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Solo Exhibition - Tina Skukan Gallery 2003

Works raise issues of fertility, divinity Fransi Phillips

Wolketrapper by Tertia du Toit at Tina Skukan Gallery, Pretoria

In many of these works, with titles like Arbeidryp, My Oranje, Tamatiesmeisie, Toringappel, etc, an idyllic world filled with beautiful girls on bicycles, in the open air and interiors, almost always surrounded by fruit is depicted, in which nature, the sun, shadows, the wind and the clouds – but most of all the fertility of the Earth – is stressed.

The girls are healthy, attractive, erotic, natural and free, often holding fruit in their hands, and on their way to what seems like an eternal picnic. And while the hats, some composed out of fruit, suitcases and wide skirts, might give them a feeling of other- worldliness, they are thoroughly modern and contemporary as far as their freedom and lack of inhibitions are concerned.

The works are executed in a style that could be described as an idealised form of realism, with an earthy and rich aesthetic approach, bright colours dipped in the light of an intensely yellow sun which also accentuates the shadows in the background. On the other hand, and in sharp contrasts, there are the depictions of Jesus, often in a more archaic, simpler and crude style reminiscent of times as remote as the middle ages.

While the erotically-laden girls, surrounded by symbols of fertility, could be seen as representations of the songs of Solomon, they also remind of an earlier pre-historic fertility cult, characteristics of which have been projected in the Catholic and Orthodox churches on the person of the Mother of Jesus. According to Carl Gustav Jung there are similarities between the cult of the Earth goddess, who is also a goddess of death, and Christianity in as far as the emphasis on the birth and death of Christ are concerned, making it possible to reconcile aspects from the older pagan fertility cult with the Christian doctrine.

The difference, however, is that, while the fertility cult is concerned with the ongoing cycles of life and death on Earth, by dying and going to heaven Christ transcended these earthly cycles.

And while eroticism and fertility are by no means irreconcilable with Christianity, the work depicting the beautiful girls on the one hand and Jesus Christ on the other are from a stylistic point of view clearly not integrated. A stylistic integration of these two different styles might lead to interesting new developments in the work of this remarkable artist.


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