2019 Machine in the garden

2019 Machine in the garden


Heidi Fourie, Allen Laing and Jaco van Schalkwyk

4 June 2019 – Gallery 2, JOHANNESBURG

In 1854, at the height of the Romantic Movement in Europe, Henry David Thoreau published his Walden in the USA – a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, resulting from a period of just more than town years he spent in a cabin he built near Walden Pond, Massachusetts, amidst woodland owned by his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson.

In Thoreau’s Walden the narrator is telling us that he had a direct experience of nature at the pond, that he felt ecstatic as he sat in the doorway of his hut, enjoying the beauty of a summer morning “while the birds sang around or flitted noiseless through the house”. He succinctly depicts his happy state thus: “I silently smiled at my incessant good fortune.”

But then his reverence is interrupted by the rattle of steam locomotive’s shrill whistle. He attempts to retain his state of reverence by contemplating upon the railroad’s value to man and the admirable sense of American enterprise and industry that it represents. But the longer he considers it, the more irritated he becomes, and his ecstasy departs. He realizes that the whistle announces the demise of the pastoral, agrarian way of life, the life he enjoys most, and the rise of industrial America, with its factories, sweatshops, crowded urban centres, and assembly lines. The easy, natural, poetic life, as typified by his idyllic life at Walden, is being displaced.

More than a hundred years later Leo Marx published a work of literary criticism called The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America, using Thoreau’s experience as a metaphor to illustrate the relationship between nature and technology.

Half a century later Heidi Fourie, Allen Laing and Jaco van Schalkwyk present three bodies of work brought together under the title Machine in the Garden, exploring latter day notions of Romanticism, or notions of latter day Romanticism; formulating their reaction to significant changes in their world: a technological revolution; a changing social landscape; and growing urbanisation. They do this not by escaping from or rejecting the high tech life, but by employing their art to show us the contradiction of our commitments to both rural happiness and productivity, wealth, and power.

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WORK

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Machine in the Garden 4 June 2019

“In 1854, at the height of the Romantic Movement in Europe, Henry David Thoreau published his Walden in the USA – a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, resulting from a period of just more than town years he spent in a cabin he built near Walden Pond, Massachusetts, amidst woodland owned by his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson.

In Thoreau’s Walden the narrator is telling us that he had a direct experience of nature at the pond, that he felt ecstatic as he sat in the doorway of his hut, enjoying the beauty of a summer morning “while the birds sang around or flitted noiseless through the house”. He succinctly depicts his happy state thus: “I silently smiled at my incessant good fortune.”

But then his reverence is interrupted by the rattle of steam locomotive’s shrill whistle. He attempts to retain his state of reverence by contemplating upon the railroad’s value to man and the admirable sense of American enterprise and industry that it represents. But the longer he considers it, the more irritated he becomes, and his ecstasy departs. He realizes that the whistle announces the demise of the pastoral, agrarian way of life, the life he enjoys most, and the rise of industrial America, with its factories, sweatshops, crowded urban centres, and assembly lines. The easy, natural, poetic life, as typified by his idyllic life at Walden, is being displaced.

More than a hundred years later Leo Marx published a work of literary criticism called The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America, using Thoreau’s experience as a metaphor to illustrate the relationship between nature and technology.

Half a century later Heidi Fourie, Allen Laing and Jaco van Schalkwyk present three bodies of work brought together under the title Machine in the Garden, exploring latter day notions of Romanticism, or notions of latter day Romanticism; formulating their reaction to significant changes in their world: a technological revolution; a changing social landscape; and growing urbanisation. They do this not by escaping from or rejecting the high tech life, but by employing their art to show us the contradiction of our commitments to both rural happiness and productivity, wealth, and power.

To label them “neo-Romantics” would be too easy, too simplistic, since their work is far more complex than a mere shortcut in order for us to get a grasp on what they are doing. However, the parallels are there for all to see.

It is no longer the shrill whistle of the steam locomotive disrupting their Arcadia – the intruder might come in the form of a ringtone or a notification of sorts that the outside world demands to make contact, interrupting the idyll, as in Thoreau’s story.

Laing’s walks in nature – have a look at the photographs of him wearing his sculptural exoskeletons, his meticulously crafted extensions serving as armour in a hostile world – are indicative of how inextricably linked machine and garden have become.

In researching the negative effects of phones on our lives, and the absurdity of our enslavement to them, he spends hours glued to the little screen. He reads Bible verses about the armour of God on his holy, living Samsung, on some poorly designed website. He reads about the mediaeval romance of the Pre-Raphaelites and the simplicity of the Arts and Crafts movement on mass-produced devices.

Van Schalkwyk spends hours reliving a moment, recreating a single camera shot in brushstroke upon brushstroke on canvas or paper, revelling in the landscape as hallowed site. In his white edged paintings in oil on paper he acknowledges the camera. He presents monochromatic images as mementos of the travels in nature, of Wanderlust and misty climes and with Caspar David Friedrich in mind the Romantic sublime. Whereas Friedrich’s “Wanderer” was towering over the sea of fog, Van Schalkwyk’s wanderer is in the midst of the mist. We no longer possess the optimism of the 19th century….

From her studio Fourie is constantly watching the Magalies as her garden in the middle of the machine called Pretoria. This series of work she considers a tribute to the Magalies, a celebration of its rocks, plants, and occasional inhabitants, human and animal, the golden “dodder”, lichens, trees and charred grass.

“The countless hours we spent,” she says, “gazing at the Pretoria CBD in the grey distance against ever changing backdrops. Perfectly parallel to the stretch lies our apartment building. Throughout the day, I glance up from my easel and look out the window at the mountainside. Some late afternoons I look back at the building from the mountain top. A trans-seasonal back-and-forth. I often ponder the future of its state and accessibility and that of many places we are currently free to roam.”

Contributing to the success of this exhibition is the fact that Van Schalkwyk, Fourie and Laing – no doubt three of the most talented, committed and devoted artists  around – are  wanderers, in tuned with nature, in all her manifestations: in regarding a mountain range as a second home but at the same time a keloid, an overgrown pinkish scar tissue stretching through urban development; in an elegiac take on a landscape, knowing that in this Arcadia death is lurking; in a wooden air-filtering gas mask as armament, with little compartments filled with soft mosses and fragrant natural leaves, herbs and spices.

In closing. Inventive as they are, this exhibition also heralds a further development in their individual trajectories as artists. After banning the human figure from his Eden, his 2015 exhibition, Van Schalkwyk is no longer solely focusing on the landscape as portrait, but also on the person as portrait.

Fourie is tackling the fluid and turbulent nature of painting with solid and bold gestures, yet, her control and calculated use of her medium is purely astonishing.

And Laing’s  ambulatory prostheses have found stationary status, and sculptural peace. A brilliant development.

Machine in the Garden is a show that makes us think about and reflect on our place in the world, and to what extent we might be the machine in the garden….”

Johan Myburgh 2019

2019 A Land I Name Yesterday

2019 A Land I Name Yesterday


Jaco van Schalkwyk, Jenna Burchell and Wayne Matthews

Barnard Gallery, CAPE TOWN

Barnard is pleased to present A Land I Name Yesterday. Initiated by Jaco van Schalkwyk this collaborative project includes the work of two other Johannesburg based artists namely Jenna Burchell and Wayne Matthews.

Known for his expansive and highly accomplished oil paintings of amongst other things forest ‘interiors’ and jungle thickets, van Schalkwyk’s immersive canvases – often presented in series as in Arcadia (Joburg Art Fair, 2016) and Nemora (Volta Basel, 2018) – are simultaneously sublime and unsettling. Rendered in a predominantly monochrome palette, these psychologically charged spaces serve, on this occasion as both the armature for and backdrop to Jenna Burchell’s ingenious soundscape interventions.

Burchell is recognised for her masterful merging of mediums and sensorial interpositions – particularly that of sculpture / objects and sound as in her extensive project Songsmith 2015-2018. For this collaborative project, Burchell extends her repertoire to engage the ‘mindscapes’ of Jaco van Schalkwyk and Wayne Matthews. Having documented their brainwaves using an EEG device, the artist created soundscapes of their experiences which now ‘feed through the exhibition space in a ghostly manner’. In addition to these soundscapes Burchell works with compressed carbon, also a product of trees, setting up a haunting installation of three dimensional black trees in the gallery’s smaller second space positioned adjacent to the main hall.

Wayne Matthews’ carefully sutured collages – reconstructions of 19 Century German woodcuts of trees and woodland landscapes – set up a compelling dialogue with van Schalkwyk’s contemporary vistas. Together they explore a similar language albeit through contrasting vernacular. Matthew’s works have a historical accent that visually evoke the characteristics and qualities of classical maps. Invested in ‘shifting images’ the artist literally cuts them up and remakes them thereby imbuing the reconstructed images with a fragile beauty.

‘A Land I Name Yesterday’ explores liminal spaces, mutating landscapes, notions of conservation and what may be considered a ‘Contemporary Romanticism’. Commenting on this collaborative project, Jaco van Schalkwyk summarizes their collective objectives – ‘We’re creating a new land, a new world’.


WORK – JACO

WORK – JENNA

WORK – WAYNE

COLLABORATION BETWEEN JACO AND JENNA

INSTALLATION IMAGES

2016 Passage

2016 Passage


Karin Daymond, Jaco van Schalkwyk, Deléne Human

Gallery 2, June 2016

Since the conception of his 2015 solo exhibition “Eden”, artist Jaco van Schalkwyk has been concerned with the symbolism and imaginology of forests and islands. In 2014 he spent two months on the German island of Sylt in the North Sea and he recently also visited the island of Bali. Although both islands are very different in appearance, the same can be said; Islands are distant places; an effort must be made to reach them. Their remoteness evokes the idea of travel, of passage; ” a system of openings and closings” that make an island isolated and yet penetrable at the same time. In his body of work for the Group exhibition “Passage”, Van Schalkwyk consciously adopt the role of witness, observing the processes of Nature and the activities of humankind from a position of relative detachment in order to provide testimony or evidence of their effects. Apart from documentation, there has always been an enduring trace of the allegorical narrative in Van Schalkwyk’s work, strongly related to his religious background.

Such is the case where the artist observed the unique funeral rites in the Terunyan village on the banks of lake Batur in Bali. As one of the oldest villages in Bali, the inhabitants have for centuries laid their dead underneath a Towering tree called ‘Taru Menyan’, meaning ” Tree of fragrant incense”. This special tree has the ability to absorb any foul smell caused by the dead bodies. This experience inspired Van Schalkwyk to create these multi layered works that deals with life, death and resurrection. The artworks not only explore the power and restoration ability of Nature, but also The harmonious way in which man could life with Nature.

At the same time Van Schalkwyk used this Natural and Cultural phenomenon, to metaphorically investigate the relation between the Christian cross and the Paradisiacal ‘Tree of life’. The cross symbolizes life, immortality, union of heaven and earth and union of spirit and matter. The cross takes much of the symbolic value of the tree. Both of them represent the meeting place for divine and human, heaven and earth and affirm a renewal of spiritual life. The Tree of life in the garden of Eden was provided to be a continuous reminder that immortality was a consequence of obedience and the crucifixion of Christ meant redemption and restoration of Eternal life.

The artworks appear reminiscent of Romantic Landscape painting, Vanitas painting and Memento Mori. In similar fashion Van Schalkwyk uses metaphor and symbolism to ascribe moral significance to the growth and decomposition of Natural objects. The idea of the Island as ‘Utopia’ or ‘Paradise’ is also challenged with a somewhat melancholic outlook.


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Passage: A movement from one place to another. A process of passing from one condition or stage to another. A path, channel or duct through, over or along which something may pass

Artist Statement – Karin Daymond

“Passage” group exhibition – Gallery 2

June 2016

Working towards Passage has allowed me to pursue the idea of the landscape and belonging even further. I am still feeling strongly, the tug and vocabulary of my previous exhibition called Welcome Stranger.

Migration is pervasive. Out of necessity, it often happens quietly. In these works, the refugees leave silent traces of their journey through water, sand and mountains. I asked myself what I would take if I had to leave, and I saw that African women take fabric…with it around her, a woman can seem regal and even happy. She might even feel these things. These flashes of colour push back despair; they conceal and express at the same time.”

The fabric is still strongly present in some of the new work. In other paintings there are subtle signs that people have passed through, leaving little more than a path worn into the landscape; a human presence without any visible figures.

The recent work also has an exaggerated sense of perspective, an instinctive response to the immensity of the spaces that refugees must often cross, in both a physical and an emotional sense. On a human scale, distances and barriers that must be negotiated may look and feel insurmountable.

Artist Statement – Jaco van Schalkwyk

“Passage” group exhibition – Gallery 2

June 2016

In his body of work for the Group exhibition “Passage”, Van Schalkwyk consciously adopts the role of witness, observing the processes of Nature and the activities of humankind from a position of relative detachment in order to provide testimony or evidence of their effects. Apart from documentation, there has always been an enduring trace of the allegorical narrative in Van Schalkwyk’s work, strongly related to his religious background.

Such is the case where the artist observed the unique funeral rites in the Trunyan village on the banks of lake Batur in Bali. As one of the oldest villages in Bali, the inhabitants have for centuries laid their dead underneath a Towering tree called ‘Taru Menyan’, meaning ” Tree of fragrant incense”. This special tree has the ability to absorb any foul smell caused by the dead bodies.

Van Schalkwyk uses metaphors and symbolism to ascribe moral significance to the growth and decomposition of natural objects. The idea of the Island as ‘Utopia’ or ‘Paradise’ is challenged with a somewhat melancholic outlook. At the same time Van Schalkwyk uses this natural and cultural phenomenon to metaphorically investigate the relation between the Christian cross and the Paradisiacal ‘Tree of Life’. The cross symbolizes life, immortality, union of heaven and earth and union of spirit and matter. The cross takes much of the symbolic value of the tree. Both of  them represent the meeting place for the divine and human, heaven and earth and affirm a renewal of spiritual life. The ‘Tree of Life’ in the garden of Eden was provided to be a continuous reminder that immortality was a consequence of obedience and the crucifixion of Christ meant redemption and restoration of eternal life.

Artist Statement – Deléne Human

“Passage” group exhibition – Gallery 2

June 2016

The notion of reaching a spiritual and transcendental state of Being is explored in Deléne Human’s sculptural works. Through the critical investigation of various pre- and early Christian metaphors and iconographies, as well as burial rituals, this body of work interprets the archetype of the resurrection myth, by questioning human mortality and the possibility of a resurrected life.

Organic materials were used as a point of departure in the creation of her work. Found bones were used with the intention to celebrate death and the concept of an eternal return or afterlife. The bones furthermore emphasise the bare essence of what all living creatures are. Her work not only explores the cyclical nature of life and timelessness, but also the linear expression of searching and reaching a transcendental state of Being.

Glass is one of the few natural substances that can be re-purposed indefinitely. The transparency and the strenuous process of high temperatures the glass has withstood (to be slumped, blown and annealed) evoke emotions of liberty and a lack of restriction. The inherent qualities of fragility, transparency, fluidity and coagulation to transience could metaphorically represent the fragile possibility of life everlasting, as well as the transparent and spiritual possibility of reaching freedom-towards-death (Heidegger 1962:311).

These works exhibited in Passage do not only have significance for the contemporary art society, but also for the culture of our time, especially South Africa, where we deal with death on various levels on a daily basis. The inevitability of human death is something we all wish to ignore. On multiple levels however, this work aims to draw the attention back to the harsh reality of human mortality.

2014 Odyssey: A Pilgrimage with Alexis Preller

2014 Odyssey: A Pilgrimage with Alexis Preller

TEXT

Odyssey: A Pilgrimage with Alexis Preller

Emotions and inspirations spanning eras and genres

In the European summer of France in 2012 four visual artists – Louis Jansen van Vuuren, Margaret Gradwell, Jaco van Schalkwyk and Mari Vermeulen-Breedt – attended a course in creative writing, conducted by Riana Scheepers.

Inspired by the creative energy of the French countryside and fascinated by emotions and inspirations that span eras and genres, the author and the artists conceptualised a project where the word and the brush would engage in an artistic exchange and that would be presented symbiotically.

Our plan was rather simple: The painters presented the author with a painting of their choice. In this case, a painting of the enigmatic Alexis Preller, titled “Mango in a cage”.

The author reacted to the painting with a variety of literary texts: a poem, a short story, a brief literary journey with autobiographical impressions.

These texts were presented to the painters who, in turn, interacted with the texts, as well as the original Preller painting, through their own works of art. In a moment of creative ecstasy, painter Louis Jansen van Vuuren produced a short story and a poem – a virtuoso display of word skills from the painter’s versatile palette.

The aim of this exhibition of word and image is to investigate and expand the concept of artistry, and the inspiration the artists find from existing works and from each other. The concept of colonialism is also explored in order to fit the overall theme of the Visual Arts Programme at the 2014 KKNK.

The cross-pollination of visual and word images becomes an odyssey of the arts, an endless journey in which not only Alexis Preller is observed anew and re-evaluated, but a journey presenting new flights of wonderment and discovery.

The artists involved in this project are South Africans with an intimate connection with both Africa and Europe. They live, as does Alexis Preller, in a fascinating space with multiple influences and allusions, a space which melds the real world with an internal, psychic landscape. Whether they live in passionate, contemporary South Africa or in romantic, Medieval France, their “home” is the small blue planet, and the breathing of the ages now is the heartbeat of the moment.

Furthermore, they have first-hand experience the political changes in post-Apartheid South Africa over the past 20 years. By incorporating into their work the South African landscape and the dramatic socio-political changes, the artists now express their bleak introspection in visual form and in text. However, the works of art do not pose a political manifesto, they remain the artists” reaction to a particular given.

It is a well-known fact that the artists – the painters and the author – are very closely involved with the work of other artists, both artistically and as mentors. This might be the reason why they manage to bring back their references to current, contemporary, culture-specific imagery. The result is a unique journey through a trans-cultural landscape. By using their own and much-loved objects and themes (household gods according to Preller), the artists incorporate into their work allusions to their own lives and their native soil.

***

In her texts, after interacting with the primary text, Alexis Preller’s “Mango in a cage”, Riana Scheepers returned to her native soil, sultry and subtropical KwaZulu-Natal. The space in which the child grows up. is warm like amniotic fluid, pulsating like a succulent mango. It’s a sensual, virile world of innocent child’s play and natural urges, already showing the first signs of sin brooding in the underbrush. The mango, as depicted in Preller’s painting, already shows the first signs of decay.

The child returning as an adult to an imagined world of primordial happiness, is perplexed by the harsh realities of socio-political change, the loneliness of modern man’s increasing isolation.

The childhood past and joys, as symbolised by the mango, now is a foreign country, both reality and illusion.

Louis Jansen van Vuuren created two series for this project. The point of reference in the first series is “MangoMadonna”, followed by two works, viz. “Civilisation 1” and “Civilisation 11”.

In the first painting Jansen van Vuuren bows to Preller. A serene, almost idealised Madonna is displayed, in the same way as Preller’s mango in the cage. But by no means this Madonna is an object of desire. She regards everything with a piercing look – how mankind lies and cheats, and what we will leave behind on earth. In a progressively darkening space she looks down to the vulnerable source of life in her lap. Jansen van Vuuren concludes the series with a work titled “Civilisation: l’envoi”, and inspired by the conclusive text of “Mango Odyssey”. Here is a young hero floundering and drowning in the salt waters of the Cape, triumphantly brandishing the banner of colonialism on his way to a new country.

Jansen van Vuuren’s second series is titled: “The divestment 1”, “The divestment 2”, and “The travels of Josephine”. Josephine regards the world with the same piercing look as that of MangoMadonna. In “Divestment 2” the young woman in the first painting, her hair blowing in the wing and innocently unaware of the ravens of darkness, is overpowered by the raven perching on her head and taking over her thoughts, dethroning her as it were. In the last painting of the series, the raven already part of her psyche, she closes her eyes. Josephine’s journey, her odyssee, has started.

Alexis Preller had a significant influence on Margaret Gradwell’s philosophy as an artist, her style of painting and her technique. As a student she already was aware of his enormous contribution to the post-colonial identity of South Africa and his never-ending quest to capture the heartbeat of Africa in his work. The very same quest is to be found in Gradwell’s work. Preller’s “Mango in a cage”, together with additional stimuli in the literary text, would be a logical starting point for Gradwell.

For this project Gradwell created “Voëlvry”, “Pastoral icon”, “Brave deeds, “Progress” and “Survival”.

In the very same smouldering, earthy colours used by Preller – radiant blue, green and mango yellow – her paintings form part of the South African narrative with its changeable identity. Apart from the inspiration of the overpowering beauty of the Free State (where she’s been living since 2013), she is also acutely aware of the country’s tragic past, and the current disrupting racially and politically motivated manifestation thereof.

Inspired by the text of “Homecoming” (Mango Odyssee: 4) Gradwell creates a series of paintings, the first two of which depict the overwhelming joyousness of the “Zion’s song of joy” and the “Jubilation of coming home”. In the last three paintings there is a change of tone in order to echo the changing key of the text (the “dark-skinned friends of her youth” with “brandished spears, AK47s, necklaces”). Clearly visible in her rendition of highly disturbing incidents that took place in the familiar landscape during the Anglo Boer War, is Gradwell’s historical consciousness in exchange with the present.

 The final piece in the series, with its heart-rending scenes from the Anglo Boer War, is significantly titled “Survival”. The artist thus implies that there is a creative impulse in every moment of life, even in times of conflict and trauma.

Jaco van Schalkwyk’s contribution to the project includes inter alia three multi-media installation works, titled “Green and Yellow, “Huisgod/Domesticated” and “Fragile.

From the outset Van Schalkwyk’s source of inspiration is the ambiguous interaction between the concepts of “imprisonment” and “freedom” in the Preller painting and in the literary texts. The texts of both Scheepers and Jansen van Vuuren tell the story of a child, an innocent child unblemished by politics, racial discrimination and prejudices … or can this not be? With a relentlessly critical eye, but also with compassion, the painter sketches a larger, more disturbing scenario than the carefree playing environment of the child. He abstracts a larger space, creates a vision. He in effect paints open the spatial limitations of the literary text and infers that the happy child will indeed one day be an adult.

As do the authors, Van Schalkwyk creates a visual narrative with theatrical elements. The sensual girl-woman in Scheepers’s texts, as well as the sensitive painter boy in Jansen van Vuuren’s short story, resonates in the main female character of Van Schalkwyk’s narrative. His works of art become theatrical fiction, his décor dramatic props.

The ruthless reality of a post-colonial South Africa, at times too unbearable to observe, is softened by the allure of romanticism and beauty. As in the authors’ texts, there is always a threatening presence, mostly in the form of a wild beast lurking in the thickets of the wood. In Van Schalkwyk works this threatening presence is suggested by closed or obscure spaces of glass, concrete and metal. Paradoxically, the threat is also object of admiration and worship, whether it be in the transitory painting of a forbear in the double portrait “Fragile”, or the magnificent bull displayed in the lounge (“Huisgod/Domesticated”). the delicate barrier of wrought and serrated iron is only an illusion, the adder is still being cherished in the bosom.

               Van Schalkwyk’s installation works comprise a variety of media, including oil paintings and structures of glass and rusty metal. The use of these structures intensifies the feeling of captivity in the visual images. It becomes, as in Preller’s “Mango” and Scheepers’ text, “a cage of razor wire and alarm”.

Van Schalkwyk also plays with colour, as do both authors in their texts. “Green and yellow” not only refers to the Scheepers text with the same title (“Mango odyssey: 1”), but also to the symbolic meaning of excellence it bears in South Africa. In contrast with the warm colours, he uses grey to suggest the cold, stark and lifeless qualities of the modern society (like in “Green and yellow” and “Fragile).

               The juxtaposition of masculinity and femininity, and the domestic space as opposed to nature, confirms Van Schalkwyk’s involvement with freedom and captivity. Ironically, this series of paintings forms part of a pilgrimage, a journey implying escape as well as coming home. The artist thus presents an alternative, or a corrective, for a cheerless existence.

Mari Vermeulen-Breedt created seven works of art for this project: “Idyll”, “Calypso in die Oerbos”, “Idile – Boskind”, “Voetpad – Ontwaking”, “Voetpad – Verleiding”, “Wolvin – Sy droom die hitte” en “Tuiskoms – Boskraaigil”. She uses oils and mixed media, and also creates bronze sculptures, the latter incorporating some of her paintings.

                Preller’s “Mango” is the private property of Vermeulen-Breedt. It therefore was logical that this work of art should be the primary source of inspiration of the Alexis Odyssee project. Vermeulen-Breedt, however, is as sensitive for the nuances of the written word. In the Mango-Odyssee text she returns to her childhood landscape and that which has almost become her mark ‒ her fascination with unsophisticated play and innocence.

The image of naked children sensually munching on fruits of the forest, conjures within her all those evocative symbols of the untamed, unspoilt virgin forest. The forest symbolises an uncontaminated space, filled with cherishing and promise, the antipole of the city’s gilded decadence and so-called “civilisation”. Just like the forest, as depicted in “Idyll”, children are without any political prejudices and pretence.

Despite the fantasy of a forest in which a child can lose himself, the menacing undertone of danger, or simply change, is almost tangible. And often change is accompanied by a budding awareness of sensuality. Calypso, the seductive nymph whom Odysseus banned to the island of Ogygia, symbolises that which can cause any purposeful being to go astray, as did Adam and Eve in the tale of Eden.

The two “Footpath” paintings, Awakening and Seduction, depict the child’s journey towards adulthood. The Maypole dance (in “Footpath – Awakening) is a ritualistic crossover from innocent child’s play to the intrinsic love game of a young woman weaving her web of seduction, defining her own life. She loses her innocence, and starts her own Odyssee, a journey to the faraway lands of bodily and emotional growth. She becomes a she-wolf, living instinctively in a snowy landscape, where heat is only a memory.

The final piece “Homecoming – Cry of the trumpeter hornbill”, stands in sharp contrast to the first paintings in the series. It becomes a macabre homecoming, an outcry for a lost idyll. The pristine forest had to give way to “civilisation”.

What is experienced by the artist who was part of a pilgrimage, an exciting exploration, a homecoming? Maybe just that in which painters and writes have shared throughout the ages – the wonderment and woundedness, the agony and the ecstasy, the satisfaction and disillusionment of the creative processes

               And always, but always the realisation: The journey has only just begun.

Riana Scheepers

February 2014