2010 - a tribute to Bessie Head

This body of work was first exhibited at Circa on Jellicoe, the Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg, 2011.

Bessie Head was beginning work on her autobiography in Serowe, when she died at the age of 48, in 1986. She wanted to call it 'Living on an horizon'.

This title describes someone who, in Bessie’s own words: “lives outside all possible social contexts, free, independent, unshaped by any particular environment, but shaped by internal growth and living experience”. Bessie Head describes the landscapes of Botswana, both breathtakingly literal and psychological, with an intensity and clarity that is unique to her as a writer. The development of her ideas was directly influenced by the spaces she was exposed to, the sky, the earth, the horizons of Botswana.

My paintings are an attempt to visualise the inner landscapes that Bessie Head's words create. Her ideas about an inner growth that takes root and stems from living experience describe a philosophical ‘morphogenesis’.

Veins and arteries of thought mirror tree branches and roots. Our internal physical landscapes include rain forests of cilia in our lungs and reflections of the swirls and clusters of the multiverses of outer space in the irises of our eyes.

The paintings in this series, ‘Living on an horizon’, are made as if they were watercolours on paper. But they are over 2 metres in height and over a metre in width, using acrylic painted upon canvas. Each canvas is stretched on to a board and then stained with washes of acrylic colour. The image is built up in layers, painted into while flooded with water, wet, drying or completely dry. Each colour, because of its chemical make-up, reacts differently to different drying conditions and the different pigments on the canvas. This visual process poetically mirrors how personal circumstance shapes both our inner and our external lives. Each work is made up of a single colour and its complementary plus black and white.The format is the same for each painting.