Ex­cel­lent work from Ek­steen

The Mercury - - GOOD LIFE - Marianne Mei­jer

IT WAS a thrilling ex­pe­ri­ence to be in the Mid­dle Gallery at artSPACE Dur­ban in Mil­lar Road, Morn­ing­side – sur­rounded by beau­ti­ful por­traits at the open­ing of dis­in­te­gra­tion, an ex­hi­bi­tion by Dur­ban artist Corné Ek­steen.

Although it took Ek­steen just three months to com­plete his show, he has pro­duced a spec­tac­u­lar dis­play of orig­i­nal por­trait paint­ings, the likes of which Dur­ban has not seen for some time.

Much of Ek­steen’s suc­cess can be traced to his abil­ity to find end­less fa­cial ex­pres­sions as, in a way, they are an in­struc­tive in­quiry into the na­ture of his por­traits. The red in most paint­ings is dom­i­nant and, as it is a sug­ges­tive and strong colour, quickly draws view­ers into the paint­ing.

More­over, as a pain­ter Ek­steen has not only fo­cused on the dy­nam­ics of the por­trait but, as a pro­fes­sional artist, en­sures the face he por­trays is care­fully in­te­grated with the back­ground, which gives a most sat­is­fy­ing and uni­fied out­come.

Through a process of draw­ing on con­ven­tions of both fig­u­ra­tive and ab­stract paint­ing, he at­tempts “to vis­ually dis­sect the sub­ject mat­ter in the pur­suit of an un­der­stand­ing of the dy­nam­ics and tran­sient na­ture of the 21st cen­tury psy­che”, Ek­steen says. And he suc­ceeds!

He is to­tally ab­sorbed in his work. It is as if he lives in­side his paint­ings.

At this week’s open­ing he told view­ers that he some­times used the faces/fea­tures of two or three peo­ple, amal­ga­mat­ing these into a new por­trait.

His style is of to­day and al­ready unique – a great ac­com­plish­ment for any artist.

Born in Zas­tron, South Africa, in 1973, he stud­ied for a BA in Fine Art at the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria and Unisa. He spent sev­eral years work­ing in re­lated fields, from menswear de­sign to in­te­rior dec­o­rat­ing, be­fore paint­ing full time from 2003.

Ek­steen took part in nu­mer­ous group, two-per­son and solo shows, and has reached the fi­nals of Absa L’Ate­lier. He was re­cently nom­i­nated as hav­ing the best work on show in the artSPACE Ex­change com­pe­ti­tion.

Ek­steen will do a walk­a­bout at the gallery at 11am on Satur­day.

Mean­while, in the gallery’s main space, Jane Strode’s ex­hi­bi­tion, Sea Fever, of­fers a very dif­fer­ent body of work.

Grow­ing up and liv­ing on the North Coast, the sea has al­ways been a part of Strode’s life.

On reg­u­lar vis­its to Cape Town she re­alised that the light there was dif­fer­ent. She took many photos, and her work is about in­ter­pret­ing these im­ages in paint, us­ing pal­ette knife and brush strokes to cre­ate tex­ture.

In her CV she writes: “I have mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion, and my eye­sight is only 50% of a nor­mal per­son’s vi­sion.

“I’ve found a free­dom of move­ment in my brush­strokes, and the colours have also changed. I want to paint the lone­li­ness, the space, the vast­ness, the clean colours and the cold­ness of the wa­ter, as well as the beauty and fear of rough seas.”

Land­scape paint­ing is ex­tremely dif­fi­cult, and it is even harder to find a por­trayal that makes vi­sion and ex­e­cu­tion a unique ex­pe­ri­ence for the viewer. To cre­ate and de­velop a per­sonal style that can be recog­nised takes years and years.

Strode has cer­tainly made a very good ef­fort.

As Ge­orge Braque once said: “Ev­ery paint­ing be­gins with a prob­lem and ends with a prayer.”

De­tail from two works by Dur­ban artist Corné Ek­steen, now on show at artSpace Dur­ban in Mil­lar Road, Morn­ing­side. The art is on show un­til Septem­ber 19.

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