Seeing beauty differently

2008-07-08 00:00

Margaret von Klemperer

THE Start: The Nivea Art Award exhibition opens tonight at the KZNSA gallery in Durban, when the three winners out of the 25 finalists will be announced and the cash prizes presented — R20 000 for first prize, R10 000 for second and R5 000 for third.

There are two Pietermaritzburg finalists — Natalie Fossey and Gillian Gerhardt. Along with the other finalists, they were commissioned by Beiersdorf to create an artwork for the exhibition. Each finalist received R1 200 to create their piece, in a three-month timeframe. The work has to reflect the theme of “Beauty Is” and be in any medium that can hang on a wall.

Fossey, who is a Masters student at the Centre for Visual Art on the local university campus, specialising in printmaking, has created a reduction linocut entitled “The poets celebrated the perfect shape of her face, the spark of her eyes, her smiling mouth and the beauty of her breasts”. It consists of three images of a woman. “Last year, when I was preparing for my Honours exhibition, I worked with the figure,” says Fossey. “So it seemed natural to go on with it. But I’m not looking for a magnificient figure, more a natural woman.

“And as I am comfortable in the lino medium, I decided to go with that.” As making linocuts is a reductive process, Fossey has created her effects by removing light from the image.

Gerhardt, who was born in Mooi River and returned to Pietermaritzburg in 2002 after many years in Johannesburg, is a largely self-taught artist. “But in 2004, I felt I wasn’t getting anywhere, so I went to Macs (the Midlands Arts and Crafts Society) she says. There she was taught by Jenny Hallowes and later by Jinny Heath. Recently, she exhibited with other Macs-based artists at the Jack Heath Gallery, showing a series of beautiful embellished gourds.

It was by chance that Gerhardt found out about the Start awards. She was looking for something else on the Internet for her daughter, and a search threw up Nivea. “I saw the notice about the award and thought: “I can have a go at that,” she says.

Her piece is entitled Kaleidoscope and is in mixed media, combining watercolour, inks and acrylics. “It had to be an abstract concept, because people see beauty differently,” she says. It combines the idea of the man-made kaleidoscope, with its shifting patterns, with the image of a tree. The image of a tree is a balancing symbol between the natural and man-made worlds.

All the finalists are artists over the age of 18, who have not yet established their careers in the form of a solo exhibitions or previous awards. They were chosen from hundreds of entries from throughout KwaZulu-Natal by a panel of judges, and then participated in a mentorship programme with professional artists while they were producing their competition artwork.

The judges for the 2008 competition are Sfiso Ka Mkame (artist), Brenton Maart (director, KZNSA Gallery), Anthea Martin (director, African Art Centre), Julia Meintjes (art advisor) and Jenny Stretton (acting director, Durban Art Gallery). The late Gabisile Nkosi was also part of the panel.

The mentors were Andrew Verster, Karen Bradtke, Pascale Chander, Deanne Donaldson, Thulani Makhaye, Memorial Mnguni (Biyela), Lindelani Ngwenya, Vulindlela Nyoni (who mentored both Fossey and Gerhardt) and Themba Shibase. The exhibition runs at the KZNSA Gallery in Durban until August 2.

• For more information, phone 031 277 1703 or visit

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