Wednesday, 04 June 2008

Still Life

There is a wave of Xenophobia sweeping our city at the moment. I listen to the radio a lot while I work and many people phone in with their solutions, ideas and thoughts on the issue. It seems that the general feeling out there is that it is mainly caused by youths without jobs and a certain criminal element.
As an artist working within this framework I am influenced to a fair extent by what is going on around me. It is almost like I have a set of antennae that is attuned to the vibes around the city. As I am often working in a state of conscious "unconsciousness" I am not always in control of the process or the final result of the painting.
The theme that I am currently working on is "Doors". I am doing a series of paintings about doors, exploring the concept and meaning of doors. I was working on a painting which was taking a long time to reveal itself to me. A few months ago I had covered the surface with a layer of black paint formed from a mix of alizarin crimson and aquamarine blue (prussian blue gives a blacker mix). A few weeks ago I picked up this painting again and tried to make sense of it. I saw a black doorway in the right half of the painting. I painted an archway above it.
I found myself painting a step at the bottom of the archway. Suddenly the brush almost began moving by itself and a pink prone figure appeared on the step. I resisted the urge to develop the figure or "prettify" it even though it looked unfinished. Then I wrote the words, "still life" on the painting. This surprised me as I had always frowned upon script used in paintings. But I realised when I stepped back from the painting that it said something quite powerful about the society in which I find myself.
The pink figure could be symbolic of the white people living in South Africa. I would like to see this figure as "still having life" within this increasingly hostile environment. Like in my painting, white people (pink people)are lying down here at the moment - afraid to speak out in fear of being called "racist". Though we may look dead, there is still life in us!

As an ageing person I also like to think of the painting as speaking to this process ie. "There is still life in the old dog yet!" The vast archway behind the figure is an open door. We as a culture need to take the step through the doorway into acceptance of each other as unique and precious human beings. We need to walk through the archway into a new life together, building a new nation. We as ageing people also need to take the step of self-acceptance, knowing that we still have life, still have dreams and are still useful members of the society, with much to offer.


Dennis Buckman said...

I absolutely love the work, "Still Life" AND the narration that accompanies it, in your blog. So many times I view outstanding art, but question the story behind it. In yours, the narration give us a place to start, an understanding of the emotion and thought that went into the piece. Most all of my work carries a narration to at least give the viewer a place to start.. Thank you for your wonderful work.


Viv King said...

Hi Dennis. Thank you for your valuable input. It means a lot to me when someone takes the trouble to read the story behind the picture and get a feeling for the meaning. Though these are troubled times in my country we need to keep positive and optimistic and encouragement from readers like you certainly help.

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