Background to current oil paintings
My career has involved a series of ‘deep dives’ to remote geographies inhabited by communities living traditional, self-sustaining, lifestyles, namely South Africa’s Nama in the Richtersveld, the Himba in Namibia and a large concentration, representing many cultures, in East Africa’s Omo Valley. This has found form in a variety of creative expressions including painting, installations, bronzes, monumental sculptures from stone, wood, steel and glass, and charcoal drawings. This multidisciplinary approach has its foundation in my use of materials as visual metaphors.
Giclée prints of most art works available; either as a once off request, or as part of a limited edition series.
The subject of my art represent observations formed through documenting the overt signs of cultural evolution and modernisation of the individuals I encounter on my field trips. Repeated visits offer insight into subtle markers of change, such as innovative uses of plastic, the lip plate increasingly becoming a tradable tourist object while being increasingly declined by young women or young men replacing sarongs with shorts and T shirts. To those unfamiliar with the process, allegations of ‘staging authenticity’ are levelled at the communities. This is missing the point and an ignorant response to the survival pressure driving the transition from a sustainable to a monetary based lifestyle. There is no single roadmap, time-frame or agent of the modernisation process. What is in common, is ever-diminishing access to sustainable land. Factors such as mining, roads, dams, climate change, appropriation of indigenous land for agriculture, introduction of formal education and government decrees to deter cultural practices such as lip piercing, which trigger adaptions to these influences which are beyond their control.
My latest oils continue the narrative, using 50 years of knowledge ‘deep diving’ into Africa communities engaged in traditional lifestyles and an ever evolving and expanding lexicon of iconography to express the influences driving the modernisation process.
Rivers, as a site of traditional community conflict, has featured in my art throughout my career.
The blue lotus, is the latest in my lexicon of iconography, and has defined my art since 2021. The blue lotus, which flourished in the Blue Nile, is depicted on the walls of monumental temples and tombs, and is associated with the culture, glory and excesses of ancient Egypt.
In Ethiopia, the Gibe Dams along the Omo River and the Grand Renaissance on the Blue Nile, have impacted food security of traditional communities and threatens Egypt’s water security. It is with regard to the latter, that the blue lotus takes on significance. Massive dams have massive impact to those downstream. The power to control the flow of the river has a devastating impact on annual inundation due to lowered water levels. It is in this context, that the blue lotus flower is a symbol of man’s abuse of the environment and man’s neglect for attaching the appropriate value to humanities 5% endangered indigenous who protect 80% biodiversity.
My current paintings are not intended to effect debate about expressions of cultural authenticity, but rather an awareness of the impact of Anthropocene man’s activities has on the diminishing number of communities who’s means to survive in a traditional lifestyle is increasingly compromised.