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POOLS AND NYMPHS (article first published : 2003-09-10)

Former Durban artist Danielle Malherbe now lives and works in Pretoria where she manages and teaches through a succesful artists’ studio called Stone Rose Studio. A graduate from Technikon Natal in 1990, she has worked as an art teacher and outreach officer in numerous projects in Durban and Pretoria. She has exhibited a various group exhibitions.

Her second solo exhibition in Durban is currently on show in the NSA’s Park Gallery until September 28. It is titled Pools and Nymphs.

Danielle Malherbe will exhibit a group of seven works taken from a larger series. The visual elements that reappear are the swimming bath (the “pool”) and the classical feminine statuary (the ‘Nymphs’). These two visual elements are used to explore a few inter-related themes as well as a decidedly Romantic preoccupation with nostalgia for the past, and landscape as a site for spiritual contemplation and a visual expression for the psychological.

The statuary is the direct reference to the past. The series includes Archaic Greek koré, Classical Greek Caratyds and the Hellenistic Nike of Samathrace. The sculptures have obvious signs of wear, with broken arms, missing heads in the case of the Nike, crumbling noses, etc, which suggests a sense of frailty, of a faded era, and a sad, bittersweet tone.

On a very personal level, the feminine statuary functions as a self-portrait: the artist mending herself through the process of painting the sculptures, and exploring different facets such as her neuroses and sensuality.

The artist states that “the landscape, in this case the pool, or garden with a pool, is a place of quiet contemplation, (the pool, a mandala-like shape) with just a hint of unease or threat … a contemporary Arcadia. The water in some paintings is luminous and inviting, lit by daylight, while in others it has a dark, inky foreboding quality. Using off-key, unsettling lighting and sometimes juxtaposing the image of the snake with an idyllic landscape, I’ve tried to produce a sense of lurking threat and unease which is part of our contemporary experience.”




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