Vlamlek starts with a story about an old Cape Dutch farmhouse surrounded by Strelitzias, planted there to symbolize a protective ring of fire that was meant to shield its inhabitants from ‘foreign’ and harmful influences. This thought of barriers, of keeping out and letting in selectively, the urge to delineate the homestead, is immensely powerful and can be traced back eons in different cultures. I found myself playing with the shape and symbolism of the Strelitzia, half flame, half flower.
The Strelitzia is a peculiar flower, indigenous to South Africa yet ‘discovered’ by a British botanist and named in 1773 by Sir Joseph Banks (curator of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew) somewhat randomly in honour of Queen Charlotte, the Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. To me, this flower epitomizes how South Africans – human, animal and botanical - have become a tangle of complex influences: the Western influence is palpable everywhere, European laws and societal norms and lately a newer but equally visible American influence, yet in between so distinctly African too, with uniquely developed customs and values, a flavour of flame and the primordial power of the earth.
Fire – heating metal and enamelling – is my language of creating. I’m becoming more experimental in my technique, savouring the burns and scars of this haphazard process. Enamel dust thrown at the metal almost violently, layer upon layer, then ground off again, scraped, colours bleeding into one another, bruised, fired over again until I achieve that mottled brightness fringed with burn. I love the immediacy of this process; I breathe it when I work. Yet it cannot be completely impulsive, there are natural laws to be obeyed, melting temperatures and properties of metals to consider, the language of the colours to respect. Enamelling is the marriage of something wild and untameable with an ordered, measured, law-abiding other.
Vlamlek is my attempt to show how, in my mind, seemingly contradictory elements have to be embraced, danced with and smelted around each other, in order to stay sane in a world where my European-South-African identity seems to tear itself apart at times.