juli Jana chats about Stratagems, her latest exhibition of paintings and graphics

I am not going to talk about the poetical, metaphysical, spiritual aspect of the work although as a poet I would have somewhat to say.

You create because you are and you are because you create.

Every person creates, we are all creative. We create by the way we see, observe, relate, and respond to the world around us.

I  invite you to co-create with me. The artist and the observer both have a part to play.

As a visual artist I have responded to the world around me by painting on canvas, etching onto paper and I have hung the works on walls. Without the observer’s response adding his or her own interpretation, layer or strata, there is something missing, i.e. the works will be incomplete. A painting needs to be looked at, observed and absorbed in the same way a poem needs to be read, listened to and thought about. I invite you each to add your own layer, your own strata to the experience and to find gems.

In looking at the work, some of the words that come to mind are earth, space, movement, colour.

A number of the works relate to the natural world – the land, sky, trees, undergrowth.

In other works the elements of nature, the gems of colour, line or scratching are singled out or abstracted.

Movement, shape, repetition, variations are elements of nature and become signifiers in the exhibition.

Awash by juli Jana, mixed media on canvas

Awash by juli Jana, mixed media on canvas

The painting, Awash, with all its texture gives us an inkling of the  various strata of the earth. In this work made up of mixed media the colour blue becomes an element washing over the soil to reveal stones, sand and gems  – and yes, in the mixed media I used literal sand and stones.  Here ‘BLUE’ is the abstraction, the gem and the protagonist.

So much depends on the way we look at things. I recall standing in a gallery in Berlin looking at the straight rows Richard Long packed with stones. One row was big stones, the other small, the next mixed. He packed them the length of the gallery. Were they out of place in the gallery I wondered.

I have seen where he packed them in nature but here in the modern spacious gallery it gave me the opportunity to reconsider the way I perceive stones. In following the natural rhythm of stones he superimposed his own pattern and rhythm causing the observer to see their beauty more clearly.

This is what makes an exhibition exciting for both the artist and the observer.

I respond to the earth.  See the earth as red, charcoal, black, darkly accented, awash, pitched, patched, cut, emotional, freed, glowing in light, (morning landscape and evening landscape), textured, disappearing into the distance.

Dark accent after rain by juli Jana, mixed media

Dark accent after rain by juli Jana, mixed media

I see the winter trees as bare facts, birthing, the green of the earth as undergrowth and full growth.

LANGUAGE

The patches of the landscape, the thread of the road, the farmlands sharply defined or cut, become a LANGUAGE, a list of words and images that are stringed together, abstracted to thought. They form a puzzle that we each assemble  differently.

ELEMENTS OF THE NATURAL WORLD

There is the Earth and there is the Sky.

The sky is filled with light and clouds. Without light the red of earth will not be red, without clouds the shadowed earth can only be black and not shaded.

I explore  clouds, trace clouds, follow clouds. There is the single cloud, the transparent cloud , running clouds, strung clouds. The earth is under cloud or not.

I refer to the following paintings here amongst others: single cloud, under cloud, running cloud, to cloud.

Under cloud by juli Jana, oil

Under cloud by juli Jana, oil

 

The depth of colour of earth seems to get  its strength when there is the juxtaposition of blue, in the same way the land is juxtaposed with the sky.

COLOUR & ABSTRACTION

The sky is clothed in light, light is reflected from the earth in colour – the warmth of ochre and reds, contrasts of green and various stages of plant growth, depths of blue and purples. Because of the element of light colours get the added dimension of tones.

There is a further layer or strata in our observation of the work we are viewing, namely the reference it has to the natural world and that is not the hills or trees but the light of the sky that pervades the scene. This element of nature becomes a protagonist in the two paintings titled Morning landscape with trees and Evening landscape red etched, giving the viewer back the visual aspect of the landscape with the added element of the light in the sky.

It was interesting that in the hanging we found that these works looked best when they were hung where there was more natural light than electric light. I noted they had painted them where there was lots of natural light.

For me colour in itself is a protagonist. Colour in itself is a painting. It  creates excitement. Without colour the world would be rather dull. Mark Rothko explored colour for the sake of colour, red against red, cadmium red against maroon.

All artists relate to other artists. For me there is amongst others Cezanne for colour and composition,  Mark Rothko for colour and emotion. Kandinsky for composition and abstraction.  My painting inside out is a response to the dizziness of Kandinsky’s work.

Inside out by juli Jana, acrylic on canvas

Inside out by juli Jana, acrylic on canvas

 

I recall sitting for hours looking at a row of Rothko’s red paintings.

I also recall walking up and down in front of Kandinsky’s large works in Tate Modern in London being overcome by the vibrancy of movement and shifting colour.

In the paintings Morning landscape with trees and Evening landscape red etched I also used grit mixed with paint giving it a relief quality. I enjoy working in different mediums. The colours are separated into squares. These squared intervals of colour are in contrast or follow a tonal range of primary and secondary colours creating an abstraction in much the same way Paul Klee uses colour for abstraction. They also allow the viewer to travel through one spatial field after another in the way they are strung in alternative browns and greens and would recall landscapes by Cezanne such as Mountains of Provence.  The sharp red squares dropped into the composition jolt the viewer back to abstraction.

Morning landscape with trees by juli Jana, mixed media

Morning landscape with trees by juli Jana, mixed media

 

Then there is the density of the earth that only the Dutch Masters captured in their etchings, the ‘earthy’ emotion of Van Gogh as he viewed landscapes, birds, farmers and workers. It is often in my etchings that I relate to the Dutch Masters.

In honor of Van Gogh herewith a short poem I wrote:

everybody needs a lunatic
standing in a yellow cornfield
letting words rise like raucous crows
above a lifescape
till a cut off ear
deadens the noise

everybody needs a lunatic
painting words that circle
like black birds on smooth wing
drifting over yellow corn fields
patterning a thousand ellipses
that stars try to follow

Was Van Gogh slightly mad? Perhaps we all are a little mad sometimes.

Van Gogh could say, I am not mad, I am an artist.

In my 3-D work, everybody needs a lunatic, I explored this idea of the lunacy of the artist. Most of the monoprints, such as extravagant rave, flotsam, blue concertina, concertina lunacy relate to this concept. In the last two works I also transformed the flat surface of paper to a 3-D concept. There are also the paintings, scratchings 1 & 2, now and then and the lithos, symphony and feathering.

Everybody needs a lunatic by juli Jana, monotype

Everybody needs a lunatic by juli Jana, monotype

 

We need some lunacy to see shooting stars and the brilliance of colours, the scratchings and marks in our lives.  We give meaning to this.

My use of the word ‘lunacy’ could equate an openness to perceive – and we don’t need drugs for this, all we need is to be aware. So much depends on the way we look at things.

This leads to abstraction which adds another layer or strata to our experience.

Here I refer to the works scent of a woman, cape rouge, V and being physical.

Scent of a woman by juli Jana, monotype

Scent of a woman by juli Jana, monotype

 

Picasso said: There is no abstract art, you must start with something. Afterwards you can remove all traces of reality

The artist uses the shapes, markings and colour of the natural world to create and then moves into a different realm using his own signifiers. Colours become extravagant blotches, lines contradictory, composition suspended. In the monoprints I revert to the abstract building up signifiers.

What is a signifier, what is an object, how does the artist choose one or more. The poet William Carlos Williams wrote about a wheelbarrow, a red wheelbarrow. Why did he choose this topic, why does the artist choose cloud, an indigo blue, a worn out brush to work with – Can it be that just for a moment  something caught his attention, his imagination and he made a choice to follow it through. It is like a piece of string, no one knows its length to start off with, follow it and you will find out, there in lies the excitement.

To view the full exhibition of work online, visit www.capegallery.co.za/juli_jana

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Jeff Rankin: Inverted Angels and White Collar Criminals

Jeff Rankin’s woodcuts and monotypes have been thoroughly enjoyed as part of the Impressions exhibition at The Cape Gallery. In his works, imagined features bleed into everyday encounters to reveal social experiences in a unique way.

Jeff Rankin speaks about Inverted Angels and White Collar Criminals:

Series Title: Inverted Angels (Woodcut prints)

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“The Angels series is a perfect example of my ongoing road quest for props used in the acts I depict: near Bizana in northeast Transkei, a young girl stands in long grass, wearing a sun hat which has to be her mother’s or grandmother’s; in Durban’s busy Grey Street market area an older woman and young girl walk ahead of me on their shopping mission; at the small fishing port of St Francis I gaze down on the boats and imagine into their world a large skyward fish; a cow floats above a Port St Johns trading store; in the town of Alice an unemployed man and the bottle store seem sadly inseparable. I see these events and the people in them as angels of the everyday. The angels are inverted because (as all printmakers know) the woodcut print is a mirror-image of the block, inverted as it were, but also because my thinking is upside-down when I’m recreating these acts. To resolve the act depicted I go through this conceptual inversion, mostly with subtle effect, sometimes more extreme. The two-colour prints were made from separate blocks.”

 

Series Title: White Collar Criminals (Monotype and drawing)

Jeff Rankin, White collar criminals, Monoprint & mixed media

Jeff Rankin, White collar criminals, Monoprint & mixed media

“Titles are important to my work. These three pieces come from my lifelong obsession with bureaucracy and the corporate mindset, how they conspire to devalue the everyday, and how I regard this devaluation as a criminal act. I think the irony of the imagery is subconscious: through it I’m probably asking viewers to play, to use a sceptic lens. These Criminals are part of a larger series which may be infinite. In them I indulge my simple, powerfully therapeutic need to draw.  I return to this subject tirelessly, in various ways, between other things. In this case the colour monotype is done on thin plastic sheet using a variety of tools, objects, inks and solvents; this is masked in selected areas before going through the press; the drawing or painting is then added. The reason for monotype, which by definition allows only one print, is that the press transfers the image in a totally unique way. I absolutely love the effects and will never tire of exploring the medium.”

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Nola’s Garden

Leucospermum Cordifolium by Nola Muller

Leucospermum Cordifolium by Nola Muller

Nola Muller taps into the abundance of the natural world with an energy that never ceases to astound. Her paintings are the physical and permanent manifestations of an event. They are the visual realisations of a process that starts from a journey through the remote parts of the Kalahari, a surfing trip to the Maldives or a trek in the Nepalese Himalayas. The delight she derives from ‘knowing’ her subject is clear in her work. The inspiration for this particular series of paintings was plucked directly from the artist’s garden, which was recently recognised as the best indigenous garden on the open day in the Noordhoek Valley. – Gail Dörje, owner and curator of The Cape Gallery.

Visiting Nola’s Garden

Nola’s home is full of life. Upon first sight, Nola greeted us with a friendly smile and a wriggling poodle in her arms. While enjoying cake and coffee, Nola spoke fondly of her journey over years nurturing the garden into its current state, collecting specimens that would become residents and experimenting with trial and error methods, as though she had grown with the garden. She proceeded to pull books from shelves to show us various plant species indigenous to our region and recalled rare discoveries, such as stumbling upon a Protea that had bloomed for the first time in 40 years while hiking.

Naturally when the time came for us to enter the garden, we exhibited the same enthusiasm, excitement and curiosity as Nola’s poodle. The garden not only bursted forth with fresh life and colour, but teemed with Nola’s creativity as well. Whale bones, stones collected while traveling, homemade arches and waterfalls had been carefully placed, awaiting eager viewers, humans, birds and bees alike, who would marvel at the space.

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Nola’s artworks have always been rooted in her experiences – her thirst for adventure and greater knowledge of the world; its varying cultures and landscapes. This exhibition, however, is closer to home. For the first time, we get a glimpse of the life and serenity Nola has surrounded herself with. As she spoke, an image of  the woman who pauses to revel in the fine details on the road to great adventures began to emerge – the variations in light; the fleeting visitors who cross her path throughout the day. This collection of paintings looks at those finer details through Nola’s eyes with the same bold, fresh energy.

Nola has exhibited in France and throughout South Africa, including several solo and group exhibitions throughout her career as an artist. Her work has been featured in a number of exhibitions at The Cape Gallery.

Left: King Protea (Cynaroides); Centre: Protea Cynaroides; Right: Young Aloe

Left: King Protea (Cynaroides); Centre: Protea Cynaroides; Right: Young Aloe

Nola says:

“When the March Lilies started appearing in February this year, I began to feast from my garden. I’ve spent these six months savouring the growth, observing the magic of colour emerging every day. From the blue Agapanthus, the pink Giant Proteas, the red Fire Ericas to the orange Aloes, I’ve been fed with inspiration that has culminated in this collection of ‘Nola’s Garden’.

Now that the Leucospernum (Pincushions) are popping my canvasses climax in colour and my appetite is nearly fulfilled. How lucky I am to plant, nurture, enjoy and now gorge my canvasses with brush strokes of love for my own indigenous Cape Floral Kingdom.”

Nola Muller at the studio

Nola Muller at the studio

Click to view Nola’s work

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Angela Key’s encounter: from the Auob riverbed to the studio

Each year, The Cape Gallery hosts an exhibition of artwork by some of the best wildlife artists in the country. These artists are passionate about wildlife and conservation. Their inspiration often stems from personal experiences with their subjects. Angela Key recalls a close, touching encounter with a family of Bat-Eared Foxes, which inspired a work included in the current Wildlife Exhibition:

Angela Key; 'Bat Eared Fox Family'; Pastel; 38 x 63 cm

Angela Key; ‘Bat Eared Fox Family’; Pastel; 38 x 63 cm

“We’ve been scrutinizing every inch of the Auob riverbed for more than a month.

We almost missed them curled up among the fallen branches of a camelthorn…only the enormous ears exposed them: a pair of bat-eared foxes.

In the Kgalagadi, you often see these charismatic little foxes trotting along the riverbed, backs arched, dish-shaped ears pivoted forward. Acting as parabolic reflectors, their ears can amplify the slightest sound, even beetle larvae and harvester termites located deep underground. When it hears something, the fox stops, digs frantically with its forefeet and then chomps triumphantly on a termite.

These foxes have finished foraging for the night. The sun will soon rise over the red dunes flanking the banks of the Auob. A Kalahari Robin strikes up a few tentative notes, announcing the coming dawn.

As if responding, the female fox rises, stretches and shakes the dust from her coat. She scans up and down the riverbed before approaching us. We are parked within 5 meters of an old aardvark burrow. The fox approaches the entrance and calls softly. Two black-tipped ears twitch in the first rays of light…a fluffy face peeps at us, eyes blinking, then disappearing back into the darkness. We remain motionless.

Minutes pass…then magically two pups emerge. Legs firmly planted, the female braces herself. The pups attach themselves to her teats, bushy black tails wagging, front paws pummelling her belly to stimulate milk flow. When the female’s finished nursing, the male attends to grooming each pup thoroughly and keeping a watchful eye as they charge from one bolt-hole to another, tumbling in the thorny scrub and collapsing in plumes of dust. This is undoubtedly the highlight of our past two months in the Kgalagadi and a delight to draw every day at the easel!”

View Angela Key’s work

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Kitty Dörje discusses ‘From the Promenade to the Sea’

Local artist, Kitty Dörje stopped by at The Cape Gallery to discuss a work titled ‘From the Promenade to the Sea’, one of her more recent charcoal drawings.

View Kitty Dörje’s work at The Cape Gallery

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Sheila Petousis discusses Transition

Sheila Petousis discusses the inspiration behind her latest work, titled Transition:

It’s Sunday afternoon…furtively I scan the neighbours windows before I clip a flower…one I’ve spotted on my morning walks in Hiddingh… Then it’s off to the beach with my flower to play – I have carefree childhood memories building dragons and castles that would all eventually be claimed by the sea…my parents have always found time for and encouraged play… I now make it my weekly ritual…

Then there is also marking time – linear time (where social media and the internet seem to have flattened my past and made everything current). I love the anticipation of creating an event to look forward to and fulfil on, not quite knowing how – it’s satisfying. Over time it gives me a filter to observe nature – plants, the rhythms of tides and seasons and so reflect on my own…human nature, humanity.

Protea

Sheila Petousis, Transition 1/10, Photograph, 63 x 63 cm

Sheila Petousis, Transition 1/10, Photograph, 63 x 63 cm

I’ve called this Protea Transition.

Inspired by my mother in law Kitty, who passed on 25 January 2016…her passion for life and her family and even now her generosity – the fertile ground she has left us all in our renewal.

Transition

Definition: The process or period of changing from one state or condition to another.

Synonyms: Change, passage, adaption, metamorphosis, transformation…

 

This work is currently on show as part of The Rain Maker, the annual Winter Solstice exhibition at The Cape Gallery. Click to view more of Sheila Petousis’ work

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The Mary Poppins series by Kitty Dörje

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Kitty Dörje’s Mary Poppins series is currently on show as part of The Rain Maker: the annual Winter Solstice exhibition at The Cape Gallery. The exhibition runs until the 23rd of July 2016.

Click to view more work by Kitty Dörje

Kitty Dörje on the experiences that lead to the development of this series:

A sequence of 12 Etchings created in 2014

The story I have chosen is Mary Poppins. I came across this movie when I visited a friend in Dubai. She had downloaded it to entertain her children. I downloaded the words of the songs in an attempt to memorize them. There was too much distraction: a swimming pool to play in, neighbours to chat to, too much happening in the domestic domain. All I could do was watch a movie.

The story of Mary Poppins is of a young woman who is going out into the world armed with her umbrella and case. These are the only visible tools she has to earn an income. She knocks on the door of a house and is invited into an upper class banker’s home where her role is to educate the children. This ability to change their way of thinking allows the children to play in a male dominated house, where rules have killed spontaneity. She demonstrates the power of ideology that allows her to catch rides on clouds.

This body of work is made up of drawn still frames from the movie imposed on digital print outs of my childhood. I attended the German School and have used a snapshot of myself with my Schultüte as I am leaving the house on my first day. It is a German tradition where one takes a bag of sweets to the first day of school. My mother with an English background had made her own interpretation of the tradition. It was a cone container painted to look like a mouse. When I got to school I noticed it was a bit bigger than the other learners’. She had stuffed newspaper in the bottom. The other learners had sweets all the way down. I brought that to her attention when I got home. Yes I did have a privileged middle class upbringing.

I only stayed at the German School for one term and was then moved to Rustenburg Junior school with my sister. It was quite a sudden move into an all girl environment. I have used a photo of me with my sister in a school uniform standing outside the house getting ready to leave.

From my experience of schooling, I am aware that the South African school system is not well suited to everyone. I have just finished studying a postgraduate diploma in education at UCT in order to be an Art and Graphics teacher. I have done much reading and discussion on the problems faced in coming up with a single education syllabus that caters to the needs of children from Western, Muslim and African cultural origins.

It is an exciting time, however, I am not sure if standardization is the solution. I hope, in time, an education model will be developed to maximize the strengths of the African culture that lies in oral tradition, dancing, war craft, beading, pottery, stone and wood sculpture.  I hope future generations can dream beyond text. New technology like internet and video can help make this dream seen. Until that time comes I think this text will allow people to understand the context of my artwork.

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