Page 2South African Art Times. July 2008
The South African
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Craig Wyliecontinued from page 1
about vulnerability,” he says.In a statement on K issued after the award he explained that: “On aformal level this work is about con-tradiction. I wanted to use a strictlyclassical composition, formal, evenstiff, and then try to subvert thestillness these tenets imply. Thisinternal friction between elementsin the painting give it its quietdynamism.”The size of the workwas intentional: “Enlargementcreates for the viewer both a con-
frontational vortex and a sacrice
to scrutiny as the viewer can stepinto the paintings personal spacein a way not possible with smaller works. Gigantism also affects thepsychological edge of the sitter.On one level the viewers intrusioninto the sitters emotional state istacitly accepted, on another it ispositively rebuffed.”It was a case of third-time lucky for Wylie when it came to K, which hehad started on two separate
occasions, the rst in 2006, beforecompleting the nal version.
After completing the portrait, hesaid he had “not had much timewith it” before it was sent for entryto the competition.It was two and a half monthsbefore the two were reunited.“When I saw it again I was pleas-antly surprised and thought itwasn’t too bad,” he says.Wylie studied at Rhodes Universityin Grahamstown between 1992and 1996, graduating with distinc-tion with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.He initially began studying journal-ism, but from his second year onwards “art took over” in theplace where, like many Rhodesgraduates, he remembers havingan “excellent time”. A move back to Zimbabwe after graduation and a show in his homecountry could not prevent the pullto London.“I just wanted to come and seewhat was going on and I thoughtas far as art is concerned it’s theplace to be,” he says.He doesn’t have plans to return toZimbabwe or South Africa ona permanent basis, but does notrule out spending more time on thecontinent “especially during thewinter”.The move to London was not easy. Although he had money from ashow in Zimbabwe, when that dis-appeared “it was a bit awkward”.
“To nd representation is quite dif
cult. There are a lot of galleries,
but there is so much competition.”He did odd jobs for a short periodof time but quickly realised that hewould never be able to paint if hedid “crappy jobs” and so he livedclandestinely in his rented studiospace and “cracked on with it”.Other than painting portraits, hesays he “just wants to get on withmy thing”, which involves a varietyof projects that include workingfrom live models and combiningthem with objects like fridges,broken chairs or suit cases.He is also working with imagestaken from the internet and blownup in size, one of which is takenfrom a news report on Zimbabweand shows a man lying on his backwith an oxygen mask over his face – a clear commentary on the stateof his home country.His mother and some friends arestill in Zimbabwe and the last timehe visited was in October.“It’s just dreadful and it’s really acrying shame,” he says about thesituation under Mugabe, “All I cando really from here is make a small
contribution in terms of nances.
It’s sad.”For artists planning the move toLondon, Wylie points out that it’s atough and expensive city, but does
have its benets.
“I guess you just have to stickto a level of belief and see your projects through as well as youcan and then keep pushing, trying
to nd the openings and chasing
them down and ploughing throughthe opportunities that are avail-able. It’s a question of persever-ance I guess,” he says.
In response to the June edition of Art Times,pg 4, “Droopy moustaches over Stellenboschart gallery”, I want to add my voice to thosewho had a bad experience with Barnard, thegallery owner, because I am afraid he is thetype of person who would regard the reportas advertisement for himself and his doings athis gallery. He claimed there were only threeunhappy artists. I felt obliged to write when Iread that he said “Artists are emotional” after being confronted with the response of artistswho have been treated badly by him. I thinkmost of us just do not take the trouble to tellsuch a guy what we think of him, one simplymoves on – life is short. You could just as wellsay that artists are sensitive and trusting andsharks abuse those qualities.I have erased all of his details and only keptone of his emails as a reminder of a badexperience which I would like to avoid infuture. Barnard originally phoned me; sayinghe had seen some of my work on www.southafrican artists.com and told me that hewould like to have three of my sculptures for anart event. He also made promises of buyingsome of the work if we could negotiate aboutthe cost. I met him in Stellenbosch and left 3sculptures with him for the art event. He wasvery talkative. After I got home it botheredme that he never mentioned buying thework and I felt uneasy about having been tootrusting. I replaced my work at his gallery withcheaper variations as soon as was possibleand decided to give it a 6 month trial period. After 6 months I turned up unannounced andretrieved my work, all but two small terracottafigures which he told me he was buying. Hehad my bank details, I was in a hurry and hadto leave it at that. After a month I called himwanting to know when the payment would bemade. He had some or other excuse. After a month or two I again turned up unannouncedat his gallery only to find a Zim artist who wasseemingly being had in a bigger way thanme. This artist told me that he was working for Barnard in return for being helped to forwardhis career in South Africa. I liked his work andasked him whether he had sold some. He re-plied that Barnard only sells his own paintings,but not much of anyone else’s and he askedme for advice. I referred him to Greatmorestudios. I made enquiries about my workand described it to him. He told me that itwas still there and brought both sculpturesforward. Not only were they broken, but theywere broken off their mountings as well. I washorrified and angry, took the pieces and left. Ireceived no apology or explanatory phone callfrom him and am just glad that I do not haveanything further to do with him.Desireé Brand
Oil on Canvas 210 x 165 cm. (Above)
Naked Woman on chair
, Oil on canvas 110 x 110 cm.From District Mail 11 July 08
Len touched the livesof young artists
Len Thomas, Kleinmond business-man, artist and local philanthropist(and former mayor) died on July 5after a brief illness.Born in Johannesburg in 1936,Len spent his early years buildinga career in the photographic indus-try while simultaneously starting afamily with his wife, Hazel.They had a daughter, Pamela, anda son, Gary.Len soon found himself posted toDurban where he lived for eightyears.During that time he pursued hislove o fpainting through an involve-ment in local art groups. He alsotook part in a number of groupexhibitions. Listening to his heart,he walked away from corporate lifein 1976 and moved to SomersetWest where he started the LenThomas School of Art based atSouthey’s Vines.His six-year stay in SomersetWest was active and productiveas he not only taught many of
his students the ner points of
oil and watercolour painting, butalso took part in numerous groupand one-man exhibitions. He wasalso active in the Somerset West Art Group, which he chaired for anumber of years.Feeling that he wanted to re-focushis energy on his own painting, heclosed his art school in the early‘80s and moved to Kleinmond.He served as a councillor on thethen Kleinmond Town Council andsubsequently became mayor for four years during which time heworked relentlessly to improvethe lot of the local population and
improve the nancial position of
the town.Painting continued to be hisprimary passion in life, but hisentrepreneurial spirit soon cameto the fore and he opened Zellen Art Products, a family businesswhich has grown into a maturemanufacturer of artist paints andassociated products.Len enjoyed exploring the world of art, cooking, and classical guitar inhis spare time.
OBITUARY: Len Thomas, Artist and co-founder of Zellen Art Products
Len Thomas, artist and co-founder of Zellen ArtProducts, locally made, quality artist’s paintsand materials