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DEANNE DONALDSON (article first published : 2006-02-18)

Deanne Donaldson, winner of the hotly contended first prize in this year’s KZNSA Members’ Portrait Exhibition, has an unabashed passion for pigment.

In a vox pop roundup, for a Durban-based journal, of “people who make KwaZulu-Natal rock” author and art collector Siobhan Gunning nominated Deanne Donaldson for being “one of the few Durban artists whose vision matches her execution”. The journal in question has since gone the way of many good ideas but Deanne Donaldson, a Fine Art graduate from the former Technikon Natal (DIT), continues to nail her colours to the mast as a painter of enormous sensitivity, informed intellect and uncompromising standard.

A popular choice as the recently announced winner of the annual KZNSA (KwaZulu-Natal Society of Art) Members’ Exhibition, the artist’s work is featured in private, university and corporate collections in this country and abroad.

Deanne Donaldson distils personal experience and humanist concerns, informed by readings from the works of, amongst others, T S Elliot, Adrienne Rich and Ben Okri, into works combining both spiritual and sensual beauty. Her brush marks, rather than being merely the means to interpret her vision, are as integral to the paintings as their choice of subject and the thought processes that were their genesis.

A former recipient of the Emma Smith Scholarship for Fine Art, she has worked and studied in the USA, Britain and France. She manages the difficult juggling act of pursuing parallel careers as an art teacher and painter, and is currently burning the midnight oil in her Glenwood “garret” to complete a submission for the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

“In recent years I’ve developed a renewed fascination with portraiture,” the artist says. “I’ve noticed a profound change begin to manifest itself in the way I work with paint, and it’s most evident when I’m working with a ‘sitter’.”

Her award-winning portrait at the KZNSA is of a close friend, fellow artist Vaugn Sadie. Does she feel it is significant that a relationship of sorts should exist between subject and artist?

“I think it’s impossible for that not to be the case. Like all relationships, some are longer and deeper than others, but there is always a shared space – a conversation.”

What, in the artist’s opinion, is painting’s relevance in the contemporary context?

“I recently curated a show at Durban’s ASD Gallery – Paean to Paint – in an attempt to explore that question. I believe it has the same relevance as it has always done. I don’t think its position has changed because there are so many more aesthetic ‘languages’ being employed.

“Perhaps painting has even greater significance in a world consumed by technology and speed. Painting takes time. Looking at a painting takes time. Portraiture is one of the oldest genres of painting. What gives one portrait contemporary relevance, rather than another, is the adoption of a contemporary attitude towards paint and painting itself; the understanding that it’s about so much more than achieving a good likeness.”

Second prize in the KZNSA Members’ Exhibition went to Nomsa Ngidi, and Annemarie Nason-Richards took third place. The annual awards are sponsored by the Joan Emanuel Trust. Enquiries may be directed to the Curator, Nathi Gumede on: 031 277 1703 or 202 3686/7, Cell 082 220 0368. E-mail: curator@kznsagallery.co.za - Vivian Attwood




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