Friday, 23 March 2012

New Work.... New (ish) directions

It is such a delight to be back in the studio... and one cool thing about an absence, for me, is that I never quite know what direction things will take when I get back there.

Even when I am so busy with other stuff that it seems I am not giving my art a moment's thought, it seems to brew away under the surface, and erupt in its own new direction when given half a chance.

New, yet not new, always there is the history of past work, past methods, past experiments, past social concerns even... and each new burst of work is enriched by this growing deposit of personal art history that builds up as the years go on.

The output of the last couple of weeks testifies to this... painting, drawing and photography, all of which have played less or more dominant roles in the past, have appeared in new guises... they now seem to have come together, so I start with a painting on canvas and drawing and photographs bringing a fresh dimension. I have used both on canvases in the past, notably with drawing on the protest about the demolition of the Red Location shacks in about 2008, and photography on canvas in the raindance series in 2009 and the prodigal son comic book story in 2010..... but in this one, done specifically for a forthcoming exhibition of large works at the Athenaeum, they just came together as I went along. It also revisits old themes (the checker-board and running paint referring to conflict and social meltdown, but now free of the shackles of black and white.... the theme of division and gulfs separating people recurs, as do the lost children.

Bridging the Divide 1500x1000mm mixed media on canvas (SOLD)
Another thing I have painted often over the years is Baobab trees. They are so quintessentially African. They represent happy memories for me because I grew up in Harare, as landlocked as you can get, but whichever direction we travelled in for holidays, whether to Mozambique or South Africa for beach holidays, or to any of the lovely spots we frequented along the Zambezi, from Victoria Falls to Kariba or Mana Pools, we always had to go through a lowveld area dotted with these comical amazing trees. There is a wonderful one on the road to Beit Bridge from Harare, which is hollowed out, and has a cathedral like feeling when standing inside it. I am told there is a hollow one in South Africa, so large that it is used as a pub, but have never been there personally.

(updated 24-04-2012... just found 2 photos of the tree from inside and out on the delightful facebook site 'Africa, this is why I live here' run by Ayesha Cantor.)

Just outside Musina is one that must have fallen over at some point, and just continued growing along the ground. I have hunted for my old photo of Max standing on it, but in vain.... tidying the study is another of the neglected tasks I need to tackle soon...

often drove past this tree during my childhood, between Masvingo and Beit Bridge. This was taken in 1975
Baobabs 500x600mm oil, charcoal and crayon on canvas

Shelter, mixed media on canvas 1200x900mm

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