“A change is as good as a holiday.” I decided a few short weeks ago to break away from the ‘close’, realistic fine work I have been producing for almost two years now. Not because I suddenly don’t love birds anymore, and I am sure I will still be doing some more birds, but because I just needed a change. I have been needing to express myself in a new way.
I went into town for art supplies and came home with a rather large canvas! There is something very exciting, and a little terrifying, about working in a large format. The extra space immediately gives one a sense of freedom, the freedom to be expressive! The visual lens which for me up to now has been zoomed in and incredibly focused, suddenly opened up and zoomed out, becoming quite naturally a ‘story’ instead of just a documentation. One cannot help but be pulled in to the narrative of the landscape/story unfolding.
The experience for me as the artist is very personal. As I paint I want to relate a feeling of place, experience, and also emotion through my work. I want to tell you a story.
So here is the story!
It is about the KZN grasslands. Or rather, it is about my experience of healing and learning and loving the grasslands! In these new works I want the viewer to be excited about the textures, colours and atmosphere. I want to introduce the viewer to the plants I come across on my grassland explores. The beauty and the diversity. I want the viewer to slow down, pay attention, be curious – This is our natural heritage and it is diminishing steadily year by year before our very eyes.
The first painting I have titled “Abundance”. I used burnt orange Crocosmia paniculata (falling stars), Helichrysum nudifolium (a powerful healing tea is traditionally made from this grassland plant), as well as Agapanthus seed heads and various grasses. The Summer rains have quite literally made the grasslands explode into life. I wanted to express this abundance whilst using commonplace but beautiful grassland plants which we tend to overlook.
Saying that I ‘enjoyed’ doing this painting would be the understatement of the year. I Looooooved every minute of it! It is as if a door has opened that I never realized was beckoning to me all this time.
My second painting of the grassland series I have titled “Joy”. In this painting I started off with a vivid back round of orange and a bright Pthalo greeny blue. These colours wanted to stay and I let them. I quite like the luminosity they bring to this painting. The pink Natal Watsonias are what inspired the ‘joy’. These were spotted growing alongside the old Howick road in a small area of natural grassland, hedged in on one side by plantations and the other by suburban sprawl. I almost got whiplash as they caught my eye whilst driving into town. Of course I had to turn back and investigate.
The rest of the plants are as follows. Grey and cream Helichrysum rugulosum in the foreground. Seneciosa inornatus forming the yellow haze into the distance. Berkheya speciosa (Buffaloes tongue) is the pretty yellow daisy like plant in the centre foreground. The tall grasses whisping through the back are Setaria sphacelata. These are quite beautiful along the road sides right now with their fluffy heads.
These two paintings are the first of a grassland series for the “Art in the Country” exhibition being held at Harrington house in May in Hilton. My first exhibition in my new home town. They are also a first into a completely new way of painting for me. The joy of being creative however is that nothing is set in stone. For now however I want to explore this style which seems to come naturally.
Here’s to more happy painting adventures, and more happy grassland explores and experiences.