Exciting watercolours

2008-10-02 08:04

Kerry Michau's exhibition Overlapping Spaces opens at the Tatham Art Gallery on Thursday at 6 pm and runs until September 2.

It features a collection of watercolour landscapes with many of the works featuring miniature multiple images, providing vivid snapshots of vibrant colour.

Time and space overlap

“The title Overlapping Spaces reflects the idea of a film strip in which time and space overlap,” says Michau. “In some of them I took one landscape and looked at it at different times during a day, from morning to night - so the title seemed appropriate.”

Michau says she has always wanted to paint. “Even as child I knew I definitely wanted do something in the arts field. I didn't want to sit behind a computer.”

After matriculating from Pietermaritzburg Girls' High School in 1996, Michau did a fine arts degree at the University of Stellenbosch and it was there she discovered that watercolour was her preferred medium. “What I love about watercolour is the pure colour and the translucent quality of the medium,” she says. “People tend to think of it as a safe medium but I want to make it more contemporary - to demonstrate that it could be used in new and exciting ways.”

Having completed her degree Michau went overseas, spending two-and-half years in London. “I did a lot of travelling and temporary work, including photography and graphic design with the Commonwealth Press Union in London.”

Michau then travelled to the Americas, north and south. While on the move she did mainly pencil sketches as opposed to paintings - “There's a limit to what you can get in a backpack.”

Though Michau enthuses about the places she visited overseas it is South Africa that provides her subject matter. “The colour, the raw beauty - there's something about it that's the inspiration for all my landscapes.”

Michau returned to South Africa in 2004 and set up her studio in Durban. “I decided to get back into painting full-time,” she says. “It's difficult starting out on your own - unless you believe in what you are doing you won't get very far.

She has subsequently sold work through commercial galleries - as well as watercolours she also does botanical paintings and drawings - and after a work was chosen for Jabulisa 2006 the Tatham Art Gallery invited Michau to mount her first solo exhibition.

Overlapping Spaces features what Michau calls contemporary landscapes. “They are abstracted landscapes,” she says. “They are not realistic, detailed paintings but they are not without subject. An idea of the horizon is always present, reflections of trees in water, the dappled light filtering through the trees. I find this type of abstraction interesting as it leaves more to the imagination of the viewer, allowing them to interact with the work.”

Eyecatching images

Speaking about the “film strip” style images Michau says they are designed to be eye-catching from a distance “but when you walk up closer to examine each frame, you find each one tells a different story.”

“My choice of painting these miniature and multiple images is inspired by the format of a film strip and memories I have as a child staring out of the car window, while travelling long distances with my family . . . flashes of land, sea, shadows and trees. Each square is a window into another world.”

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