Nuances – creative process & motivation

The process

Nuances is a series of unique, crafted photographic landscapes, printed in a limited edition of 5 archival prints each, onto acid-free cotton paper. Each work is a digital composite or montage of photographic images, drawing, hand-painting and scanned textures to depict a landscape that I visited or have a personal connection to.

Each Nuances work can take anything from a week to two months to create, as I work very intuitively and experimentally – building up each landscape in layers of hand-painted textures, drawings and photographic images combined into a single composition. Often I would have to discontinue work on a particular piece until I can find the correct image, texture or element that would fit the artwork. One of the most enjoyable parts of the production process is taking trips to go, find and shoot the right photos before spending hours in the studio to get the right combinations and layering effects! The textures I tend to use most often is watercolour washes on smooth paper and pieces of teabag-paper stuck together into seamless areas. In a finished Nuances work the separate elements can hardly be identified, as together they blend into a unified whole.

While it is mostly a lot of work, sometimes a composition just seems to ‘click’ into place. All the elements effortlessly fall together into harmony and it then seems like photographs taken years earlier were captured for the sole purpose of being part of the particular artwork. This is part of the unpredictability and joyful unexpectedness that is involved with these works. I never really know how the colours and textures of different paintings and photographs will react or fit together, until I try to merge them through digital blending effects and layering. Pure magic…

The motivation

The series subtly represents the natural landscape as a memory instead of reality, as humankind fails to change unsustainable habits and the abuse of resources. Some of the bigger issues that are hinted at in the Nuances series are urbanisation, agriculture and conservation – these are more evident in some of the works than in others. In some works the focus is set upon our misuse of natural resources, which will result – and already does – in the extinction of many animal and plant species in order to sustain our industrial-dependant, consumerist lifestyles.

Furthermore, Nuances aim to celebrate the beauty of nature, and encourage us to cultivate a new respect and appreciation for and connection with Mother Earth. The earlier works in the series are inspired by landscapes from across South Africa, aiming to capture the essence of the areas that surround us and make part of our existence on earth. Themes such as the vastness of the Karoo and Kalahari; the presence of water around us; the stimulating combinations of textures, colours and stillness in nature and the joining of human living with the natural environment often surface in these earlier works.

Later works are also about travelling through landscapes – where photographs that I took in different cities, towns and areas are merged into a new unity.

“Places matter. Their rules, their scale, their design include or exclude civil society, pedestrianism, equality, diversity (economic and otherwise), understanding of where water comes from and garbage goes, consumption or conservation. They map our lives.”

– Rebecca Solnit

While the series started out trying to raise awareness for the damage we are doing to the landscape, the newer works are aimed at celebrating our planet, our landscapes, our natural heritage and our own place within it all. I stand in awe and celebration of our Earth’s beauty. I encourage the viewer to cultivate a new respect, appreciation and connection to nature. The essence of my work is about how we feel within the mountains, beaches, deserts, forests and grasslands, and how we form part of these spaces.

I rarely use photographs by other people in the series and have included images from different towns, cities and uninhabited places. This automatically also makes the works about my travelling, about the different places I inhabit and visit. They are inspired by and derived from landscapes across South Africa, including Cape Town, the West Coast, the landscapes between Cape Town and Upington in the Northern Cape, Pretoria, Vanderbijlpark, the Garden Route and the Karoo.

Through my work I aim to capture some essence of these areas – an essence that draws an emotional response from me. We live in a beautiful country and due to our busy lives we often neglect focusing and appreciating the vastness of the ocean, the serenity of the veldt and the expanse of landscape up to the horizon. Even our cities have a unique quality and beauty that sometimes complement the landscape, which is what a lot of my works from 2010 are aimed at.

“Bridging Over”, “Plains for View” and “City Living” are ideal examples of these city-focused works. Their production was prompted as a commission, but I very quickly and easily found myself enthralled in an effort to express my experience of living in the city. We were living in Cape Town, in the city bowl itself, at the time, and I walked a lot. I was pulled in and inspired by the architecture, the diverging lines, the sounds, the textures and the grime. It can become quite overwhelming, of course. But I decided not to focus too much on the “overwhelm” in the various works, although you get some sense of it in “City Living” which I had to make quite monochromatic because the composition is so full.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

– Marcel Proust

In December 2013 I travelled overseas for the first time, to the South coast of Turkey and the coastal region of Egypt’s Sinai desert. Photographs taken during this trip are integrated into Oludeniz (inspired by Turkey) and Sinai Mountains (inspired by Egypt). While neither of them can fully contain or illustrate the impressions that I have of these two incredible destinations, they do represent a glimpse or moment captured into a multi-faceted newly created landscape.

In recent years I’ve been most inspired by trips to Prince Albert, the Tankwa Karoo, and areas in my home area on the Garden Route.

Ultimately the works in my Nuances series aim to capture the essence of a landscape, while also instilling an awareness about the intricate balance and interconnectivity of all things, and of us within and as part of nature. And quite incidentally the works in the series map out my own life, my journey as an artist within the landscape of the world.

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