Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Chapter 12. Back at the garage

Back in the garage

After the Festival I entered a rather bleak period. Uninspired, tired,disillusioned, I struggled on without a strong direction for many months. I was still experimenting with different mediums and materials but the work was unsatisfying.
I signed up for a course with John Cowan at the Frank Joubert art school in Claremont. Being in a classroom again was inspiring and John was great- supportive and encouraging, he inspired me to take my painting more seriously and led me into expressing myself in a more abstract and mystical style. There were some well -known artists in my group- amongst them were Geoff Price, who worked mainly with a palette knife, and Brian Johnson an ex principal of Frank Joubert, who was working with enamel.
There were about 12 of us and it helped being with others, learning from them and getting positive feedback.
John persuaded me to join the South African Association of Artists. I did not think I was good enough but he persuaded me to give it a try. I became a member and submitted 3 paintings for their annual exhibition in September of 2000.
It was a daunting experience lining up with hundreds of other artists at the St. John's church Hall in Wynberg. It was raining and we huddled under umbrellas clutching our canvases and portfolios. My paintings were quite large and they were unframed. I felt so self-conscious as I saw how professionally framed and mounted were the other artists's work. I remember trying to keep my paintings hidden as much as possible, holding them to me with the painted side against my leg. I felt new, unknown and vulnerable. Every one around me appeared to know everyone else, chatting and laughing. I felt very isolated and strange and rather young. I noticed that there were a lot of  much older women in the queue and very few, if any, men. And also that it was  overwhelmingly "white".
An uncomfortable half hour later I eventually reached the head of the queue, where I presented my paintings to the assistant. Here was the moment of truth. I realised that my paintings were completely different to the type of work that was being presented. My abstracts were bold, colourful and quite amateurish I thought, compared to the very accomplished watercolours of flowers and landscapes that I could see piling up around the walls of the hall. I was cringing inwardly, thinking I had made a grave error of judgement in coming here. There were no abstract works that I could see- I was a complete misfit. There was a lot of conventional stuff-  still lives, street scenes, seascapes, nothing really unusual. I felt my work was matric standard art school- very undeveloped and too wierd for this gathering.
However I paid my R60 for the 3 works, handed them over for measuring, gave my details in as confident way as I could muster. There were a few umms and mmm's from the ladies taking the paintings, the odd "wow" , but I felt that was rather in shock and disbelief at my cheek at even thinking of submitting such substandard work!
We had to leave our work there for the day while it was judged by a panel of 3 judges, - art lecturers, gallery owners and the like from around the W. Cape. You had to achieve a score of 6/12 or more to qualify for the exhibition.
If I remember there were about 400 paintings submitted and about 120 chosen.
After a long, nerve-wracking day waiting, I went back at 5pm to fetch the paintings. To my utter amazement all 3 of my paintings were accepted! I was gobsmacked. I remember driving back home, feeling so elated, punching the air and saying "YES!" thinking I had now "MADE IT!!" I had been accepted into the prestigious SASA, home to famous artists like Maggie Loubser, Irma Stern and Gregoire Boonzaaier, and patroned by Alice Golden, Conrad Theys and Sam Nhlengethwa.

to be continued.
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