So here are all the paintings for the Kipling in Johannesburg exhibition at the Rand Club next week (you need to be a member to see it, so this is the best chance you’ll have if you’re not). The exhibition coincides with the 125th anniversary of one of the great institutions of the city that is my muse, so it made sense to collaborate with GM Charles Drewe, who has been coming up with some interesting – and successful – ideas to make the club more relevant to a younger market.
I’ve drawn on two sources for my Kipling work: the Just So Stories I loved as a child, and the poem “If”, a firm favourite of schools in South Africa. Despite the whimsical nature of the subject matter, I didn’t want that to come through in the imagery. These are paintings for grownups, after all, and they’re on display in a serious setting – and since I hope to sell them, I need to keep a potential target market in mind. The most obvious subject to address for any artist who likes to combine cityscapes with animals is this one, The Cat That Walked by Himself:
This work was inspired by The Elephant’s Child, a wonderful tale of curiosity, risk and innovation. To give you a sense of scale, the cat is A4; this one is A2:
Then there is How the Rhino Got His Skin (A2) – poignant, given the threat faced by rhinos today:
How the Leopard Got His Spots (A3):
And of course, If (A2). Here the poem is written out in full:
Here’s a second version of If, titled “If You Can Stay Bullish” – all the writing apart from the first stanza of the Kipling poem refers to JSE-listed shares. It’s slightly larger than A3 in size:
And finally, this one, a work I donated to the club in order to raffle. This is the first time I’ve attempted a mixed media work of this kind, a photo to which I’ve added paint and writing for an interesting moody effect. The title of this work is “This place stands firm in the swirling currents of history”.
I’ll be heading to the club on Monday, complete with a new collection of easels, to put it on display. I can’t wait to see how it looks in settings like this one: