Sarah Britten Art

Paintings in lipstick

The Nguni Series

The Red Bull II

Think pop art meets 18th century English farm animal portraits meets 19th century naturalists’ notebooks meets social history.

The Red Bull IIThere’s a certain irony in placing cattle in a cityscape, but then Johannesburg, like many African cities, is also home to livestock. I chose Nguni cattle because no other animal represents the intersection of Africa, tradition and modernity quite so beautifully. They are deeply significant in Zulu culture, and also terribly fashionable. Nguni cowhides have been de rigueur in hipster homes across the suburbs for years now, and it’s easy to buy hides on the side of the road (try the intersection of William Nicol and Cromartie in Sandhurst).

I have an Nguni cowhide rug in my art studio, and this probably influenced my work. When I was married, it was paired with an Eames chair in an exquisitely tasteful arrangement. My ex-husband took the Eames ripoff to Sydney; I kept the rug because the Australians wouldn’t allow it through customs.

The text in these works explores the conflict between the urban and the rural, capitalism and agrarianism, the history of migrant labour and present-day conflicts over the ritual slaughter of animals in the suburbs. It’s an endlessly intriguing theme, and an excuse to paint one of my favourite subjects. Of course, it’s hard to resist a pun, so there is also a sacred cow here, as well as Seth Godin’s purple cow (how could I resist the temptation?)

Purple Cow II

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