Nellien Brewer | Art.co.za | Art in South Africa
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Altered Realities - 2015

2 Chronicles 15:3 2015
Digital photographic print, digital print on Perspex (900 x 600mm)

Inner cities fascinate me - the socio-economic make-up; the different cycles of decay and regeneration that keep repeating over and over. Wealth is found adjacent to abject poverty. Slum buildings rub shoulders with ultra-modern or beautifully restored architectural gems. At the same time, inner cities are hostile environments which often isolate people from families, wholesome values and nature. This hopelessness and despair is expressed in various ways - crime, violence, neglect, vandalism and graffiti - the expressive art of the streets.

The image for the Altered Realities exhibition shows existing graffiti photographed on a wall in Durban. Various foliose and crustose lichens are growing over the image. The lichen consists entirely of Scripture and partly obscure the graffiti. The image is a comment on society and the reality of its rejection of traditional values, while the lichen, in overcoming harsh reality through complex resilience, becomes a symbol of regeneration and hope.

Ficus carica - Whose design is it anyway? (2013 - 2015)
Sasol New Signatures, Pretoria Art Museum - September 2015

I am fascinated by complexity in nature. In my work I explore these natural systems and patterns against the philosophies which have shaped human thought.

We have a fig tree outside our kitchen. For years I have noticed the beauty of the leaves - especially when backlit by the sun. Over the years I have tried a number of techniques to `artistically interpret` the leaves until I finally realised that the natural design was simply too strong and as such, perfect.

The vein pattern on the leaf has been interpreted in Biblical text which I use as a metaphor for the design code underlying all natural systems. The fig leaf contains four complete books of the Bible - Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. The scale of the work and the laborious, time-consuming act of typing the text word by word means that I have worked on it for 2 years.

Sura 8:12 (2015)

The literal interpretation of the Quran by Isis and other terror groups such as Boko Haram, Al Qaeda and Al Shabaab has led to unspeakable atrocities, the destruction of ancient sites and the persecution of many.

This work was inspired by the beheading videos which too often adorn our screens and the heads are those of actual victims. The heads of such victims are usually displayed as trophies to be mocked and ridiculed, or even kicked around as soccer balls. The symbol shown in the work is the symbol painted on the homes of Christians during the destruction of the city of Mosul.

One feels helpless in the face of such horror. There is a need to speak out, to protest, to do SOMETHING - to not be found `fiddling whilst Rome burns`.

With this artwork I hope to give the victims dignity and prominence in a way which lauds their courage in the face of certain death.


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