Friday, 24 August 2007

Painting Fields of Gold

I knew I wanted to be an artist when my parents took me on a car journey through the Overberg. The Overberg is a magnificent open stretch of South Africa about 2 hours to the east of Cape Town. I was a small, somewhat timid and quiet 11 year old from a small town a long way from Cape Town. But what I saw through the car window on that long day's drive made my soul soar like a great eagle and a sense of awe and grandness settle somewhere behind my eyes.
That is the effect that the wheatfields of Caledon had on me.
Looking out of the car window onto endless golden blankets wrapped snuggly round gentle rolling hills and stretching in all directions has a soothing, hypnotic effect. Framing the yellow canvas is the misty blue, jagged ribbon of the Swartberg range, majestic even though I saw them for the first time through the dusty windows of our old Peugeot 404.
Since then I have had many occasions to marvel at this vista and have seen it changing hues with each season. All through these times it has never ceased to inspire and amaze. Yet, it is in Summer when the Overberg sings true- a deep, smoky smouldering sultry jazz. You wonder how you ever drove without airconditioning, yet the child within you aches for that time long ago when you had no defense against the power of that heat!

Many painters have tried, with varying degrees of success. I think it is Van Gogh's painting, "Wheatfields under threatening skies" that for me captures the energy and rapture of that subject best. It is a magnificent work - the circling black crows providing a sinister contrast to the rich abundant texture of the wheat. For me the message is clear - though there is abundance, there is also ravage. Ignore one of these maxims at your peril. The positive is made more meaningful by the negative.
Accepting the wholeness of things puts everything into perspective. Nothing is perfect in and of itself and nature will always strive for harmony amongst its disparate elements - fire and ice, dark and light. This message is never more beautifully and strongly expressed than in van Gogh's work.
I came across this little painting by Manuela Valenti when I did a google search for Wheatfields.
When I begin eventually, I know my palette will be hot - I even invented a new colour when I went to Napier one year - a small village about an hour and a half from Cape Town. I called it Napier yellow - it is a specific colour you only see in the wheatfields of Napier - a kind of opaque, scorched yet pale shade somewhere between ochre and Naples yellow with just a dash of cadmium.
While I paint I will listen to my favourite song of all time, Sting's - Fields of Gold and remember when I climbed the mountains of the Cedarberg and fell in love in a golden field on the top. Surely that will work to get the creative juices flowing..
This subject is certainly stimulating certain other juices.
I'm off to make myself a fat sandwich.......


Bee Skelton said...

Hi Viv. An interesting varied blog. I look forward to visiting often :)

Manuela Valenti - Contemporary Artist said...

wonderful article Viv! I would love to visit those landscapes you are so lucky to see - can't wait to see your painting!

Much success!
Manuela Valenti

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