The text here below is a translation from the Afrikaans of an article that appeared in Die Burger on this past Saturday, in ‘Rubriek’ which means ‘category’ – a weekly column where a South African artist is invited to discuss his/her work and that of another who has been an inspiration. Last week’s column was my turn…
‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful’ – William Morris 1834-1896
The above statement is the creed underlying the reason I make ceramics. I make pieces that for the most part are items which people use everyday, engage with, and to which they gradually develop great attachment. It is an intimate manner of art appreciation.
The cup whose shape and handle I have fashioned by my hands, will be held by another whose lips will touch it in order to be nourished with a beverage. This in itself creates great meaning for me. It connects me to other people, and when I handle the work of potters of the past, I feel a deep connection across the centuries.
This is perhaps what it means to be human and in a Buddhist sense to be interconnected.
I work primarily within the ceramic discipline which incorporates the 4 elements – earth, air, water, fire – in itself a profound phenomenon.
In my search for meaning and an affirmation of identity in making the work, I move regularly between utilitarian items and 2-3 dimensional wall panels. Many of my wall pieces explore concepts of home, memory and nostalgia.
Diverse elements inspire me – poetry by Ben Okri, Chinua Achebe and Karen Press. Aesthetically, the capturing of the stark African light in the photography of Robert Lyons, the haunting quality of ritual African masks, the textures of the South African urban and physical landscapes, patterns, colours and imagery of West African textiles.
A great source of inspiration are African calligraphic and symbolic motifs which I select and appropriate for their graphic qualities. These become part of a personal lexicon of mark making. Together with decontextualised poetic words this becomes the starting point for a private intuitive journey.
The philosophy and work of Ethiopian painter Wosene Worke Kosrof has been a poignant source of inspiration. Wosene’s distortion and reassembling of calligraphic symbols as images, his intuitive sense of rhythm inspired by jazz, all resonate strongly with me. He creates a new visual language that draws upon his Ethiopian heritage while incorporating his experiences as an expatriate living in the United States.’
His visual vocabulary, his cartographic moves across time and place, his “cross-circuiting” the senses – testifies to the visual power and versatility of written language. At once abstract and narrative, Wosene’s paintings, in his words, “…create a visible, interacting surface – like an icon available to everyone; it allows them to have dialogue, to take them into memory…” But like all “word/play,” not everything is knowable, nor should it be.