1820 Settlers’ Sunset …

Little did I know when I was finishing work on my exhibition for this year’s #NAF19 that I was previewing the name change debate of the 1820 Settlers’ National Monument. I’ve got a panorama, taken from the cuttings above the N2 bypass, that’s entitled 1820 Settlers’ Sunset. I’ve since been told that it looks apocalyptic.

1820 Settlers Sunset, Grahamstown Makhanda

1820 Settlers’ Sunset

That was before the name change became so topical on social media (Grocott’s Mail is a good place to read about this controversy).

The second picture is an unusual shot taken from inside the Monument building. You have to imagine that you are lying on your back with your head at the base of the giant yellowwood sculpture in the Fountain Court and your feet at the fountain. So you are looking up an inverted cross past the Skotnes murals at the ceiling high above.

Fountain Court, 1820 Settlers National Monument

Fountain Court, 1820 Settlers National Monument

In this picture I’m definitely asking you to see the Monument from a different – and challenging – perspective.

They both look much better framed and on the wall as they are large images. You can see them in my solo exhibition ‘Reflections’ at the Johan Carinus Art Centre, Beaufort Street, 27 June – 7 July.

Old-fashioned contemporary prints of Grahamstown’s Heritage Sites: a preview for #NAF19

There are 70 Heritage Sites in Grahamstown (recently renamed as Makhanda): mostly in the CBD, around the Rhodes campus and in Sunnyside. I’ve been photographing them as they are now but in an antique, or retro, style. So my sepia prints will have students enjoying a glass of wine on the walls of Fort Selwyn or you’ll see the mounds of uncollected rubbish along Bathurst Street. There might be donkey on the pavement in Church Square or Makana Revive at work filling the potholes outside The Cock House.

I’ve printed a small selection of eight views to be part of my exhibition Reflections at #NAF19. The first four are daytime shots. Bartholomew Streetscape and 10 Cross Street are both in the beautifully restored Artificers’ Square. The Grocott & Sherry street scene and view of the Cock House highlight two of the city’s most well known commercial buildings. You’ll see that although the sepia style and bleached look of the photo is old fashioned the content often has something contemporary. 

The four night shots were taken over recent months during the full moon. The moonrise, clouds and dark skies give an interesting backdrop to the pictures. Ironically, I have included the Cathedral (which isn’t a Heritage Site) but the Drostdy Arch, Fort Selwyn and St Barts are all part of the town’s military and ecclesiastical history.

Screenshot of the collection: Grahamstown Heritage Series

Screenshot of the collection

This screenshot will give you an idea of the scope of this series of pictures. My photo exhibition Reflections has over 40 various images in different styles. The sepia prints make up one component but I would like to exhibit 25-30 of them next year. 2020 being the Bicentenary of the 1820 Settlers. The small selection at this year’s Arts Festival is their first public outing.  You can see them at Johan Carinus Art Centre, Beaufort Street, for the duration of the National Arts Festival from June 27 to July 7.

Symmetry Series: nude studies and new work at #NAF19

I’ve been making symmetrical images for many years now. Usually of trees, grass, leaves, ferns and clouds – you can see plenty in my Symmetry in Nature book download. Recently I have been making them much more complex by dissolving nude female figures into the composition. Here’s a good example from this years’s #NAF19. It’s called The Three Graces and is a large piece (76 cms x 67 cms). The blog format doesn’t really do it justice but you can see what I mean.

The Three Graces Vaulted #NAF19: Symmetry Study

The Three Graces Vaulted at #NAF19: Symmetry Study

The backdrop is a picture of the ancient milkweed tree at Platbos Forest in the western Cape near Cape Agulhas. I have mirrored it horizontally and vertically to get a vaulted effect. I wanted you to feel the branches stretch overhead as if under the roof of a cathedral.

Platbos Milkwood Dark: Original Study before mirroring

Platbos Milkwood Dark: before mirroring

Then, of course, I needed to have a figure, or figures, to merge into this ethereal background. I wanted a nude female figure that dissolves into the roots, branches and vines. So I set up a photo shoot (with Natalie who I have worked with before) and she posed in front of a screen with a variety of images projected on to her. I used my own mirrored images of ferns, spider webs and – best of all – lightning for this.

Lightning of Grahamstown - Symmetry Template

Lightning over Grahamstown – Symmetry Template

Here’s a short selection from the shoot. You’ll see that Natalie gave me some beautiful shapes to work with. They’re tricky pictures to take as it’s dark with only the projected image for lighting – so shutter speeds were quite slow and ISO settings high.

My favourite images had the lightning and trees draped over her body. I then spent many hours reducing images carefully down to partial figures. These could then be overlaid on to the forest so they looked as though they were dissolving into, or emerging organically out of, a mystical scene. In the end I had three images of her that I used and that’s why the finished artwork is called The Three Graces. It’s so striking that I have two versions of it. I’ve used it for my poster and publicity.

You can see the final two image at my exhibition Reflections in the Johan Carinus Art Centre, Beaufort Street, Grahamstown. We are open from 9 am to 5 pm daily throughout the 2019 National Arts Festival from 27 June to 7 July. If you are interested in purchasing (or having a private viewing) then please contact me at roddyfox@mac.com.

Into the Dream Forest at #NAF18

Forests are hard to photograph. They’ve got all the light and shade, shapes and textures you could want – but trying to get that in a picture and capture the feel of a forest is another story. On Christmas Day last year I took a very wet and slippery walk to Hogsback’s Big Tree. On the way down I paused and took a misty shot looking back up the pathway. That’s the picture which led to this set of six images that will be in my #NAF18 exhibition ‘Metamorphosis’. They’re the Dream Forest series. I realised that if I used a Fine Art Filter in post processing then I could give the misty wetness a dreamlike, evanescent quality.

The picture I’d set out for was of an individual tree – The Big Tree. It towers high over your head and it has got a massive girth. These three wide angle lens pictures of individual Hogsback trees are taken from ground level and that gives them a different quality and scale to the Dream Forest pictures.

All of these pictures, and more, will be in sale at the Johan Carinus Art Centre, Grahamstown throughout the National Arts Festival from June 28 to July 8.

The Big Picture: Unwrapped for #NAF18

Today’s the big day – it’s when I get my large prints back from the framers. I’ve worked on them for a long time but only seen them on the computer screen – and they can be big: 90 cms x 90 cms. I get a glimpse when I carefully unroll them as they come back from the printers.  But I am scared of creasing or marking the surface so once I have checked each print they all get rolled back up again and taken to be mounted and framed.

#NAF18, Metamorphosis, Johan Carinus Art Centre, Grahamstown

The Big Picture: Delivery for #NAF18

Getting them into the house once they’re framed can be fraught with dangers too. The dogs have to be shut away as each piece is carefully navigated up all of the steps from the bottom carport and then round the stoep and finally into my studio. Finding room to unwrap them is like moving tetris pieces as I have over 50 pieces ready for #NAF18. And Kayleigh the cat would just love to sneak in and hide amongst all of the wrappings!

I’ll really enjoy having them around me in the studio for the next three weeks. Then this whole process gets repeated to get everything out of the house and off to my exhibition ‘Metamorphosis’ which is at the Johan Carinus Art Centre for the duration of #NAF18 from June 28th to July 8th.

 

Revealing the Sugarbirds at #NAF18

Opening up a roll of prints takes me straight back to childhood.  It’s the anticipation, the long wait since you finished the post production and uploaded the images to your printer in Port Elizabeth or Cape Town. Then you get the email, they’re done, and you have to wait for the courier to deliver.  24 hour delivery they say but if you are living in Grahamstown that can take anything up to five days.  Then, of course, they might deliver to a neighbour over the road (because you were out) and never bother telling you!

The Sugarbird images are black and white with the birds floating like oriental brushstrokes on a very pale background. I’d selected the Hahnemühle German Etching paper because I wanted a rich texture and as soon as I saw the images catching the late afternoon sunlight I was delighted with the result.

I’ve four Sugarbirds images in Metamorphosis – they’ll be on show thoughout the National Arts Festival (June 28 – 8 July) at the Johan Carinus Arts Centre.

The Sugarbirds Composite