that was rooted in politics.
Birthday Picnic, 16 June 1976, Oil on linen, 130 x 180 cm
The subject of this painting is not only my birthday picnic, waiting under the trees at boarding school for my mother to bring my cake, it also includes the political unrest of the Soweto Riots which were happening at the same time. We were isolated from the news, and never knew. Information was State controlled through censorship. This is why the autobiography On My Watch, Behind The News, by ex-editor Harvey Tyson of the liberal press broadsheet The Star newspaper, revealed so much to me.
I considered the scale of the figures in an empty landscape. The treatment of the figures became quite difficult. I looked at Jules De Balincourt, BBQ Sur L’herbe, and used this painting as a reference alongside Manet’s Dejeuner Sur L’herbe.
What I still don’t know is how to refer to the iconic image; Part of the painting or part of the title?
Tuesday 13 November
Contextual essay assessment with Lois Rowe
The personal nature of my research in South Africa and the diary I kept was rich material to make work from. “This will create a new landscape.” Lois suggested the oil paintings on canvas in my studio space might not answer the questions I was asking about my post-apartheid relationship. The small, quick acrylic paintings of my mother and the deserted night track with my father’s stolen car started a conversation about my intention to create an installation of paintings. She mentioned South African artist Jonah Sack, who makes work on found surfaces, the audience is part of the installation. I like the idea of participation.
We discussed disrupting the format, clearing my work space and allowing the work to find itself through experimentation based on my diary, read Bell Hooks and look at Emily Jacir’s work.
Small works on 18 mm Board, Acrylic, 14 x 14 cm
- Garden shadows
- Madam and Maid
- Two faces of shame
- Drug child
Sihle Tshabalala, ex-gangster, founder of Quirky 30, explaining how long it would take to burgle my house. Cardboard, acrylic, Tippex 26 x 35 cm
I met ex- gangster Sihle Tshabalala in Langa Township on the outskirts of Cape Town. He survived a shooting and a stabbing in prison, where he said he learnt to think ‘outside of the box’ and had the idea to start a company teaching coding to disenfranchised youth. His business, Quirky 30, is sponsored by Red Bull’s philanthropic Amaphiko initiative and introduced to me by Ian Calvert. The treatment of this work reflects the shanty landscape and temporal nature of everything there. I was also scared, very white and an obvious target.
Biko, Acrylic on Paper, 51 x 41 cm
Steve Biko’s death was another watershed on 12 September 1977. He died in detention age 31 of ‘head wounds’. Circumstances were not unlike the Bader-Meinhof gang’s murders. He was a young man and a ‘visionary’. I knew nothing about him, other than that we were scared when he died in prison. The ‘white fear’ was that if Mandela died in jail as Biko had, ‘that he would become a martyr and a bloodbath would follow!’ History would have been very different. Negotiations didn’t start with Mandela until 10 years later. I didn’t know Biko had written a book, I write what I like. It was banned. The more I find out, the more I ashamed I become.
Tuesday, 21 November 2018
Group Crit in our spaces with Zoe Mendleson.
Having previously cleared the space, I put back the Birthday Picnic painting for the group crit.
The premise and the threat were identified in this painting alongside the safe psychological ‘cave’, the shade on the blackened grass. We discussed inclusion of the Soweto Riot image and again, subtle reference rather than direct inclusion seems to offer a less didactic approach.
Zoe thought it was psychologically very interesting that a major political event occurred, of which I knew nothing, and yet it affected my life significantly. She thought that my view as a absent witness was a strong position from which to make a painting and would lend itself to a series of work. It was also suggested that I use the Soweto Riot image as a negative image painting, as my life drawing example shows.
Life Drawing, Charcoal on Paper, 59 x 84 cm
Thursday, 23 November, 2018
Geraint Evans’ informal conversation about my work.
Vicarious Witness, 16 June 1976, Oil on Canvas, 130 x 180 cm
Geraint felt the meaning of this painting was not clear enough before I added more figures, exaggerated relaxed poses in new groups. False safety needed to be the blanket of this non-party picnic. I intended unease to sit just below the surface as Gottgens’ does. June is winter there. There are no sprinklers. No one is in the pool. The grass is brown.
It is a still, perfect world about to be shattered.
I watched David Lynch’s ‘Blue Velvet’ fake picket fence and stylised over saturated blue sky and red poppies in the suburban ‘American Dream’, with slow waving from the fire engine in the opening and closing sequences.
Hockney’s pool paintings were finally my last resort to exaggerate the watery materiality and tranquillity. I thought introducing pool stairs would also help to read this as a pool.
The title is important to situate the event. I was thinking Vicarious Witness, Soweto Riots,16 June 1976.
21 November 2018
Silkscreen experiments using Sam Nzima’s image of the Soweto Riots which was “bit-mapped” in Photoshop to emphasise the press source, and a painted screen was used in combination printed on a variety of paper.
6 December 2018
Tutorial with Geraint Evans
Conceptual juxtapositions combining politics and ‘White Utopia’ in collaged sketchbook experiments
Although the Vogue magazine photographic shoot I have used is about Indian culture, I think the vivid colour, exotic textiles, mixed with exaggerated poses and colour filters, all contribute to heady “temperature” of a fantasy world. Collage by its process is violent; tearing, cutting, pasting over and offers possibilities to integrate disparate images.
I worked at the Chelsea Art School Library on Dextor Dalwood and learned so much from how he situates an event within a cultural landscape, informed by styling pertinent to the date it happened. Martha Rosler’s work integrates black and white Vietnam War photographs into American living rooms. This work is a part of Chelsea’s archive collection.
31 December 2018
A sense of politics needs to be embedded in the everyday. I found some photographs of our white lives, “innocent and blond little bee-grubs drenched in honey”. I have edited them exaggerating the colour and will paint from them next. (Coetzee 1990 p17)
(Left) Children of Paradise, Canoe, 25 x 25 x 6 cm, acrylic on chalk ground
(Right) Children of Paradise, Birthday party, 14 x 14 x 6 cm acrylic on chalk ground
18 January, 2019
Work in progress
This painting deals directly with the intrusion of politics on white life behind high walls in gated communities. Earlier, the painting had an integrated energy I seem to have lost by painting the full figure on the left. I don’t need to tell the whole story, just say enough. The aggressive marks contrast with the fantasy areas of fine detail with fictional depictions of animals and a white lady in a trance. The artificial green background supports the idea that life in gated communities is fake. Spray paint and torn paper create crisp collage edges in the garden area, but this became heavy handed and I have since painted some of it out. Erasure of landscape is like wiping out memory.
Oil, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 80 x 80 cm
Wednesday, 23 January 2019
Exhibition Group Crit of Unit 1
I have been unhappy with the balance between politics and white escapism which we discussed at the group crit after our exhibition. The painting could be more intimate and inclusive of the viewer if the political aspect were more subtle.
Some ideas to develop:
- Create a glimpse of politics.
- Use actual photography now that I have permission to use Juhan Kuus’ apartheid images.
- Change the balance.
- Meaning needs to be clearer; that politics disrupts white life behind the walls of gated communities.
Politics Disrupts Utopia 1, acrylic, oil, and spray paint on canvas, 85 x 85 cm
The “wall” was spray painted using a stencil. I think it does exaggerate the idea of hidden lives disrupted by politics.
Tuesday, 29 January 2019
Assessment feedback tutorial with Geraint Evans
Satisfied that research of my subject is thoroughly documented in my on-line folio, and my essay, I now need to concentrate on painting with the same critical energy. Whilst deconstruction and experiment has opened up a whole range of opportunities, I agree I need to hone these options. I had also considered returning to use my diary as a primary source, and the idea of an “open diary” Geraint mentioned is exciting. I don’t know how yet but possibly using text itself. Personal experience combined perhaps with literature, politics, fauna and flora, could offer many new ways of making paintings, combined with reportage images embedded referencing artists like Adrian Ghenie and Justin Mortimer.
I appreciate the detailed feedback in all three assessments.
Tuesday, 12 February 2019
Conversation with Ash Pearson
Ash noticed I had not been in woodwork for a while and asked how things were going. I discussed my work with her, feeling unsure of direction, that oil on canvas may not be the best way forward. She suggested a big roll of Fabriano paper might help me work out issues of scale without huge investment in time and cost, setting daily short projects. We talked about site-specific work with the Scottish church painting of Alice Watts responding to a specific place where memorial, the ritual of prayer and painting as an installation.
I bought a big roll of Fabriano paper and decluttered my work space.
One of Geraint’s criticisms was that the figures were not well painted in Politics Disrupts Utopia 1. Encouraged to use a projector I set myself the task to paint this poolside cameo in a day.
Working on paper allowed mark making freedom and a direct connection with memory that was spontaneous. The process was not defined by making a complete painting but was about integrating politics and memory, anchoring this historically with Steve Biko’s death in 1977. Cutting Biko out in the graphic money-off coupon style used for retail in the 1970’s was an attempt to situate the work culturally and historically, as does the style of the bricks of the wall, and the floating pool chair, as Dextor Dalwood does so effectively in his collages which stylistically situate an event in a date.
This unfinished work has a quality I like where there are spaces of emptiness that gives some of the images space for reflection. However my intention was to paint the excessive chaos of turmoil in a place that is unreliable and unstable, a temporary expression of disappearing memories on a temporary surface.
‘I Write What I Like, Biko, 1977’, 1.5m x 2.0m, Acrylic, Oil crayon on Fabriano paper
Thursday 21 February, 2019
Group Crit with Alan Magee
The interest in my subject was seen as both personal and political South African life but also a reflection of a worldwide state of chaos in politics and identity, Brexit and Ireland, being current issues here. Alan talked about the public images, perhaps appropriated through the press, butting up directly with more fragile personal images. This large scale working on paper has an immediacy and impermanence that allows for the treatment of concept to be thoroughly explored, even if I mess it up. The duality of an external world and an internal world was understood and this is good as I am trying to give a voice to both sides of the dividing wall.
Crit with Mark Fairnington
Mark said he felt the subject was rich and exciting. I was 16 in 1977 so many of the references are about this period of my life, including Biko’s death/murder in prison, a significant event in the eventual dismantling of apartheid. The violent marks I have painted with, the sharp cut outs and he suggested, I could experiment more- cut out a hole for Biko’s head to pop through. Layer images. I said I liked the freedom to really try out everything including not caring if I messed it up. He said I should also care less about what I am saying. Put it out there.
Wednesday, 27 Feb 2019
Crit with Geraint
The scale of the experiment without a support structure or frame allowed for expansive mark making. There is a spontaneity and energy about this piece. The process of painting it includes a process of retrieving memory. It’s something I want to keep doing, and not tidy up. Working on paper allows for radical decisions, a less laboured approach, and reflects the diary from where these ideas came. We spoke about the way Adrian Ghenie uses photographs and paints over them in Darwin’s Room, Venice Biennale 2015.
Adrian Ghenie, The Black Flag, (detail) 2015, Oil on canvas 200 x 200 cm
Saturday 9 March 2019
150 x 200 cm, acrylic on paper
A digital image of the pool chair enabled a much bigger image using a projector. The Sunbirds were so abundant in our garden growing up; my mother renamed our home, “Sunbird Hill”. I also think the isolated images work well. Sarah Pickstone’s early Park work were large paintings with elements isolated by big white spaces seem to be metaphoric for fragmented memory.
Tuesday, 12 March
Crit with Lois Rowe
The large 2m painting on paper was discussed. I write what I like, Biko,1977, was like a mind map. I felt wary of making sentimental work, Lois strongly urged that personal work was powerful. Consider your ‘personal lens’. Be specific. Like Anri Sala, Tacita Dean, and Jordan Baseman’s interview approach. I outlined 3 directions I was focusing on and include Lois’ responses:
1. Escape from violence: In a gated community and the psychology of the need to survive living in a lawless state. I described the detail of my childhood fantastical garden in painterly terms. Lois said this was exciting and rich territory, and the consideration of materiality in the faded figures butting up with a jewelled rich multi -layered sunbird appropriated source, had great potential.
I spoke about Jenny Saville’s new work, Ancestors, combining classical themes, like the Pieta, with abstract painterly expressions, which I saw me adopting in the garden area. I talked about making a hot painting.
2. Land reform: Northern territory farmers, Woman with child and gun. Lois suggested not considering the SA political agenda now, as the area of research is too big. Instead to find a personal story. Ask my mother about her attachment to her farm. Record this using sound.
3. Human Rights: Think about using interview recording a video with Lauren Jacobsen’s about her experience representing the detainees.
Contextual practice essay; I am considering how personal experience rooted in South African politics is contextualised historically, and it is also about broader concerns of humanity. Jonathan Wateridge, Martha Rosler and Susan Sontag are included in an international context which also situates the personal.
Sketch book: Painting the wall to make meaning clearer about entitlement within, implying keeping crime and politics out.
Tuesday, 19 March
Crit with Mark Fairnington
We discussed the success of pairing concepts. The execution of the wall demonstrated in my sketchbook, which integrates the disparate elements we both think is the wrong result. He suggested if I wanted to keep the wall, to just keep it to behind the figures, the left side is working well as it is with the red background. I now want to add violence using text as part of the painting.
Kudzanai Chiurai, Tender, using text as image.
I talked about Zimbabwe artists Kudzanai Chiurai and Violet Hwami who both use text in paintings. He suggested I look at Jean Michel Basquiat.
We thought the best solution to exhibit this work was not to put in on a support. Mark suggested using eyelits and hooks instead, as a structure is too permanent.
10 April 2019
Painting in my studio at home, Easter Break
This painting is intended for the Interim Show, Squeezed. I was interested in how typography could include violence and tried this approach with its crude rendition in African type style, and it disconnects from the reality beyond the walled garden.
Eden Overblown, Gated Community, Acrylic, glitter, collage on canvas, 103 x 103 cm
I have been looking at Painting the Modern Garden, Monet to Matisse, an exhibition catalogue of this show at the Royal Academy I went to a few years ago, and found this hot painting of a tropical garden by Raoul Dufy. His palette influenced my choice of colour including the violet shade of pink alongside terracotta colours and the blue-green turquoise of the palm.
Raoul Dufy, The Little Palm tree, (1905)
Monday, 29 April
Workshop: Text as Image – Typographic tone of voice
London College of Communication
Sanita Yeoman and Tim Martin hosted this workshop today. I found it very helpful as I discussed the ideas for using text in my paintings to represent the other side of the wall, namely the violence. We were asked to consider text as tone of voice, here as a whisper.
Tracing paper sample
I am not sure that it is the right type face. It looks too decorative. I may use the quote below from J.M. Coetzee Age of Iron instead.
“When I walk upon this land, this South Africa, I have a gathering feeling of walking upon black faces. They are dead but their spirit has not left them. They lie there heavy and obdurate, waiting for my feet to pass, waiting for me to go, waiting to be raised up again. Millions of figures of pig iron floating under the skin of the earth. The age of iron waiting to return.”
Monday, 29 April
Jean-Michel Basquait uses text, symbols and cultural issues
Today I felt an energy about the connection with my old place and a confidence to claim it again. I didn’t mind if I got it wrong. I was painting for me. I think the drawn oil pastel and oil stick create definition and a contemporary painterly interpretation of boundaries. I wanted something less illustrative and ambiguous and painted the orange circle. Basquait influenced my painting choices today.
Initial portrait was not successful
I started this painting over the Easter Break. It is about the land rights issue on an old linen table cloth I inherited from my grandmother, a link to British Colonialism and a connection with Juhan Kuus’ White border farmers in Northern Transvaal 1985, as Madonna and Child. I have permission to use Louisa Gerryts’ Malachite Sunbird on Wild Dagga, Leonotus Leonurus. It is difficult to paint on cloth as the pigment bleeds. Geraint spoke about pattern and I may use the birds as a motif on the top. This perpetual cycle of violence could be shown by using this slogan to create a circular movement ; “One Settler” up on the left, “One Bullet” down on the right.
Louisa Gerryts, Malachite Sunbird on Wild Dagga, Leonotus Leonurus
In the talk last week Benet Spencer showed an image of an artist’s work where the edges of canvas were frayed in her collage works. As I am thinking about boundaries and edges not being contained, I thought it might work if I unpick some.
Friday, 3 May
Interim Show Squeezed Group Crit
With Sarah Kate Wilson at The Nunnery, Bow Arts Trust, London
Some of Sarah Kate’s material/content/curatorial questions and observations: of my painting, Eden Overblown (Bang Bang)
- Is this an under-painting? (No, is a fading memory, sun-bleached.)
- Is the child dead or asleep? ( She is not dead on a pool chair.)
- Is the text “Bang Bang” taking the mick? Violence is a serious issue in South Africa. (I am aware of this. The text was a choice based on Chirurai’s painting, Tender. Also, the intention was in order to distance themselves from the daily pressure of the threat of violence in gated communities, I wanted the text to be separate too and not real.)
- Choice of rivets she felt referenced the manmade and sailing.
- She did like the curatorial decision to hang it high up on the wall, out of reach, as memory is difficult to grasp.
- She also suggested looking at Michael Armitage’s work, which I have begun to do.
Interim Show at The Nunnery, Bow Arts Trust, London
8 May 2019
Tutorial with Geraint
We talked about continuing to make paintings that were not constrained by a support. We agreed that this unstructured approach reflected the processing of memory as did the sun-bleached thinness of paint as if evaporating. Further development in this direction could allow for layers of canvas to be stitched, patched, becoming heavy installations like Oscar Murillo’s work. Processes of revealing and concealing, text, imagery of portent, (and birds!) embedding complex layering, some hidden, some excavated. I have been looking at Michael Armitage’s work too, painting in multiples at the same time informs each painting and the tree bark surface he uses from east Africa has meaning, is imperfect, skin –like.
Using text as image; we discussed the typographic workshop I went to at LCC. I think the JM Coetzee quote about blood is perfect so I photocopied this directly from his book Age of Iron, and am much happier with the scratchy nature of the text.
Milk and Honey, acrylic, oil stick, oil pastel, collage on canvas, 180 x 200cm
Friday 31 May 2019
Assessment feedback – Geraint Evans
The assessment feedback from Geraint indicated that a lot was working in studio practice culminating in the Milk and Honey painting. Experimentation and consideration within the concept of privilege and protection from the proximity of violence in a gated community was positive. The essay feedback using the interview with Jonathan Wateridge he said worked well, and he questioned how I intended to develop this. The on-line folio comments were encouraging. I am confident the research is thorough and supports a personal enquiry within a broader context, which I am hoping to take further, possibly at PHD.
Violent aspects of the painting were working well; the ominous ‘slashing’ of the birds beaks as weapons, the treatment of violence in the text (although Geraint would prefer for more of this to be painted out). The figures are purposefully treated as sun bleached as a faded memory to contrast with the saturated heavier painting of the garden, but Geraint thought they were “filling in from a projected image, done in one sitting” and this reflected in my grade. Since this feedback I have worked on subtle layers of lightly pigmented paint for the past two weeks and I think it is more accomplished, referencing the minimal palette of Luc Tuymans and South African painter Kate Gottgens.
I repainted the figures using lightly pigmented layers, Milk and Honey (Detail), acrylic, oil stick, oil pastel, collage on canvas, 180 x 200cm
Decisions about detail for example, the round motif was included as a birdbath/ sun to create ambiguity, and we had one in our garden. The photographic ‘random’ car collage is of my mother’s Rag Queen university friend in 1952 when apartheid was in its infancy, beginning in 1948, the age of the car situating the event. I also included it to show a white superficial world when black people were forced off the streets at dusk carrying passbooks, while white women entered beauty contests. My mother is now 83 and although she, as I, have benefited from apartheid, Zulu was her first language and her politics is far left. Her books and our conversations keep me connected to the past and present experience of our beloved country. This is my lens and the specificity of it is important, as is space for the viewer to bring their own experience to the work.
Friday, 10 May
One Settler. One bullet. Acrylic on inkjet photograph by Juhan Kuus, White Border farmers, 1985.
I wanted to make a new painting on an existing image refreshing history because the fight for land rights / land grabs is radically contested again. “There is blood in this land” Liza Key told me, “no matter what you put on top, it is seeped in blood.” I wanted this image to speak of this, a blood encrusted earth, the same earth that also delivered gold and made us rich, and with Christianity imposed as an historical painterly device. I was looking at Adrian Ghenie’s paintings Darwin’s Room seeing how he manipulates paint to obliterate the photograph in some cases.
Tuesday 14 May, 2019
Image transfer on linen tablecloth (detail) initial peeling away of the paper reveals the image beneath, breaking up in places
The land rights work on the tablecloth and the stitched sample are about building a metaphorical landscape. This was considered an exciting development in the assessment. Since then I have used acrylic image transfer on a more stable gold pigment of the mother and child with a better result. I added my mother’s memoir of her farm as a pencil diary entry. I was unhappy that it wasn’t perfectly positioned and painted over it, like giant Tippex.
Using the classic typeface Palatino, enlarging it and printing it on the large format digital printer enabled me to use text as image by tracing the lettering using a light box. The circular motif edits out the centre of the text.
Land rights, acrylic transfer, acrylic, ink and graphite on inherited linen tablecloth
This work was completed in August.
Tuesday, 21 May 2019
Text from: The Waiting Country, A South African Witness, Mike Nicol (1995)
I am researching the background and images of the legal cases Lauren Jacobsen worked on in the 1980’s to expand on this idea of a large collage that is stitched together in an unstructured assemblage.
Monday, 3 June
Conversation with Geraint
Oscar Murillo, Violent Amnesia, (2014-2018) Graphite, oil, and oil stick on canvas and linen with grommets stainless steel, 300 x164 x15cm
At the assessment feedback Geraint showed me Oscar Murillo’s multi-layered works, some on unstructured suspended montaged canvasses using Columbian politics and birds referring to migration and displacement, landscape and memory. I must admit I was gutted at first. I had made my stitched sample before Geraint mentioned this work and have been talking about suspending work since our interim show. The subjects of violence and amnesia are also part of my research. I went to Kettle’s Yard to see Murillo’s exhibition Violent Amnesia, and was moved by the power and conviction of his work.
Determined to carry on with my direction, despite his nomination for the Turner Prize, and resolved to allow an instinctive access necessary to connect with deep contemplation of personal experience for open experiment.
Human rights painting preparation as absent witness to historical events Lauren Jacobsen was involved with.
Tuesday, 25 June
Contextual Practice Assessment with Lois Rowe
We discussed the risks I have been taking to create metaphoric process in my studio practice; constructed from disparate memories using two opposite views, the privileged and the victims of apartheid. I likened this to Doris Salcedo’s tables in Unland, each separate yet forced together.
Lois felt the painting Milk and Honey was exciting and worked well to convey privilege in the gated community and liked being able to read the J.M. Coetzee text, the car which situates the painting historically and superficially as it was a beauty contest, (she also felt it was playful) and the technique used to isolate separate memories.
The process of the land rights painting on the tablecloth was acknowledged as taking potentially annihilating risks. Much effort has gone into erasing and retrieving this painting, including machine washing it.
I was encouraged to develop the idea of my mother’s Zulu voice perhaps making a film in a National Trust Garden. We agreed a contemplative piece in the final exhibition will give the audience a chance to become involved with their thoughts and opens up the work.
We discussed the format of the interview style for the essay, and agreed that if I introduce it as an edited, constructed conversation based on the interview, this echoes my practice using “collaged” information and allows me greater freedom to include other areas of contextual relevance.
(Since this assessment, I decided to make things more truthful and asked Jonathan Wateridge to comment on the final essay draft before submission.)
Wednesday, 26 June
First screen print intentionally off -sets two screen positives made using Photoshop to create layers (form and detail.) Printed in acrylic on primed polyester specially made for silkscreen as it is smooth.
For the past two weeks I have been making a screen print in the Dye Room as it is large scale work, about 2m in width, with Pete Robert’s and Charlotte Brown’s help as it’s too big to fit on the beds in the print room. I am pleased with the result and this will form part of a painterly series about the gated community.
Wednesday, 3 July
Conversation with Geraint
One of three colour studies in gouache experimenting with ‘unreal’ colour and light.
In the first large screen print painting, I was considering painting the figure in black and white. We looked at artists’ colour treatment as a possible alternative. Jake Clark and Lisa Brice and even Bollywood posters, where reality is exaggerated by sunlight or filmic constructed light.
Thursday, 4 July
Group Crit with Fran Norton
Developing drawing the figure
This silkscreen work was well received. “Don’t change a thing,” Fran said. It was suggested that the line drawing should be slightly more developed in pencil but left as a drawing, and to make two more in a series of three, each with a different treatment of the figure; possibly as a painted image, and as a silkscreen. Process is becoming more and more relevant to my practice.
We discussed the importance of titles to the work to situate the work contextually and to imply the threat of violence in the South African gated community, possibly by using an address. The plants were read as threatening, the ‘architecture’ Doig-like, although I haven’t referenced his work for a while.
The political painting was thought to be unnecessary and too obvious. The painting shown was “doing a much better job” where the audience could engage with the work on their own terms.
I showed the film and it was well received, thinking perhaps that it would be good on a monitor embedded in a wall. ( At this stage there were no titles at all).
I will keep building contrast with graphite, but am not sure this is integrated yet.
Thursday, 18 July
Collage: Working out angles for Gated Community II using a Clifton house from the internet, Cape Town, South Africa
I used found Modern architectural pool sites in Cape Town on-line and fitted them with the same perspective of the girl in various collage studies. Looking at Caroline Walker’s LA and Palm Springs paintings, I too have been conscious of creating a subtle unease within a specific setting of privilege by manipulating camera angle and architectural geometry within a picture plane. The watched disquiet of a mundane moment of relaxation holds the political history and the threat of the proximity of violence. Urban surveillance is particularly threatening in South Africa.
Monday, 22 July
Figure in oil paint with silkscreen in acrylic
Having already done the small painting study in black and white in Alex Veness’ Secret Gerhard Richter Workshop, and wanting the drawing to hold the same neutral intensity to replace the graphite which seemed too weak. I decided to paint the figure boldly and spontaneously. I used the same acrylic dark colour I mixed for the silkscreen in the line work of the architecture and in the dark areas of the figure to integrate the two parts of the work and over-painted the girl with oil paint mixed with linseed and stand oil as demonstrated in the workshop.
Tuesday, 23 July
Working out the positioning of the figure and getting camera angles right took many attempts with different pool, finally using this one which is perpendicular worked the best.
Small preparation study in oils on Fabriano tele oil paper 35 x 45 cm
Close observation working things out in quick sketches before tackling the big painting was a useful exercise as the figure in the large scale work almost painted itself.
Monday, 29 July
Acrylic and Oil paint on polyester primed surface, 170 x 214 cm
I am intentionally working fast using poppy oil and Shell Sol –T to keep marks fluid and spontaneous. I used the cut out crisp collage edges from the preparatory collage.with the intention of screen printing the detail of the foliage off-set over this.
Thursday, 1 August
I started blocking in the architecture in acrylic in the 2nd painting.
Monday, 5 August
I placed the litho crayon drawing I made on acetate on top of the painting to see how they integrate. The empty spaces and the strong geometry work well with the figure in line.
I painted the figure using close observation and precise mark making with spontaneous gesture, mindful of strong light which saturates deep shadows and overexposes detail in sunlight.
Tuesday, 6 August
Artist’s proof, silkscreen positive from drawing in litho crayon
I made a silkscreen positive of the litho crayon drawing of the reclined figure, and printed an artist’s proof to see how much detail would print. The detail was good keeping the character of the litho crayon mark.
Wednesday, 7 August
Gated Community II, Higgo Crescent, Cape Town, second silkscreen /painting almost finished
I printed all afternoon finishing the second print/ painting using the litho screen superimposed over the figure and the leaves to create a ‘view-finder’ within the composition.
Monday, 12 August
I painted the Modernist architectural background in the 3rd Gated Community painting and used acetate painted in ultramarine over a leaf proof to work out colour composition.
Seeing if ultramarine creates a lively dynamic using acetate overlays
Screen-printing ultramarine leaves.
Final few weeks
Sculpture studio space over the Summer
I have treated these past two months like a residency. It has been a great opportunity to have the space to work on several large paintings at the same time. The work has informed each other and enabled decisions to create a series of 3 final paintings, each slightly different yet using the same elements.
Setting up the Degree Show with all three paintings up as planned, responding to the site along the long wall in the sculpture space, with the film Rainbird on a separate wall.