Detail:  Walking Along the Lech,  Water-based Oil on Panel, 19.5 x 15cm

Detail: Walking Along the Lech, Water-based Oil on Panel, 19.5 x 15cm



A solo exhibition by Paddy Bouma

Saturday 29 September 2018

“Paddy Bouma is justly-celebrated for her illustrations of children’s books and for her mentorship of budding illustrators, artists while lecturering at the University of Stellenbosch. Illustration, even examples as fine and qualified as Paddy’s, is conventionally not treated as high art. But by spending time looking at Paddy’s work, and the messages that the lines convey - one might be encouraged to re-access and change one’s position of its out-dated hierarchy in art theory.

However, she has over the years also made powerful lithographs, etchings and silkscreens which show that her fine artistry is not limited to the world of illustration. Of late, her focus has moved away from illustration and onto painting (also the metier of her grandmother, who attended art school in Holland). It is to the paintings that I will devote a few words here, neglecting remarkable works in other media, such as “Into Africa” or ““Upside down Earth - an alternative Evolution”.

Her paintings seem to come from a world quite alien to, and unperturbed by, the haste, hurry and bustle of the contemporary art scene. While everybody was rushing in one direction, trying to be up to date and ‘relevant’, Paddy was calmly looking at the world around her, tending her own chosen garden.

The images on her walls include reproductions of works by Picasso, Matisse and Magritte – artists she obviously respects. But nary a trace of them, or of Cézanne, the fountainhead of so much 20th Century painting, in her own work. Instead, we feel the impact of  Dürer, 17th Century Dutch landscape painting, of Caspar David Friedrich, and Turner, perhaps. As well as echoes of meditative Chinese or Japanese ink and brush landscapes – with an attention to water, clouds and the shapes and textures distinguishing one tree from another. A world characterised by change and impermanence.

The impression that keeps on reasserting itself when I look at these strikingly small works is one of receptivity and sensitivity, listening rather than holding forth. In a time when artists tend to shout to make themselves heard, Paddy’s artistic voice is soft and unrhetorical. Her tiny brush responds like a seismograph, registering the different tremors arising from a plant with one sort of leaf and a plant with another sort of leaf – bamboo, palm, willow, sycamore. The eye of the gardener more than that of the builder. (Ah, but how I wish I could draw architecture the way Paddy does in her travel sketchbooks!).

Paddy uses oils (water-based oils, to be exact) in a way that evokes watercolours. She builds up images in layer upon layer of glazes (analogous to the use of washes in watercolour). Again, like a gardener allowing a plant to slowly unfold according to its own laws, rather than to some artistic diktat.

Those who know Paddy will sense the degree to which in describing Paddy the artist, I am also describing Paddy the person. Her work absolutely reflects who and what she is. I eagerly await the next paintings to come out of her garden.”

Andries Gouws, Stellenbosch, September 2018