Escaping the city and Dark Light


I escaped city living through a temporary house swop, a friend who had built her dream home away 3 hours outside of cape town needed to return to the city for work and medical treatment, I wanted out of city life. It was a wonderfully mutually beneficial arrangement that lasted for two and a half years before we managed to extricate ourselves from each other’s houses. It enabled me to without major financial commitment establish a life away from a city dependence.

I have not looked back and seven years later, I still live a rural life. My reason for leaving the city were many but the driving force was that I was changing careers from a documentary filmmaker back to my first love, art. I studied fine art formally at university but found that other interests and adventures pulled me in directions I had never anticipated. Studying art is both a blessing and a curse. It enables you to situate yourself within an art history context expanding your visual and cultural references and for this I am grateful. But it also stifles spontaneity and for me it severed my trust with my instinctual creativity because, so I was taught, there was a “”right and wrong” way of going about things according to lecturers biases. It took me five years of an chaotic, anarchist, experimental life in Berlin to undo my formal art education. And by that time I was more interested in filmmaking.

Filmmaking led to photography and that was a big reason why I left the city. I began an intense series of transformative self portraits using a photographic technique called “light painting”. The technique enabled me to transcend the solid flesh of my body and capture elemental energy forms. In all the portraits I am completely naked. Clothing felt too restrictive and identifying. I became immersed in discovering ancient, inner, mythological archetypes which were re-interpreted through my 21st century perspective. In order to access these much deeper layers, I needed intense focus, a lot of wild space, and quiet, exploration I found impossible in the pressure, noise and congestion of the city.

The mythological self portrait series I termed ‘Dark Light’ for I felt I was making the unknown visible, through (my own) embodied form in a way that could be captured on camera. It was immensely liberating as I felt I was finally freeing myself from a voyeuristic male gaze I had inadvertently internalised my whole life and was. It turned out to be a full time three year project, discovering and presenting myself through my own eyes.

During this time, I was taking long walks through exquisite fynbos which I was fortunate enough to be living in the midst of. It felt very organic that I transferred the same light painting technique and intense vision into exploring flowers. In fact one Dark Light sub series is the mergence of my female form with various proteas. So began my fascination with flowers, plants, expanding to insects and animals.

Escaping the city and Dark Light

reality is a personal and collective story

Oliver Roberts,  Senior Features Writer Sunday Times, came to visit and to interview me about my work. Jackie Ruth Murray, photographer, filmmaker, curator and friend made the connection between us when she contacted various different media sources to publicise my beyond Beyond exhibition which she curated.
From our very first communication with each other, I felt a level of comfort with Oliver. I can’t say what it was, his informal way of communicating, his level of interest and a straightforwardness, his gentle ability to enter into your world? He was unable to publicise the exhibition because he explained that he likes to meet up with people personally and get a sense of them and their lives. What a relief in this virtually mediated world, the documentary filmmaker in me really was liking him more and more. Then I read a few of his articles and got a sense of the very visceral way he approached an interview and felt truly honoured that he had an interest in me as a creative being, besides the fact that he had written about the great of the greats like William Kentridge.
Then one day after a certain amount of backwards and forwards e-mailing, Oliver made the long journey to come and visit me in the middle of nowhere.  We got on like old friends and nattered for an afternoon, a night and the following morning (don’t read anything in here, its a long way to drive and one needs to overnight). It was a great honour to be seen in such an in depth way going a long way to heal my invisibility wound. He reminded me a lot of my intense documentary filmmaker self.
Now I pity him as he has to go away and makes sense of all my blah blah blah. But I also feel rather nervous as to what will emerge … did I reveal too much … I wonder what details he will put in and what he will leave out as he constructs the story? It’s a familiar process to me from the documentary edit space – where a story is created and presented like reality but is really just a story.
Then I remind myself to let it all go, not be too attached to my image, to my story, it’s all  concocted anyway,  what I chose to reveal, the language and concepts I chose to clothe the revelations in, even the notion of a self is constructed.
In truth I felt I made a friend from another part of South Africa from a different generation who lives a different life. He also loves animals and creatures and is imaged here in empathic interaction with the donkey family on the farm, father Pablo, mother Ariel and child Puck.
As I await the revelation of my “self” through another’s eyes, (print journalists will not let you see the article before publication), there is some aspect of what I call “me” who is watching from a distance with just a hint of a smile as I wriggle like a worm that has been taken out of the earth and placed under a bright light.
reality is a personal and collective story