Plants on can­vas

Stel­len­bosch artist Paula van Coller cre­ates paint­ings you want to gaze at for a long time. Ev­ery­thing flows and works to­gether, al­most like an ecosys­tem. Thanks to her per­cep­tive­ness and eye for de­tail you can al­most smell the blos­soms, feel the breeze a

go! Platteland - - GARDEN DIARY -

You’ve been paint­ing for 20 years and your ex­hi­bi­tions al­ways cen­tre around plants, flow­ers and bulbs. Your most re­cent ex­hi­bi­tion, “Fleurs de La Motte”, fo­cuses on indige­nous plants and fyn­bos found on this es­tate. Where did your fas­ci­na­tion with plants start?

I grew up in Bloem­fontein. My mother, Retha, was al­ways work­ing in the gar­den and helped peo­ple with gar­den de­sign. She also did ar­range­ments for wed­dings and, when­ever we could, we’d help her to earn pocket money. Plants and flow­ers were part of our up­bring­ing.

My love of paint­ing them be­gan when I stud­ied at the Uni­ver­sity of the Free State, and since then I’ve al­ways fo­cused on plants and sus­tain­abil­ity.

Do you study real plants to take note of their de­tails?

I do like to keep branches in my stu­dio and to paint di­rectly from them. The or­ganic lines are in­spir­ing, and this also helps me cap­ture the nat­u­ral shad­ows of the plant. I place flow­ers in a vase but un­for­tu­nately they wilt – then I use pho­tos to com­plete the fi­nal, finer, de­tails.

How do you think your work has changed over the past 20 years?

My work grows as I grow as a per­son. I al­ways chal­lenge my­self to try some­thing new. When I was in­vited by La Motte, I grabbed the chance to dis­cover new plants. I was en­chanted by the process of cap­tur­ing blush­ing brides, er­i­cas, proteas and pin­cush­ions on can­vas.

You love paint­ing large can­vases…

Small and large paint­ings take me the same amount of time. I get car­ried away by de­tail and can work for hours – it’s al­most ad­dic­tive. The de­tail has more space to breathe on a big­ger can­vas and when I work on a larger scale, my work flows more eas­ily.

What has your in­ten­sive study of plants and flow­ers taught you?

Amaze­ment Each plant or piece of plant ma­te­rial is unique.

Pa­tience Start­ing to work on a paint­ing is the same as buy­ing a small tree in a four-litre bag, trans­plant­ing it, car­ing for it and hop­ing it grows into a beau­ti­ful big tree.

De­ter­mi­na­tion I’ve learnt to con­tinue paint­ing, even when I strug­gle, to make sure that what ex­cites me about the plant is cap­tured ac­cu­rately.

You live with your hus­band and twin sons, Ben and Walt, in Stel­len­bosch. Are you a gar­dener?

Gar­den­ing is my home. The beauty, the growth, the care… but also the strug­gle, which is hap­pen­ing now with the drought. I re­alised that I must plant more clev­erly. Only 15 of my 40 rose bushes have sur­vived with the help of grey wa­ter. And now I know that the shade of a tree is more im­por­tant than a green lawn. In future I will choose more hardy, indige­nous wa­ter­wise plants.

Prins Matika has worked for us for 17 years and I have the great­est re­spect for his won­der­ful skill with plants.

What do you find spe­cial about your gar­den in win­ter?

The in­ter­est­ing lines and shad­ows of a tree with­out leaves. The fyn­bos cov­ered in the most beau­ti­ful flow­ers.

CON­TACT paula­van­

Visit Paula’s ex­hi­bi­tion at La Motte wine es­tate out­side Fran­schhoek. She walks groups through the ex­hi­bi­tion and ex­plains more about each paint­ing. The last tour with Paula takes place on 5 June – book­ings are es­sen­tial.

Paula’s art works are in­spired by the del­i­cate, cheer­ful Erica baueri and Erica parv­i­flora (left, from above), among oth­ers, at La Motte.

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