Early in 2009 I contacted Mark Read of the Everard Read Gallery in Johannesburg with a proposal for my next show. I had an idea to make it a show that was entirely made up of 12 very large (120cm x 180cm) landscapes. Every one would encompass the epic nature of my favorite African wilderness locations. It was a risk to have a show comprised only of very large paintings! But having Mark Read as my mentor and agent gave me the confidence to try something risky.
Shows are major undertakings. You have to strategically decide the subject matter and the look of the show as a whole. There has to be a timetable for the paintings so that you stay on track to deliver the projected paintings. Then you have to paint the paintings. These then have to be delivered to the gallery months before a show opens. This requires shipping agents, special crates, clearing agents. Then the paintings have to be framed and after that skillfully photographed by a professional. The last item to be completed for any show is the production of a beautiful catalogue that has to be designed and printed in time to be posted out several weeks before the show opens.
Even as I was starting work on the paintings my thoughts turned to the catalogue, specifically it's design and most importantly, the essay I would write for it. At this point fate took a hand in the proceedings and I decided to make the essay more personal than anything I had written for previous show catalogs. It would be about my experiences growing up on the Swahili Coast because that was where I had become infused with the romance of the African wilderness. I knew that this might be difficult. In 1957 my father had met a 'mystery woman' and as a consequence he left my mother in difficult circumstances in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I had virtually no contact with him after that and in 1964 he vanished off my radar forever. Since then I had studiously avoided even thinking about him but now I found myself presented with a difficult choice. Should I write about my personal East African experiences for the catalogue essay or choose a different subject completely? I did the right thing - I decided to unravel a mystery in my past. The essay would be about that process! Where to start?
The Show: 3 ►