BEHIND THE SCENES
‘Over the years, I’ve noticed that art lovers and collectors have been interested in and fascinated with the anecdotes concerning my travels and the choices and influences when painting a specific scene, model or image. They have also been curious about the actual art making process or the chosen technique of individual artworks. Whatever information I was willing to share, enabled them to have a more intimate relationship with the art work, which has been enriching all round. Some paintings have historical value whereas others have spiritual depth or are purely sentimental. Yet others are merely decorative and ‘pleasing to the eye’. Please join me behind the scenes, in the arena where all of my art originates and which is an area which is normally not accessible to the casual viewer.’
Herewith I gladly share some anecdotes for:
‘VIP DEPARTURE LOUNGE’
After the completion of my school education and encouraged by my father, I enrolled for Architectural studies at the University of Pretoria. After completing one year I changed course and enrolled for BA Fine Arts, which I completed. As a young art student during the early 70’s, much of that which I produced, was imbued with a powerful surreal atmosphere.
In retrospect, this surreal thread, can be followed though-out my life’s artistic production. Some periods are simply more pronounced than others.
During the creation of some new work for my solo exhibition at Oude Drostdy Museum, Tulbagh in 2014, I was rather taken by surprise when a powerful surreal streak, took hold of me and manifested in the new pieces I was producing.
I don’t have a particular inclination towards the macabre, nor do I possess an obsession with decay. However, my paradoxical personality, is merely in perfect balance as I equally adore the fresh and the beautiful…..
My father was an Hotelier in Pretoria and that is where I spent my childhood. By nature he was a developer filled with fresh ideas and he was always in the process of planning and constructing new extensions, buildings and renovations.
As a youngster I loved being on my own and I would spend hours drawing and reading. However, I loved accompanying my father on his explorations to all the large building projects of the time. One of these was ‘Sterland’ in Pretoria and in Johannesburg, we visited the Carlton Center. Over several months and many visits, he would meticulously document the entire process with his 16mm movie camera. This included the demolition of the original building, then the excavations and following that, the construction of the new building up to completion. Then, to top it off, we regularly went for dinner at the ‘3 Ships Restaurant’ in the Carlton Hotel, in the years that followed.
From a tender age, I was fed with a diet of ‘process’ and ‘paradox’.
I also recall a few instances when I was exposed to buildings gutted by fire and these events traumatized and fascinated me in an odd way.
I was still in primary school, when a lovely double story home next to Magnolia Dell, burnt down. By chance, I attended a birthday party in the park the following day and I vividly remember walking amongst the wet but smouldering ruins, where I discovered a piece of sheet music. I was an accomplished little pianist and therefore I felt intensely connected and dismayed as I gently held the disintegrating piece of paper between my fingers, staring at the curling black and brown edges and pondering the music that was silenced forever… a sudden tuft of wind caught hold of my treasure and it simply vanished in thin air, as the powdery ash, filtered onto the messy floor below.
Realizing then, how valuable things that had often taken decades of effort and nurturing to establish, could be destroyed in an instant, shaped my thoughts and acknowledgement of the transience of Man and Life in general.
A triple story block of flats in Beatrix street, hardly 2 blocks away from our hotel, also lay in ruins, after it caught fire the previous night. The children of the neighborhood excitedly donned their gowns and slippers and gawked as the giant flames licked towards the stars obscured by smoke and the gigantic red fire engines with howling sirens and spraying hoses, tried to douse the fire in vain.
My brother owns the Farm Inn hotel. A few years ago, the thatch roof was struck by lightning and practically everything was destroyed. I witnessed the fruitless attempts of dozens of brave firemen, trying to save the extensive building-complex from the devouring flames. The next morning, armed with my camera, I impassively and scientifically documented the destruction. Some of my discoveries between the smoking rubble made me ecstatic. What I found most intriguing, were the signs and evidence of places where the guests were in the middle of a meal when the fire took hold and they were still oblivious as to the imminent disaster. Knives, forks, broken plates and glass, lay silently on the ground as though their placing, had been awkwardly set there. The tables and chairs had all been consumed by the flames.
A baby grand piano had been completely destroyed.. all that was left, were some screws and the metal resonator, which now lay down flat, in the ash.
Several years ago, a week before Kwa Maritane Bush Lodge burnt down, I was there as a guest and I extensively documented the beautiful buildings and surrounding gardens. A week later I was back, but this time, to document the devastating damage and the ruins that were left after tragedy struck. I noticed that that which had not entirely disappeared, had been entirely transformed.
These vivid memories highlighting destruction and transience on the one hand and my unquenchable creative urge and yearning for beauty on the other, confirms the origin of this new series.
Two of several of my newly discovered passions, is URBEX (Urban Exploration) and the beauty of rambling old cemeteries and the exquisite ivy- and lichen-covered sculptures.
Yet again, beauty is tempered and patined by time and season, or vandalized by vagrants.
During my first 2 month residency at the Citè des Arts in Paris 2000, I documented the magnificent walls of old buildings as well as the cemeteries of Paris.
A series of paintings was produced for a collector, after I visited Morocco in 2005 and India (Ajanta and Ellorah) in 2006.
I became aware of the magnificent patina on the walls and wandering along the ancient Medinas, made me aware of how decades of gradual transformation and prime examples of fine architecture and antiquities, could be instantly destroyed by an act of terrorism or the declaration of war.
Series: Unpolished Gems from the Orient: ‘DREAMING OF NOTHING’ 2006
Series: Unpolished Gems from the Orient: ‘AQUARELORAH’
My fascination with this particular metaphor, can be described as follows:
I contrast my deep and underlying interest in Architecture, together with the gradual decay accounted for by nature and humans with instant disasters, catastrophes and interventions, also caused by means of nature and humans.
The paradox is further highlighted by contrasting that which is God-made (e.g. clouds) and that which is man-made (e.g. buildings).
Our worldly aspirations for status and prestige (as manifested in material possessions such as imposing architectural structures), is brought into perspective through the irony of decay and impermanence, as well as the constant threat of instant annihilation.
The mystery of life and that which is hidden or invisible, is symbolized by the dark windows…..one feels as though the building has acquired human qualities and the windows become eyes that simultaneously peer at us, while we are in the process of observing the painting. It is only once this interactive exchange and assessment as well as the mutual observation between the spectator and the artistic creation is understood, that the title: ‘V.I.P. DEPARTURE LOUNGE’ (2014) becomes evident.
© Aleta Michaletos