Inspiration for The Fire Portrait


Living near Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens for several years gave me a ringside seat on the wonder of fynbos – the flora unique to the Cape.  I watched proteas bloom in mid-winter, I watched bulbs erupt in the spring, I watched gleaming sunbirds flitting among sharp aloes.


Some years later, I began to visualise a young woman, newly arrived from England in the 1930s, wandering among the same plants and utilising her skills to create artwork that might match the beauty around her. But then I imagined her leaving all that new-found abundance and relocating to the edge of the Karoo. Here, the starkness requires different colours - and patience: the plants and wildlife of the arid stretches of South Africa demand persistence and dedication; as do the rural communities, many of which have battled drought and conflict. It’s hard for an outsider to make an impression in such a setting. And when she begins to question tradition, or to introduce new ideas, there are those who would prefer her to leave.

When I first moved to Aloe Glen, I didn’t see anything worth painting. But then I began to look more closely and found aloes, and stone plants, and rare bulbs. It made me realise there is beauty in the most remote place, if we’re prepared to look hard enough. And my paintings reflect more than their surface images. They show the passage of drought, fire, flood and war...