Majak Bredell LEVELS & LAYERS | | Art in South Africa
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From Beatus of Liébana's commentary on the Apocalypse of John.


The format for these works is inspired by the illuminations of a Spanish monk, Beatus of Liébana, whose 9th century commentary of the Apocalypse of John has been copied in monasteries for several centuries. I am particularly drawn to the use of the horizontal bands of colour on which the illustrations are dramatically staged. The symbolic use of the colours signify light and dark, above & below, sky & earth, depth & elevation, and so on.

The title for my gouache paintings on paper, LEVELS & LAYERS, arises in part from these vibrant colour bands that denote the above & below, and the in-between, while it also hints at the levels of consciousness and encounters with self that arose during lockdown. Another barely discernable layer that lies beneath these images are letterpress imprints from extra pages that were printed for the book, "Time's Sentinels". They have been over-painted in gesso to form the ground for many of the gouache paintings. I borrow the coloured registers from Beatus as a useful device for visually organizing complex, interrelated, or disparate ideas. By dividing the page into these horizontal bands, perspective, scale, & form fall away to set the stage for my own iconography - levels and layers of interconnectedness between the physical realm and the metaphysical realm - between both these and the natural world.

LEVELS & LAYERS are part of another body of work, DIALOGUES & ANALOGIES between the body of the earth & the human body. Our relationship to the animate earth is not static, but like Beatus' coloured bands, it is passionate & powerful, rises & falls, compliments & contrasts. Whether as omnivore or herbivore, life on earth depends on the life around it for sustenance. We are never spared the onerous task of killing plant or animal for survival. Yet, this task notwithstanding, we have a sacred bond with all of nature and with the myriad ways in which the body of the earth provides for her children, human or otherwise.

Since pre-historic times humankind used art-making to express metaphysical relationships between ourselves, nature, and the un-seen other. Symbolic thinking thus became part of the human tradition. This tradition is continued in this series where one thing or one body can stand in for another or for an idea.

Several themes are explored among the many levels and layers:

My home environment in Limpopo with its game and wild surroundings;

Symbolic connectedness between people and the animate earth;

Mythologic & religious understandings of the earth, sky, and beasts in relation to deities;

Folklore and the symbolic meaning of animals as avatars or messengers;

Integrated and interwoven unity between opposites;

The earth as body of the life-giving and life-sustaining mother;

Inversion or shuffling the earthly (deep) and heavenly (high) realms;

The human body as light, earth, rain, river, ocean, mountain, stones, rock, the elements, and so on...


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