May 2022 Solo Exhibition

“Exploration of the botanical realm, both real and imagined.”

My process

I started creating this body of work about 2 years ago when I was inspired by a group of artists committed to creating one artwork a day. As a deliberative and slow worker, I felt it would benefit me to work quickly in an unfussy way, trusting my intuition. It was a liberating and surprising process. I could produce a painting within 4 – 9 hours that I was really satisfied with. The paintings retain a freshness, and have aspects and elements that would otherwise not be.

A parallel journey was my deeper exploration into kundalini yoga. And it was somewhat of an epiphany for me to realise that I could merge my yoga and art practice. For several months I followed a daily Devotional Art Practice (DAP). Every morning I would do a yoga practice that included postures (asana), breathing (pranayama), chanting (mantra) and meditation. From this state of being, I would immediately create a spontaneous intuitive artwork in my visual journal, followed by a written reflection. I came to trust that I could always produce something, and it was always different and held some personal meaning.

From here I applied this approach to making collages in the evening. I now knew that I wanted to follow a botanical theme in my art, and also work with pattern. I took inspiration from traditional Korean paper, Hanji, enjoying the textures, prints and variety of colours.

These collages are artworks of themselves, and also offer visual inspiration and reference for more deliberate patterns and designs. I want my art to live out in the world, and am slowly exploring creating patterns for surface design.

After the collage phase I allowed myself to wander through the fantasy realm by simply putting pencil to paper and drawing. At first just squiggly and flowing lines, and then forms emerged. During this process, I was truly stunned that I could draw in such delicate detail things that did not exist as material objects before my eyes. Instead, what emerged was a unique synthesis of everything I had observed and absorbed, often unconsciously. A reconstituted reality.

And then I decided to interpret some of these elements in colour, enlarging the scale so that they could have future design applications. (I am currently involved in this process.)

At intervals, I felt the urge to make detailed studies of real and especially endangered plants. I first explored this avenue several years ago, while still living in South Africa. In general, people are aware of the plight of endangered animals, but plants seem to be side lined.

My philosophy

In a world where I don’t feel I have much control or influence, instead of being tumbled along, I am choosing to drift away and construct my own version of reality.

Reality encompasses all things. Yet, brutality, with its booming voice comes to dominate and crush. And if only there were a purpose or a noble cause, but it is senseless.

There’s enough evidence to show that even observing pain and suffering creates those physiological and psychological experiences within yourself. And if you cannot stop the pain around you, then at least you can refuse to allow it all inside. Our interconnected world makes the knowledge of global suffering overwhelming and unbearable.

I disassociate as a self-preservation mechanism, tuning into the sound of birdsong and the soothing beauty of the natural living world.

Plants have a strong sense of place, areas where they thrive. Yet plants know no national boundaries. Most of the suffering we endure derives from power struggles between nations and nationalities. But in nature, among plants, there is acceptance, peace and harmony.

I create in my cosy and safe bubble, listening to countless audio books, numbing my mind and emotions. And if my head becomes filled with candyfloss, at least it is sweet.

Solo Exhibition 2019: Choked – My experience of air pollution.

This body of work is a very personal visual expression of my journey with coming to grips with air pollution. As a South African, I grew up with wide blue skies and crystal clear air. My relationship with the outdoors was deeply connected to health and wellbeing. And, as an avid nature lover, I can neither come to terms with the reality that being outside is hazardous, nor that the environment is being poisoned. The physical world and my internal world are equally grey. Like an insect sprayed with poison, the elements of nature appear to be immobilised, stunned – choked.

I have used mixed media to create this artwork and chose certain materials that are both representative of Korea (such as Hanji paper), and the greatest source of air pollution in Korea, namely coal (charcoal). In addition, I used experimental techniques with reappropriated materials, such as plastic from packaging.  My work is mainly greyscale to reflect the world I observe, in which colour has been obscured, and joy smothered. The colour that is present is offered by the air quality index which foretells how the day will be – green, yellow, orange, red, purple or maroon.

Suffocation tells the story of creatures that exist to consume. They become self-enriched golden jewels, while unwittingly depleting the world around them. There comes the day when there remains one final breath of oxygenated air, and they too, suffocate. Within the sixth mass extinction, this is an analogy for the path that Homo sapiens have put all life forms on.

Other works express my feelings of being imprisoned inside my home, held hostage by circumstances beyond my control, and the misery I feel in this circumstance.

I feel a desperate sense of loss and a compulsion to do something helpful. “Please don’t leave me” expresses the sorrow, dread and powerlessness I feel at the unfolding loss of what is most beautiful and dear to me.

(Click on images to view)

The Endangered Plant Series

I am a nature lover and wanted to pursue work that would support the environment in some way. I realised that most people are aware of endangered animals, but how many people know about endangered plants? I wanted to make people more aware of our interdependent ecosystems. I contacted the Botanical Society of South Africa (affiliated to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in Cape Town) and received permission to use photos from their published book, which I purchased, as reference for my artwork. I did pencil sketches and some digital artwork and printed or transferred these, in various ways, onto wooden blocks.  

(Click on images to view)

Explorative Techniques and Approaches

I love exploring various media and techniques. Just trying something new, playing around and seeing what happens. I have a strong interest in printmaking because the outcome is slightly unpredicatable and you tend to get the most amazing qualities of line and delightful textures. At the moment I don’t have access to a conventional print studio, and so I began to explore different approaches to monoprinting and screen printing using paper masks instead of exposed screens. Being an art teacher means that I have to be competent, or at least familiar, with a range of media in order to support a broad spectrum of students interests. At times I access online tutorials or do courses in order to expand my skills and experience. My motivation is to keep learning and developing.

(Click on images to view)

Illustration for published books

As an illustrator, book illustration (especially educational books) was my bread and butter. I also had the opportunity to illustrate several book covers. I mostly worked with watercolour and coloured pencils, or gouache paint, and also began exploring digital illustration. In 2014, I had an amazing opportunity to work with a team on the very first Book Dash project. This is an initiative that promotes reading and literacy among a diversity of children in South Africa. The challenge is to produce a whole book in just one day, and over the years approximately 100 books have been published either online or in hardcopy.

Book Dash & Cover Artwork (Click on images to view)

View more of my work on Instagram: wendymorison8

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