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African Artists Speak About Their Work in Collector’s Guide

By Bamuturaki Musinguzi
Published October 13, 2017

The Collector’s Guide to Art and Artists in South Africa is published by the South African Institute of Artists and Designers in 2014.A publication that could be described as a visual journey into the thoughts, emotions and minds of 308 South African artists has been released.

In the third edition of the 312-page publication titled The Collector’s Guide to Art and Artists in South Africa, the various artists describe their individual art and talk about what motivates them in their visual journeys, be it the diverse cultures and people, animals, birds, plants or landscapes.

Richardt Strydom, for instance, explores the boundaries of cultural traditions and identity as these intersect with everyday life. Strydom says the South African resistance art of the late 1980s and early 1990s has had a lasting influence on his oeuvre and art.

He says Decolonising the Mind, the title of a publication by Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o “serves as reference for my current body of work. Using this as a point of departure, I question hegemonic identities such as whiteness and masculinity and endeavour to make visible the ways in which post-colonial whiteness is performed.”

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Devika Pillay says her compassion and empathy for people provides a platform for her to express the plight of women and children, as well as the elderly in her paintings.

“Some of my artworks are haunting but convey bold statements. The highlight of my career was meeting former President Nelson Mandela. I gave him a portrait of himself on behalf of the community of Durban in 2006. The gift was an expression of my appreciation for his lifelong contribution to facilitating national reconciliation. He has since inspired me to continue my portrayal of those that are destitute and in need,” she says.

Jean Arbie, a wildlife and figurative artist who says he loves traveling through sub-Saharan Africa for first-hand experience of the wildlife and its people as detailed portrayals of the animals and birdlife in his paintings is the most important aspects of his work, says, “I never get enough of the incredible amount of detail there is to see in every subject I paint. These experiences filter through in my work in the studio where the sketching, photography and the actual experience of being in these situations, are integrated into my work. I try to fuse all these aspects and experiences into the pieces I create. It is very important to recreate an experience or scene as it happened, whether it portrays the drama and action that is so much a part of Africa, or the unique peace and tranquility of the African wilderness.”

Arbie says he loves to do figurative work using much broader brushwork and bolder colours than in his other work. “I find it very refreshing to work in a different style and break away from the restrictions of fine detail.”

Anne Rimbault’s current work expresses her deep concern over the rhino poaching crisis in South Africa. She makes decorated thrown vessels as well as sculptural pieces.

“I aim to raise awareness as well as money for rhino conservation in a sensitive way that highlights the magnificence of the animal and alludes to the threat they face,” Rimbault says.

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Sbonelo Tau Luthuli’s work subverts and challenges the traditional cannons of vessel making.

“I achieve this by playing around with essential elements of traditional domestic vessels, such as the form of the vessel, the shape, size and the inconsistencies of a design on the surface. I am mostly interested in the design, shape and form as this is where I am able to give a voice to my work,” Luthuli says.

For Daleen Roodt, the orchid artist, nature has never been shy of offering her inspiration.

“Whether it is in humid forests, wetlands or windy mountains crowned with mist, I search for the rare and often overlooked species of indigenous and African orchids. The reward lies in experiencing their sensual beauty and qualities in situ and allowing a torrent of emotion and language to journey me into creating more than a mere presentation. Watercolour and copper etching are my preferred mediums for capturing these specimens and thereby securing their seductive qualities.”

Zelda Stroud is interested in traditional craftsmanship, jewelry as a form of sculpture and the use of the personal detritus of daily life as recycled sculpture material.

“While I also produce life-size figurative commissions for both private clients and heritage projects, my non-commissioned work reflects my interests in sculpting and painting the female body, with a particular emphasis on the politics of social and economic manipulation,” Stroud says.

Alice Toich observes that in life there is so much that is felt sometimes in ways that cannot be expressed through words or the limitations of language.

“In this chasm between feeling and expression when language fails us, this is where I believe art – like music – finds its true function. And it is in this realm that I endeavour not only to use painting as a medium of communication but also as a tool to bring more beauty into this world. As untrendy and old fashioned as it may be to say, I still believe that Beauty is beautiful.”

For Tienie Pritchard the nude is his passion and the basis of his creative motivation. The bronze sculptor observes that the human body is rich in associations and when it is turned into art it can be expressive of a wide range of subject.

“I strive to portray man beyond his physical reality, illustrating his spiritual concepts, his cultural practices and his kinship with the animal world. Using mythologies and historical figures, I illustrate the evolutions of the human mind,” says Tienie Pritchard.

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Alexander Hubert Liebenberg is a realistic landscape, wildlife and nude artist. He works I detail using palette knives and brushes, focusing on light and dark contrasts and the effect that curves and shapes have on the depth of colour.

“Nudity in art brings honour and glory to God, maintaining the belief that the human form is the crowning achievement of God in creation. When painting a nude, renowned artists will contribute by considering dramatic poses, composition, lighting, colour and interesting locations,” Liebenberg says.

Micke van der Merwe’s work revolves around the theme of travel and architecture and could be described as structural with room for humour.

“When I draw buildings, the line work is not rigid and straight. It is a little bent and varies in thickness. I feel this gives the entire work a unique organic and living feel,” van der Merwe says.

Jen Adams says her soulful abstract-ethnic canvasses take the viewer on a spiritual journey into Africa.

“My canvasses are brought alive with women and children walking through vast, arid and glowing landscapes. Working mostly with a palette knife and paint, I strive to capture the ‘essence’ of rural Africa at its best, often painting women with thin, flowing white fabric draped over their shoulders, symbolic of their emotional and spiritual strength…,” she says.

The Collector’s Guide to Art and Artists in South Africa is published by the South African Institute of Artists and Designers in 2014.

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