Sunbirds, proteas, pin-cushions, aloes… Looking at a canvas painted by Bronwen Findlay, a more distracted viewer could easily dismiss it as an ornamental work of art. However, these vibrant and colourful depictions of local fauna and flora tell the story of Findlay’s life, the places she’s lived in and the spaces she has occupied.
Bronwen Findlay’s paintings are charged with cultural significance, from the selection of the botanicals depicted to the textured backgrounds, and the juxtaposition of different elements.
Speaking about these elements, the artist writes:
I have painted domestic objects which may be loaded with cultural connotations – a willow-patterned piece of crockery from my grandmother, enamel tin plates and mugs bought from trading stores. Textiles and cloth have also played an important role in my work – I was influenced by the embroidery and beadwork created by women from the Limpopo province and for a time beaded my paintings with dots of paint. Colour and decoration have always been an important aspect of my painting. This decorative manipulation of paint may also be seen in more recent paintings of South African flora and fauna – while these works are hardly botanical, I hope that they capture a different reality.
To me, Findlay’s works are intrinsically South African without falling into the sentimentality often associated with the stereotypical, local aesthetics. So, in an unsettling moment for our country that has driven some of of us to limit situations, and as someone who didn’t grow up here and chooses to call South Africa home, I wanted to bring you a couple of works that remind me why I like this country so much.
by Susana Pedro Buschor