Elegie vir die Karoo was shown
at Die Breytenbach-Galery, Wellington,
from 13 March to 12 May 2021
It was David Goldblatt’s question – “And what about the Karoo?” – that sent me back to the place of my birth and the farm where I grew up.
For considerable time I had felt spooked by the empty, deserted homesteads whenever I drove through the arid landscape. David, who was exceptionally drawn to the Great Karoo and its people, compelled me to ponder why I had felt the urge to explore distant, non-native elements when I started painting about four years earlier. Could it be that I did not feel technically adept to do justice to the familiar, or could I simply not face the inevitable experience of having my near paradisical recollections of growing up in the vast spaces of the Karoo destroyed by confronting the reality of the present?
I pointed out to David that the Karoo did feature in three light-hearted paintings done a few years earlier. At the time I quipped that during a serious Karoo drought one would sooner see a pumpkin or melon float in the sky than a rain cloud.
Shortly before our conversation, it so happened that I started to explore the classical glazing oil-painting technique. Now I wondered whether the colour and texture that resulted from consecutive applications of transparent pigments might possibly evoke the insubstantial, shifting nature of memory and imagination. Because, although the world of my youth existed clear and concrete in my mind, it seemed elusive and intangible at the same time.
Eventually, I decided on two series of paintings: farmhouse interiors in large format, and much smaller paintings of the exteriors of some old houses in the Karoo town where I first went to school.
I dedicate Elegie vir die Karoo to David Goldblatt with deep appreciation and in loving memory.