Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Meet Drakensberg artist Corina Lemmer

I was raised on a farm in the Central Drakensberg. I studied Design and  History of Art at the University of Pretoria and taught art before returning to farm life.  

My works depict the environment where I now live and  teach. My works are represented in several public as well as private collections in South Africa and overseas.
I am currently working on the theme of birds’ nests, which represents man's need to create for himself a place of safety and security on many levels.’ I depict images of nests using pieces of handwork, such as crochet work and traditional Zulu beadwork, as well as with other culturally significant artifacts.  The nests are also the subjects in  my watercolours,  charcoals and oils;  and I often incorporate actual objects into my fibre art, in a two and three dimensional format.

I regard people's handwork as the result of their culture as well as of their  personal identity, just as  nest-building techniques of birds indicate  various species and individual birds .  The combination of elements often set in the landscape of the Drakensberg Mountains thus suggests our attempts to create a safe, secure environment within a society  consisting of a variety of cultures, religions and perspectives.

 My series of watercolours is done in a style reminiscent of botanical studies.   This is a reference to outsiders studying and interpreting  societies and their actions without  having insight into underlying motivations which is a typical phenomenon in a multicultural society such as ours.
 My paintings are named after the person who brought me the nest, together with the name of the type of bird that built it.   This  continues the reference to  colonialist botanical artists.    Seen in the context of the nest as a place of safety and security, however, it also suggests the security of a supporting community/ friendships.

  In some of my oil paintings  the nest appears as a mere fragile suggestion, or as a vulnerable object in a surrealistic landscape.  I utilize actual Zulu beadwork made by Ngoneni Kubheka of the Amangwe tribe  in some of my fibre works,   as well as  embroidery, crochet work and shards of ceramics . These are often sewn onto patchworks of khaki men's clothing, suggesting the role of men   - British soldiers as well as the Boere  in my  own heritage -   in shaping our present consciousness.
 I am making a few three dimensional nests out of handcrafted elements such as traditional Zulu ihashi necklaces.   Here, the objects which occur in the paintings appear as real building materials in nests which are symbolic of a society being woven  together by a variety of heterogeneous people. To further inform the viewer about elements depicted in the paintings, I had a Red Blue chair made according to Gerrit Rietveldt's original design, to be on display with the artworks. I regard his chair as an icon of Western design and part of our European heritage, in the same way as the William Morris wallpaper  designs depicted in the background  of two of my watercolours.
 Traditional Zulu beadwork, fighting sticks, the leaves of indigenous plants and local landscapes represent African influences in the ‘nest’ we are attempting to build not only in South Africa, but universally, through combining elements from  a variety of cultures, religions and perspectives.

Corina Lemmer’s works were on view in September 2013 at the Carnegie Art Gallery, Newcastle