The long lockdown has sent me in some new artistic and photographic directions. Here’s a great example. I wanted to make some yoga art with the beautiful Cape Town based yoga teacher Shelby Kleynhans (@yogi_shelby) and asked her to send me some yoga pictures to work with. These I will show you in my next post … because she also sent me some shots where she is a mermaid walking along the beach in Mozambique. That’s where Ernst Haeckel enters our story. I’ve admired his scientific artworks for a long time. They inspired the Art Deco movement and have beautiful rich organic shapes. You can see some of his classic illustrations in Kunstformen der Natur. I was inspired to mask out the Indian Ocean background from Shelby’s mermaid picture and replaced it with a couple of whole page illustrations from Haeckel’s works. She looks like she’s stepping out of the pages – I think it’s a lovely effect!
Sometimes my fantasy work just goes in all the right directions without me really knowing. In my last post I mentioned that Meagen had given me some great silhouettes to work with – she certainly did!
The Ice Queen
I took her poses, masked out the background and it was then great fun to experiment overlaying the patterns and motifs I’ve been building up. Here she is as an Ice Queen. For this one I used snow flakes that I’d photographed on the car windscreen when we were skiing in Sweden.
The Butterfly’s Wing
This next one has an overlay of the Milky Way (taken above Hogsback). When I sent Meagen the picture she immediately saw that her hair gave the lovely shape of a Butterfly’s Wing.
The Mermaid’s Tail
I was intrigued by the curve her back makes and after a good deal of work I found the Mermaids Tail by superimposing two silhouettes back to back. There are around a dozen different overlays in this picture. Several on each silhouette and then more in the backdrop. When I composed the blue silhouette image Meagen told me she thought I’d turned her into a bioluminescent mermaid arriving in another galaxy. That’s what helped give me the inspiration.
I think of the some of my photography as fantasy artwork. It’s work that often dissolves a nude study into a spiritual natural scene. If you check out Symmetry Series: nude studies and new work at #NAF19 you’ll see what I mean. It’s no real surprise that I’ve wanted to do some more fantasy work during the current lockdown as it’s wonderful place to retreat into. The problem is, of course, that I can’t set up the necessary shoot with a beautiful model! But when I saw Meagen’s wonderful recent work in her @meagieswain Instagram feed I knew we had to find the solution. It was quite easy. She’s great at taking selfies, has a good smartphone and is very good at collaborating! So I sent her some fantasy ideas and concepts for poses and a week or so later my WhatsApp went a bit crazy receiving the 50 or so shots she’d taken.
In one of the selfies she’s looking wistfully out of her window so I took that as my base portrait for the Black Swan. I masked out the domestic interior of her place and then added four or five overlays to get the final image you can see here. I wanted a magic realism kind of effect and think the Black Swan floating in the clouds gives the right, slightly surreal edge. If you compare it with The High Priestess you’ll see that it’s got a much softer tone than my other work with her.
Bird Flight uses the same image and has the same approach. This time I wanted a golden-yellow colour so there’s leaves, grasses and tree bark in the overlays. Even the bird is a yellow bulbul – photographed at our bird feeder.
Meagen’s also sent me some great silhouettes and I’ll dedicate a post to them soon. They’ve given me some nice new directions to follow.
Just before lockdown I shared a quiet couple of beers with Harry Owen and we talked about trying something new for the Virtual National Arts Festival. Seeing as we had lots of poetry and imagery between us why not collaborate? Here’s a taste of what we have been working on.
Aorta – Harry’s unpublished poem was initially prepared with Coming Home: Poems of the Grahamstown Diaspora in mind. It’s the first one that we worked on and has all of the elements that we have stuck with. There’s a voice-over to a sequence of images followed by the written text of the poem. A soundtrack backing the voice-over is the final strand of what we have put together.
The second piece is from Coming Home. It’s Gillian Rennie’s lovely small poem ‘Bots Aloes’. Harry again is the reader. Coming Home is published in East London by Amitabh Mitra’s The Poets Printery.
The last poem took a while to complete because we really wanted to track down the author – Hannah Armour – to get her reading of ‘Now’. She wrote this when she was ten and eight years have passed since then. It’s published in For Rhino in a Shrinking World: An International Anthology, edited by Harry Owen and published by The Poet’s Printery. Thanks to social media and our network of FaceBook we found her and she kindly gave us the voice-over.
We still have three more In Tandem videos that we are working on. They’re all longer than the ones we have done so far and consequently more complex. Watch this space!
One of the most memorable and heart felt poems in Harry Owen’s anthology For Rhino in a Shrinking World was written by 10 year old Hannah Armour. So it was an easy choice to be one of our In Tandem series of video clips for this year’s Virtual National Arts Festival. It’s read here by Harry himself though it would be fantastic if we can find Hannah (who must be around 18 by now and living in the USA) and get her to give us a recording for the voice-over. I’ve chosen the two rhino pictures to complement the poem and that’s the style of all of these clips. There are a sequence of images with a voice over and then the text of the poem. If you know how we can get in touch with Hannah please let us know.
We missed Reddit’s Poetry last month because of the Covid-19 lockdown so I’ve decided to make this short video clip instead. It’s three haiku with a water theme that I found at The Haiku Foundation’s website. Each of them is overlain on one of my photos of Eastern Cape waterfalls:
Wally Swist’s haiku with the Upper Kowie Falls in Featherstone Kloof near Grahamstown;
Ron Moss’s haiku with the Madonna and Child Falls at Hogsback;
Bashō’s classic haiku with The Upper Tyumie Falls at Hogsback.