Painted Mantras

Solo Exhibition at GUS, Stellenbosch, 2019

This series of artworks were created in 2018 while I was teaching English in Masan, South Korea. At the time, I experienced a lot of insecurity and self-doubt regarding my future career as a professional artist. The distance and isolation of being in a foreign country, compounded by cultural and linguistic barriers, made me introspective almost involuntarily. This led to a shift in my inner dialogue and helped me heal my relationship with art.

After finishing my degree, I felt unsure about my independent art practice. Without feedback from peers or lecturers, I had internalized the fear around being financially sustainable as an artist to such an extent that I couldn't bring myself to create anything. I also believed that my art had to address some larger current theme, which felt removed from my personal experiences and dissociated art from a sense of play.

The questions and fears surrounding my art career reached their height while participating in the International Artist Residency at Espace Rhizome in Masan. It was then that I decided to make healing my relationship with art the focus of my painting practice. Spending time in nature, meditating, and writing about my emotions connected to my painting practice were all instrumental in shifting my perspective. These writings became the subject of my paintings, interpreting them as moody, emotive inner landscapes.

I realized that art for the sake of art is enough and that I am enough as an artist. I also learned the value of living in the present moment, rather than being consumed by past experiences or future expectations. Whenever negative thoughts about my art career overwhelmed me, I immediately started painting a grid over whatever painted landscape I was busy with. I reinterpreted the grid from my Memory Rooms (2017) as a meditative tool instead of a measuring tool, which allowed me to become present and sit with the difficult emotions I was experiencing.

The grid and landscape in Painted Mantras exist together, blending and merging into an expression of art and the ego. The process mentioned above and the repetition of affirmative insights allowed me agency over my inner narrative and brought insight. I see this relationship between the organic and the inorganic as an expression of the tug of war I constantly experience between logic and intuition, profession and art, structure, and flow. I still don't try to solve this tension but allow it to exist without criticism or hesitation.