Sarah Britten Art

Paintings in lipstick


Of all the work up at the Pulse of the City exhibition, this is probably the most personally significant to me. The Swimming at Night paintings come close, but as with the rest of the work, they avoid too much delving into the recent past. This is the only skyline which includes an aspect of another city: Sydney, where I lived for a year from May 2008 to April 2009.


It’s a small work, titled Gondwanaland after the ancient continent that linked Africa and Australia via Antarctica. I emigrated to Australia in May 2008, and the Pulse of the City exhibition is as much about not being in Sydney as it is about being in Joburg. This was my view from the apartment where I lived when I first arrived:

Sydney from Mosman

Joburg simply cannot compete with this kind of awe-inspiring tourist friendliness. But I wonder whether, in a way, that’s a good thing. Painting a city not known for its conventional aesthetic appeal with a medium like lipstick, which is all about beauty, forces me to think more deeply, to work harder, and to delve deeper into the meaning of my relationship with a place. Joburg forces me to look beyond the surface to how I feel about my home, and I think that improves the quality of the art. It’s possible to be glib when it comes to Joburg – fetishising the city skyline has become something of a cottage industry – but it’s not easy.


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