In the words of Ruth Friedmann …
A visual celebration – A source of inspiration to anyone who enjoys fine art photography.
Bettie has turned an abstract idea into an artistic masterpiece that evokes a series of conflicting emotions and encourages both analysis and further discussion. The book represents a photographic art gallery divided into 4 theme-focused rooms with each individual photo adding meaning to her reaction and visual interpretations of the harsh Lockdown due to Covid-19.
Covid 19 has indeed added an additional lens to this body of work as Bettie captured bizarre objects such as dead trees after a ravaging fire, returning to take more photos before the onset of a 3-week lockdown in which she knew she would be trapped within her own 4 walls. During those few remaining days, she retraced her steps only to discover new shadows, strange forms, mists etc., which inspired her to create this gallery representing a mixture of vulnerability, beauty and horror – Gift of Walls Dys-U-Topia.
The book/gallery is filled with mysterious yet soulful compositions relating to both Dystopia and Utopia wherein each photo has individual meaning yet belongs to the theme of the rooms/chapters- ranging from Botany to Humanoid Beings. In order to capture the experience of people in a gallery, chatting to one another about pictures against the wall, Bettie requested friends, family and acquaintances on Facebook and Instagram to respond via email to images on her website. A kind of compensation for the forbidden social contact during South Africa’s harsh so-called Level 5 Covid-19 Lockdown. She asked them to do what she experienced when part of a group exhibition last year at the Eclectica Print Gallery in Cape Town. When visitors asked her to explain her work, she replied with a request for their quick gut-feel interpretations. These fascinating comments triggered the idea to place viewers’ comments next to the images in her book. In this way, not only was there socializing among visitors to an imaginary gallery, but the rich and subtle sub-conscious meanings and references that art works spark in the mind of viewers could be represented in a more permanent format, printed in a book.
“These words by the “visitors” in my book are part of the Gift of upliftment that kept me sane during the awful caged feeling during Level 5 Lockdown,” she explains. “The often overlapping, and in other instances completely contradictory, reactions to one and the same image by different participants were heart warming. They enriched me and form the basis of this book. I felt I’ve been surrounded by, and in conversation with, the most fascinating circle of friends. All assembled comfortably in the 64 sq metre of my apartment on the fifth floor in Cape Town.”
These comments in the book, on the page opposite the relevant artwork, have further enriched the works as well as the book/gallery by injecting additional layers of meaning. Included – in addition to the valuable short gut-feel remarks, poems and visual reactions in the form of participants’ paintings and photos – are the insightful and meaningful essays by three collaborators who offered more than gut-feel responses.
The academic and poet, Dr Adré Marshall, quoting Baudelaire “Un livre est une machine à penser” highlights how the book becomes a “creative device” to stimulate thought, feelings and imagination. She describes the genesis of the project. In his foreword the Hertzog prize-winning poet and once arts editor at Die Beeld, Johan Myburg, remembers the time when he was arts editor and Bettie was art critic at Media 24 newspaper, Beeld.
“Renowned arts writer Mary Corrigall surprised me with an in-depth review of my images, when I requested merely a few gut-response words, in her essay, Observing the dualities of our time.”
The visitor to each page/book/room of the imaginary book gallery is greeted at the entrance by a scene alluding to Paradise: a leering serpent together with an abstract landscape scene/garden. The visitor to these Rooms, as the conventional chapters are referred to in the book, is instantaneously reminded, or shocked into participating at a deep visceral level to the central idea of the book: Utopia/Dystopia, the ecstasy and fall of humankind in the Garden of Eden. The snake, (an amazing photo by Rael Loon of a cobra rearing to strike), leaves no doubt about where the visitor finds her/himself – the Garden of Eden.
The imaginary gallery/garden of Eden/place of delight and remorse, evoked in The Gift of Walls – Dys-U-Topia is a book not only for lovers of fine art photography and digital art, but also for budding photographers to learn how different styles and techniques can be used to create a an uplifting experience through accepting and incorporating both heaven and earth in one go.
Dr Adré Marshall taught English Literature at the Universities of Stellenbosch, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. She is the author of a book on Henry James and her poetry has been published in numerous journals.
Anita de Villiers is an academic turned fine art photographer, writer and teacher-mentor. Her focus is multi-layered story-telling and the weaving of multiple layers of meaning and interpretation. leaving room for the viewer to enter the narratives and emotions from their own perspective.
Ansie Zondagh du Toit changed from air hostess to wife, from mother to teacher, from quilter to traveller, from art/theatre lover to photographer, from grandmother to widow.
Attie de Jager Director of a Welfare Organisation married to a very supportive woman, Mari. Grandfather of 8.
Christine Coates is a poet and writer with a number of rewards. Published works include Fire Drought Water and stories in literary journals both locally and internationally. She has received an honourable mention from the Glenna Luschei Prize.
Dr. Elbé Coetsee established Mogalakwena Craft Art Development Foundation and the Mogalakwena Research Centre for African Ecology and Anthropology. She authored, Craft Art in South Africa; Struik and Craft Art in South Africa – Creative Intersections; Jonathan Ball.
Elizabeth Miller Vermeulen is an artist and curator from Cape Town. Her preferred medium is graphite on paper and use of colour is limited to neutral tones. Photography forms an integral part of her daily life and work.
Elizabeth Pulles is an award-winning children’s book illustrator and all-round artist, including ceramics, painting, mixed media and drawing. She lives in Johannesburg with adored children, partner and dogs.
Prof. Heinrich Kammeÿer is an architect, lecturer and mentor to PhD candidates at the University of the Orange Free State. He claims credit for many awards, such as first prize for the design of the Cathedral in Port Elizabeth. He has designed many teacher colleges, schools and community complexes.
Helena Spring is a film producer and mother of two adult sons. She has produced some of South Africa’s most memorable films, including the critically acclaimed Poppie Nongena, and Yesterday, the first South African film to have received an Oscar Academy Award Nomination.
Hermine Spies Coleman opened the Giverny Creative Centre in KZN Midlands in 2000, taught creative art in workshops in Midlands and Gauteng. Last solo exhibition: Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg in 2019. Lived in Gauteng, Belgium, KZNatal and Nigeria.
Jill Trappler has worked as an artist and craft person in various projects over the past forty years. She exhibits regularly in group shows and solo presentations. She teaches on line and in studio. For full document please see: www.jilltrappler.co.za
Johan Myburg’s recent achievement is being announced winner of the prestigious annual literary award in South Africa, the Hertzog prize 2020 specifically for poetry for Uittogboek, published in 2017 by Protea Uitgewers. He won a first award 25 years ago, The Eugène Marais prize for his debut, Kontrafak, 25. A weekly contributor on international literature to the Arts Programme on Radio Sonder Grense RSG at FM 100 – 104, he describes himself humbly as, “poet and writer who lives in Johannesburg.
Prof. John Cartwright Since escaping after decades of academic life as professor of English, he has been working in neighbourhood safety projects, writing poems, dancing, and hoping that the creative arts will help to save us from self-destruction.
Kathy Lewis works as a leadership coach, facilitator and organisation development consultant. She knew she would be a writer at a young age. Five decades later, she is emerging from the cocoon.
Les Cohn Visual Arts Project & Management Consultant at Art Source South Africa. We specialise in professional practice in the visual arts, management and strategy consulting, artist strategic project and career management, career coaching, PR and media communications.
Marelise van Wyk is a Cape Town based artist and printmaker. She uses a variety of printmaking processes in her work, often combining various processes in one work, attempting to react to the constant re-inventing of life’s stories.
Mari de Jager is a happily married mother of four wedded children and grandmother of 9, and proud sister of BettieCL.
Marilyn Hattingh is a retired writer and editor of a number of titles including Style magazine which she started.
Mary Corrigall is an art critic, writer, arts consultant, publishing data-driven art reports on the contemporary African art market, involved with evaluations of contemporary artworks and art tourism, lecturing currently on Zoom. email@example.com www.corrigall.org
Mullerie Rabe Taljaard is an interior designer and art collector who brings an ethos of supporting local talent to her work for international and local clients, creating a sense of serenity and calm in a noisy world (Visi Magazine).
Rael Mathew Loon from The Wilderness Association photographed the Cobras.
Rob Rich is an architect who worked for his father, internationally acclaimed Peter Rich, before establishing his own business, Richlabs Architecture.
Ronelle van Zyl is an artist and book designer, designing mostly for the corporate world. A recent project includes a large-format coffee table book for the film industry.
Ruth Friedmann is a globetrotting walkie talkie, that’ll market anything she becomes intrigued with and that’s never too old to learn. Known for sharing fun hiking stories and for always saying yes to new adventures. Director Meridien Consultants and EJF Investments.
Susan Swart is an audiologist passionate about hearing, listening, looking, seeing …… it’s about the brain and the spirit. Grandparent who loves four little people who carry quarter of my genetic package. Music in all forms and genres.
Suzaan Jordaan is a freelance writer and former English teacher and ongoing lover of words and images.
Wouter Bouwer is responsible for IT provision and management at the University of Sunderland, London. His free time is spent juggling images and stories to resurrect memories through videos for family and visual artists. +44 77 95107911 firstname.lastname@example.org
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