For the last ten months, language and words have been silenced by an emotional minefield of ideas and beliefs. The memory and loss of my mother drained all creative energy and I was unable to function in familiar patterns….as if the marrow had been sucked out of me.
With time, painful personal introspection ventured to look out and focus on an old sobering reality which needed to be addressed. It felt impossible to disregard the effects of societal disrespect for our universe….but how to do that in the most painterly way?
Recently, each time I boarded a plane to visit family or friends, I had a sense that this was a mixed blessing…..the guilt of flying seesawing with the anticipation of happy reunions ahead.
In a way, sensing that this might be the last voyage, I felt that each flight had to be memorialised by taking photographs of that experience, whether of nature or of man made structures which harnessed that world.
It feels prescient, now in Corona lockdown, to have a bank of images that remind me of another time and place. Using these as source material, surprising works have emerged which for me speak of love, nostalgia and perhaps spiritual belief systems. The figure hovers but is not always manifest. This artist’s voyeur gaze is pointed to the viewer and I’m curious at the endless possibilities of the journey.
This expressionist, powerful masked figure on yellow ground highlights my interest in games of concealment and exposure. The figure is nude, but the mask offers much erotic speculation and narratives. The title 'Venezia' sets the plot at a specific time of the year, when Venice is animated by the Carnival. As the text follows the line of the figure's left shoulder, it blurs the boundaries between language and painting.
The work evolved over a couple of years. This allowed for erasures and about turns, creating surface interest as well as looking at the relationship between line and colour, or painting and drawing. Mine is an attempt to re animate, with traditional material, the idea of the nude and make it interesting to our media saturated gaze.
A companion work to ‘Adam’, this painting reads as a diptych with the female nude’s outstretched arm echoed in the companion work above. However, the two arms don’t actually connect. Both images are rear views of the figures, avoiding issues relating to the biblical references after ‘The Fall’ and the subsequent need to cover in self consciousness.
Both images have naming texts in right hand corner.
How many about turns and reincarnations evolve before I feel I can leave a work? The question “when is a picture finished?” is an old perennial. For me it’s when I have a sense of surprise or astonishment.
My practice of erasure and constant pushing and pulling, destroys many qualities which cannot to be retraced. Happenstance can be magic. But not always.
It is easy to be seduced by a particular aspect of the work. Too often I theoretically circumlocute or physically circumvent bits that seem most successful. It takes courage to destroy in an attempt to make something more interesting or unexpected. Only then does the painting move beyond the painterly impasse. That Auto-Voyeur hovering around is constantly asking…..’and then what?’
Although I work quickly, my paintings take a long time to crystallize. Pictures are often revisited months or years later. I find it meaningful to follow the trails and correspondences that images leave as I search for resonances. This layering of image created by the patination of time results in a sensual density of surface.
A few weeks ago, I was invited by Rachel Smith to make an artwork in support of The Cape Leopard Trust.
The jewellery designer, Megan Carr (also involved with rhino conservation) very kindly delivered a cutout leopard shape to me in London.
My brief was to transform this element at will, and create a work to be auctioned on 20th August at Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards, in Franschoek, Cape.
In keeping with my practice, I incorporated this machine-made, flat wooden shape into a painting. The completed work was couriered yesterday to Dame Jane Goodall in Windsor. Bon voyage to all….safe travels, Little Leopard.
Semantics and practical matters aside, my challenge as an artist with this project was multifold.
Many considerations and ideas forced many about turns before Spirit and Nature finally took over.
Now more than ever, I wonder how to even venture onto this pristine white woven canvas. For me, it represents a Utopian Universe, and the moral imperative of making marks that are meaningful is overwhelming and incapacitating.
Today, facing the shock of Brexit and the associated political upheaval both locally and internationally, I feel the need for an art that reflects these issues.
Historically, I have always resisted slogan driven, agitprop gestures in my practice. Whilst living in South Africa, my paintings addressed censorship and control through the prism of representation and Eroticism. As a Feminist, I reclaimed the nude pictorially and repositioned the work in the Patriarchal narrative. An early exhibition at the Wolpe Gallery in Cape Town was often visited by the Secret Police and media response reflected the Zeitgeist from the Left and the Right.
I hope to find a way of reflecting this time and place in way that is meaningful.
This painting was made in May 2008 when Boris Johnson was newly elected as Mayor of London.
It includes psycho/social portraits of Morgan Tzvangirai, the Leader of the Opposition in Zimbabwe, and Gordon Brown, Labour Prime Minister of the UK. Showing May 2008 - the actual date of work (indicating a specific moment in time) and the blue ribbon like shape, link these heads together referencing my questioning and concerns of the dynamics of power/politics globally.
My website was compromised 2 years ago.
I have always been concerned with maintaining boundaries between the private and the public. Naively, I only realised the absurdity of that dream when my professional identity was put in jeopardy through the Internet. My response was to retreat and hide.
This new website, the creation of my sister Angela Scialom, has allowed me to re emerge with vigour and optimism. Her intelligence and intuitive curatorial rigour have encouraged me to re visit ideas and places long ignored.
No words can begin to express my gratitude to this formidable woman for bringing me (kicking) to a brave new world. I am in awe of her patience, perseverance, resilience, wisdom, insight and endless love. Little sleep, coffee and cigarettes have sharpened her watchful wit…..there’s been no getting away from her celebration of cyber.
Let’s hope I don’t let you down with this blog business……