Four African artists express the art of language through emotive paintings.
Four African artists have come together to provide works for a thought-provoking exhibition named, ‘Scripts of Our Unspoken Words’ at the Showcase Gallery. The pieces on display, from Alison Coulthurst, Grace Kotze, Helen Teede and Andrew Verster, express the power of abstract writing through painting.
Through disordered scribbling’s on paper and canvas, the artists explore the relation between painting and language. Grace Kotze is dyslexic and often struggles to read and write. In ‘Internal Markings II’, the language barriers fall apart and writing becomes an enjoyable experience for her. Her autobiographical paintings are a translation of her emotions, each matched with a particular shape, intensity and colour.
Helen Teede’s body of work, ‘Poetry Painting’, attempts to emphasise the expressive bond between writing and painting. Her work shows the viewer exactly where painting and writing meet – a quality that each of the artists share.
The paintings of Zimbabwean artist Alison Coulthurst are complete with lines of words, inspired by dreams, songs and positive emotions. Yet Coulthurst does not reveal their exact meaning. Rather than explaining, she invites the viewers to feel the forms, colours and energy, creating a story of their own.
‘I paint with my heart. It’s all about love, I want people to feel this energy, this experience. Words are very powerful, they too have energy and we should all be conscious of how we speak and of our words. It’s not my intention to tell you the words on the paintings, but they make me feel good,’ she explains.
The words in Coulthurst’s paintings appear mysterious and are often illegible. Abstract words with no apparent meaning acquire a powerful significance through fonts, inclinations and textures. ‘Words are sometimes like a graphic element, like the line of a figure and sometimes the painting will work with a red line in one corner. The shape of words can be beautiful.’
While Coulthurst may want viewers to come to their own interpretations of her paintings, it’s very clear that her African roots have impacted her style. Although born in Zimbabwe, she now resides in the Australian Bush. Influences of her surroundings and heritage can be seen through the use of colour and the Africa-inspired figures.
‘I have this wonderful freedom just to play and I use a lot of natural colours. Sometimes I paint outside as it feels freeing and I’m always aware not to overwork a piece. I like to keep the layers happening and keep the painting alive.’
Travel and music also play an important factor in Coulthurst’s work. The paintings have titles such as ‘Letting Go’, ‘Life is Life’ and ‘You Could Chase a Summer Day’. Having reached an important milestone this year, the 50-year-old says she is inspired by life and believes in making the most of it.
‘My paintings are all about my emotions. People have to feel something from a painting, it’s a must. I just feel the emotions and experience the colours and energy from them. My words are all about loving yourself. I truly believe to have peace in this world you have to start with loving yourself before you can possibly love anyone else.’
Travel and culture have certainly influenced Coulthurst’s work. And for Andrew Verster, too, his experiences of travelling around the world have stimulated the creative process in his work ‘Skin Markings’. The 77-year-old artist has taken inspiration from ancient cultures including the practice of body marking, which includes tattooing, scarification and painting. ‘Skin Markings’ is a suspended installation of panels of wax-impregnated tissue paper. Each of his paintings reflect memories and experiences of other cultures.
‘Skin is one of the ideas behind these works. I have memories of holding the mummified hand of a twelfth century Irish knight in Dublin, and of drawings I did of Inca mummies trussed in the foetal position in the Cusco Museum,’ explains Verster.
So, if you’re looking to tap into your emotions and conjure inner thoughts and see more culture in Dubai this month, visit the Showcase Gallery to awaken your senses.
Scripts of Our Unspoken Words runs until September 10. Open 10am-6.30pm, Showcase Gallery, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz. Works from Dhs10,000-26,000 (04 379 0940).