Pulse of the City
This is a painting I did for Roland Reid, the marketing manager at Land Rover and one of the nicest people I know. It was a gift to celebrate the launch of the Pulse of the City campaign and my good fortune to be involved with it.
The car you see in the painting is the new Range Rover Evoque; I used bright pink because as luck would have it, that is the colour of the Johannesburg leg of the campaign. In the background are references to famous icons on the city skyline, including the Hillbrow Tower, the cooling towers in Soweto and Sandton City. In the centre of the painting, you can see lines that represent roads. All of the words inscribed on the painting are names of Johannesburg streets. In the middle is Vilakazi Street, famous for being home to two Nobel Peace Prize winners – Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela.
Behind the skyline is one of Joburg’s famous summer thunderstorms, which brings a sense of moodiness to the composition. My intention was to convey the energy of the city, which is the point, after all, of the campaign.
It’s an important painting for me because it represents the first time, besides smaller illustrations, that I have worked with mixed media. The car and buildings were drawn in permanent marker, the lipstick applied on top, and then written into using a fineliner. The layering I am aiming to achieve is a form of palimpsest, a concept I first learned about in Std 6 art class, when I was 13.
You know how it happens. You’re sitting there, bored, there are lipsticks, there’s nice shiny cardboard your husband uses to make his architectural models and one thing leads to another. At the time I was taking a sabbatical to work on my PhD thesis – of course I did nothing – and when my husband left the country to look for work in London, I was at something of a loose end. Hence the lipstick.
The first paintings were of apples and roses. Then I graduated to peppers and chillies, and I stuck to these subjects for years. For a long time, I barely painted at all. It’s only in the past year that I have started to paint again, with the proverbial apples (I love painting apples) but also pomegranates, onions and dead roses. I’ve also begun to experiment with mixed media, combining lipstick with marker.
Just as the apples I paint refer to the myth of Adam and Eve, the pomegranates that are my subject matter include a reference to the myth of Persephone.
This painting was inspired by a buffalo skull hanging on the garage wall of my family’s bush lodge. It’s not about death, though at first glance that might seem to be the case – it’s more about enjoying the sculptural quality of the skull and its contrast with the medium. I drew the skull in marker before adding in the lipstick, then writing in it and scoring it with a plastic fork for added texture. The text refers to the scientific name of the Cape Buffalo, Syncerus caffer, and the history of the species in colonial South Africa.
I waited for this rose to start going brown and brittle before tackling it. The risk with using lipstick is the potential for kitsch. Lipstick, of course, is associated with beauty, as are roses, so there’s a certain irony here – the rose rendered at the point at which it would have been thrown away.
I won a prize in a green art competition sponsored by one of our clients for this painting – the painting is on recycled mount board, and I use a mixture of new and used lipstick donated to me.
One of my Adam apples
I’ve been painting with lipstick since 2002. I started with roses, peppers and apples (which are always titled either “Adam” or “Eve” for fairly obvious reasons); since then I’ve experimented with abstract as well as skulls and mixed media. The painting in the picture dates from 2010.