There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story,” wrote Native American poet, academic and environmentalist Linda Hogan. It’s an ethos that is shared by sisters Cathy Abraham and Jenny Schneider, Cape Town-based artists who share a profound love of nature, a belief in its uplifting and healing powers, and a common understanding of the earth’s essential sacredness. Nature photography runs parallel to the earth’s gradual loss of wild places. Through nature photography, vulnerable wild spaces are captured and held, “saved” in an image and spared from desecration. Schneider is mindful of this, but for her there is also a personal element in her choice of natural subject: the solidity and groundedness of earth, and the mutable fluidity of water.
Primarily using a classic Hasselblad camera, Schneider produces images of superior quality and high definition, taking tremendous care when selecting exactly which images to shoot, and which prints to make available to Abraham. A rigorous and perfectionist photographer, Schneider captures glimpses of nature’s finer details in a meditative and selective ongoing process. Her carefully chosen and sensitive blackand- white nature photographs are digitally printed onto canvas and subtly sepia-toned. Out of and onto these images of rock, water and trees Abraham layers on multiple films of muted glazes, creating figures that merge diaphanously with their natural environment and become indissolubly part of the landscape.
Naked comprises stripped (Cathy Abraham) and sacred (Cathy Abraham and Jenny Schneider), both with Mica Curitz in association with João Ferreira. It is on until 20 December 2008, at João Ferreira Gallery, Cape Town.
The glazed bodies meld with the bark and twisted tree forms, irreducibly part of them; elsewhere, they seamlessly waft through the very fabric of rock and sea water: the sinuous crack in a submerged rock is a human spine; the mottled skin of the figure is that of the lichen-encrusted, ever-changing sea bed. Existing forms within gnarled, weathered wood are given ghostly forms, and the medium of glaze adds to the other-worldly, opaque quality. The effect is ethereal liberation, natural harmony, and a celebration of the psycho-spiritual dimension as being closely tied to the body of the earth itself. Filled with nuance and suggestion, embracing notions of light and dark in both metaphorical and aesthetic senses and employing the naked body as a vehicle through which to explore such themes as truth, courage, personal growth, honesty and intrinsic value, the body of work as a whole evokes a hidden transcendence, made possible through reflection, as well as openness and the embrace of the earth.
Poised between the actual and the ideal, ultimately merging and blending with their contexts in poignant suspension, the figures and images speak of loss, but also of fleeting connection and momentary embrace: the short-lived escape and transitory deliverance that the artists themselves are able to access only in the reflective ephemeral space of creation, or immersed in unbounded nature.