Artist interview – Thelma van Rensburg

I found this interview here: post/89961328695/artist-interview-thelma-van-rensburg  

I decided to copy it to here because sometimes a website will delete a page from their site and so the information would be lost.

How has being raised in Pretoria, South-Africa affected your work?

I was brought up in a Afrikaans Calvinistic society with very strict religious rules and the notion that women should stay at home and take care of the children and their husbands.  Self-assertion and ambition in women was frowned upon.   This influenced the content of my work in its focus on feminist modes of production and on female embodiment.

You like to experiment with different mediums such as food colouring and resin…how did you discover these as mediums? Are there other applications you’ve been drawn to recently?

The restrictions of traditional mediums such as acrylics and oils and the wish to explore other mediums led me to these mediums.  I love the colour red and could not find inks that matched the colour I was looking for, also the affordability of food colouring appealed to me.  I have been drawn to acrylic inks lately and applicating the inks onto wet surfaces and using a sponge instead of a brush.

What reactions do you hope to elicit from your sketchbook?

How the female form has been turned into a banality by the mass media and its devious mirror, which offer to help women, while presenting a standard nearly impossible to obtain.

Are there messages within your work?

Yes, the messages are always centred on the fragmentation and normalization of the female form in the media and through patriarchal ideological practices.  I hope to take charge of the violence of representation by re-presenting the female form.  This amounts as a conceptual strategy, which critiques the tyranny of media images to which reality has allegedly been reduced.

What does your art process entail?

My art process has changed a lot over the years.  Lately I have been experimenting with ink pens, ink blocks and watercolour.  I draw out the image with ink pens and ink blocks while constantly spraying water onto the image.  This creates drips and bleeds that distort the image.  I then work into the wet surface with brushes or sponges, wait till it dries and then continue this process.

What are your inspirations?

Lately decayed and broken mannequins and dolls have intrigued me.  They provide excellent material for the grotesque, which is one of my other obsessions. The grotesque creates an ambiguous and conflicting combination of attraction and repulsion, which I wish to explore in my work.

Severed and undressed the mannequins become reminiscent of the corpse, which I purposefully exploit in my work.  Adding, naked the mannequin is deprived of its function as consumer object, whose single function is to mime the human form. The mannequin when “mutated, manipulated, or uncannily accurate” has immense power to attract and repel, which addresses my intention to delve into the grotesque and the abject.

What materials couldn’t you live without?

Ink pens, Fabriano Artistico paper, spray bottle, brushes and oxide powders.

What do you collect?

Dolls and figurines, South-African art, Art books, Handmade animals, hats, shoes, jewellery and containers.

Interests other than art? 

Psychology, Art Theory, Art therapy.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?

Just keep going. Never give up.

I hope my sketchbook…

Will speak to the violence representation has done to female bodies in the real world, as well as the real and symbolic violence of the fragmentation of the female body by the male gaze in Western cultural hegemony.

Will Function as an embodiment of contradiction-grotesque beauty, fragmented bodies-modes of being-that trouble normative structures and representations of female bodies and confront the viewers with their own complicity in such organizing processes.







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