Review of 'Small Gems' Exhibition
The Venter's explore new directions
Established artists Deon and Kathy Venter each have a signature method and sale associated with their names, but both members of the talented couple have something new on offer this season.
The Small Gems show at Venter Gallery upholds an island tradition of offering works that could potentially become Christmas gifts. For the Venter's, though, going small has opened up a while new works of possibility.
Kathy initially started out wanting to work with the realities of their Grace Point Square space, which has trouble holding her human-sized or larger figurative sculptures. Gone for now are the unapologetic depictions of real women's bodies. The new series is still based mainly on the female body but the forms are gestural, dynamic and evocative. (illustrated: 'Secret Lands', glazed terracotta)
At first, Kathy was concerned about how she would imbue the same sense of presence into smaller figures - at this point she has been working at the human-scale for 25 years.
"I decided I'm not going to try, I'm going to break away completely from that, and go more into a story, more of a language content in it." she said during a recent visit to the gallery.
"The pace that I worked at back then was still in my hands,' she continued. "Once I'd forced my eye down to the little scale, this making of maquettes as a younger woman clicked in, and the rhythm of that work the I did at the stage was in my hands, and my hands were flying."
The pieces further take in an artist's memories and feelings about the models for older drawings that she went back to for inspiration, in details such as posture or attitude. Glazing, also new to Kathy's oeuvre, came about through a partnership with Deon. He taught ceramic science, including the composition of glazes, at university in South Africa and was able to pull out this skills to create the exact shades Kathy wanted to use: a matte green like oxidized copper that evokes patina on bronze sculpture, a dusky red and a cool medium blue that allows the terra cotta clay to show through the edges.
"There's a lot of exciting things [about this series], and it just shows me the road ahead that I wasn't expecting. Circumstances have sort of moved me up that shore, but it's a delight. I'm really happy about it." Kathy said.
Deon also presents a new direction at the gallery this month, with his Blomskryf oil wash on paper series. Blomskryf is an Afrikaans word meaning 'flower writing', and the subject material combines women's faces with single flower heads. The title is taken from a poem by the famous South African poet Breyten Breytenbach.
As Deon is known for his room-sized paintings in heavily textured oils depicting serious topics such as missing and murdered women, this is a significant departure. They are smaller, more intimate works than he usually does when the context and content demand the large scale. Using the oil wash in a way that's similar to water-colour meanwhile allows for a free, loose hand and a suggestion of delicacy in the pastel shades and slightly elusive imagery.
In contrast, the women who inspired the series are paragons of strength from the ancient world. They include mythical figures such as goddesses of wisdom, Minerva and Athena, and also the poet Sappho. Other influences include the poetry of Mary Oliver and Botticelli's beloved painting 'Primavera'.
"In a time where we have 70-year-old men running roughshod over the environment and women's issues and minorities, I feel it's good to go back top maybe a female power," Deon explained.
The works also strive to integrate the human with nature, which is why in some cases there is no separation between the flower and the person depicted in each. Deon often creates a more dynamic framing than the standard portrait. In some cases the scene appears to be displayed on it's side rather than upright, which serves to encourage the viewers interrogation of the material rather than bland acceptance.
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