My first concerted effort at producing a work of art was in 1969. My father often read to me from the Old Testament, which inspired my painting, Noah’s Ark. We were living in exile from 1968 to 1970, in Greece, The Netherlands and England. Out of fear that the South African government would either arrest or kill my father, my parents had decided to leave the country for a few years.
I was born into an artistic family in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1963 . It was the height of the Apartheid era and my father was running the first multi-racial art school in South Africa. The government strictly enforced a policy of segregation and mixed race schools were illegal. The school developed out of twin ventures launched in 1964.
One was a private teaching venture, the other was an artist’s workshop for artists such as Dumile Feni, Esrom Legae, Ben Arnold, Lucky Sibiya, Eric Mbatha, and others who needed space and facilities rather than tuition. It later became “The Johannesburg Art Foundation” which provided a launching platform for several other community arts ventures.
These include Fuba Academy(1978) which gave rise to the African Institute of Art at the Funda Center(1983), followed by the Thupelo Art Project(1985) and The Alex Centre (1986).
After graduating from high school I went to work for a design firm in Pretoria called Design Criteria. I spent a year designing corporate identities. I then went to teach and continue my studies at the Johannesburg Art Foundation.
I began teaching Airbrushing and developed a course entitled, “The Image In Its Field – An Investigation of Graphic Potentials.” These courses that I created became the foundation for the design department. However, I could not remain in South Africa under the Apartheid regime due to to the mandatory five year conscription and the escalating violence in Angola and the townships.
I moved to the United States in 1983 where I have continued to live and work. I have been working as a liaison between artists in Northern America and Southern Africa, dedicated to cultivating exchanges between these countries. I have returned to Southern Africa to participate in the following Art Workshops:
Thapong Workshop, Botswana (1989);
Pachipamwe Workshop, Zimbabwe (1992);
The Thupelo Art Workshop, South Africa (1992)
Tulipamwe Workshop, Namibia, (1994).
The Workshops generally run for two to three weeks, have approximately 20 to 30 participants split evenly between men and women and culminate in an exhibition open to the sponsors and the public. The Workshops are a quiet place where one concentrates on the work, where distractions are eliminated, where one learns to detect the traps that inhibit creativity. They are the true underground of the art world.
In 1988, I attended the Triangle Artists Workshop in Upstate New York, where I met Clement Greenberg. This was a pivotal point for me as a painter, as I made major breakthroughs in my painting. I had already been working in a formalist genre with no specific focus. This intensive two week workshop forced me to clarify, focus and create in a way I had never experienced before. Being one of the youngest participants I felt the pressure of being surrounded by professionals from a range of countries.
In recent years, I have been running educational programs at public and private schools in New York, as well as through the Dia Center for the Arts. These programs were inspired by the “Studio in a School” program initiated by the Museum of Modern Art. Within these educational programs, I have been conducting a variety of classes including book-binding, design fundamentals, the map of Africa (a four foot by six foot collage of the continent) and, a conflict resolution workshop after the “911” incident called “WTC and my NYC Identity”. I enjoy doing these focused short term intensive workshops. Because the end is in sight everybody throws their whole being into it.
My inspiration comes from a unification of many stimuli. The sonic colors of certain musical forms, ranging from the rhythms and harmonies of jazz to multi-tracking and sampling, have been as much a creative influence as my fascination with topographical features of the earth, particularly in arid areas such as the Namib desert.
My large brilliantly colored canvases owe much to the indigenous architectural styles and geography of my native land. My paintings are activated by organic fields of color and a variety of textures that are evocative of the South African Landscape. I call them aerial or torn landscapes. The emphasis of my painting is on plasticity and expression rather than on the narrative. My aim is to reach the energies that animate our psychic life – to penetrate the spiritual being.
I commence my painting with a process of laying. Surfaces are not just painted, they evolve. Paint is allowed to flow forming skins and crevices. One is seldom aware of brush strokes. Stains, dribbles, splashes and thick running paint create surfaces which advance and recede similar to that of geological forms. In some of my paintings the texture of the canvas remains palpable. It is left untouched or else it is absorbed into numerous veils and waterfalls of color.
I steer the paintings by creating directional impetus with collaged canvas that has been torn, cut, folded or frayed. It is the color that dictates the mood of the painting whether it be pale and luminous, bright and joyous or dark and threatening.
In short my paintings should be approached with an open mind, free of preconceptions.