These are some of my more recent artworks painted in my Cape Town studio. If you would like to come and view any please contact me, I’d be happy to show you around. email: info@ tanjatruscott.com
During our national lockdown (March-June 2020) I found it difficult to work. On the one hand we had exceptional autumn weather, which was distracting. As a family we spent a lot of time outdoors in our garden enjoying the warmth and changing season. On the other hand I felt buffeted by the constantly changing and often conflicting information about the virus. I became emotionally exhausted by the increasing hardship experienced by the vast majority of people in South Africa. When I was allowed to go back to my studio I experienced a huge sense of relief. I became aware what a sanctuary and crucible my studio space is for my work.
What are Secret gardens? Gardens at night, seen in the moonlight: a collection of pot plants on a windowsill. Gardens glimpsed in the distance, or over a wall. Overgrown gardens with nooks waiting to be discovered.
The title of this series refers to a beautiful steel sculpture by Strydom van der Merwe that I found lying in a field on a farm outside Cape Town; the bright red flanks of a stylised branch against the dry yellow stubble of grass. I fell in love with the contrast of the oversized steel branch against the wild of the surrounding Cape mountains, the formality of the rose garden against the gnarled dark stems of the fruit trees just starting to bud.
These two bigger paintings on canvas refer back to time spent on a farm near Elgin, an hour out of Cape Town. It one of these places that runs seamlessly from the formality of a circular rose garden and heavily pruned and regimented orchards into the wild of the surrounding Cape mountains. I spent a crisp spring morning there taking in the surroundings. The point of inspiration for these two paintings was the memory a small stream, probably fed by a spring, slowly meandering through soggy saturated banks and via a few ponds towards a large unkept stand of bright Indian yellow flower spikes (called Bloodroot I discovered later) that blazed in the cool green surroundings. The cold morning air seemed to amplify the sound of birds calling overhead, giving it a perfect stereo surround quality that made you look up and pay attention.
My first visit to this area northwest of Cape Town was during spring. When the air was crisp and the views stretched far and wide. Although there are no references to the fresh greens of the growing wheat nor the sheep pastures, the lines in this series are those of the rolling hills, the small dams, the intersection of telephone poles running across the contours and the shapes created by river beds and fences.
The Japhtas own a commercial cut flower garden which lies along the banks of the Spaanchemat River in a suburb of Cape Town. Their garden is utilitarian and practical. Long rectangular fields are serviced by repurposed fence poles and irrigation pipes cobbled together and hooked up to old impact sprinklers. The shade cloth is repaired with bits of old fishing net and orange twine, and the compost heaps are held in check by broken plastic tables. Their garden is in the middle of the city yet out in the country and evokes a bygone era. In this small series I reimagine their garden. I let my mind wander to collect and rearrange impressions, shapes and colours as I remember the kitchen garden of my grandparents.
Returning to the hills of the Swartland I found the landscape changed from fresh green to dry wheat. The hills were now in pancake colours ranging from deep caramel to flaxen, with the harvest in full swing. John Deere combine harvesters drew curvy patterns on the land, the air dusty with wheat chaff blowing in the hot wind, enveloping the distance in a haze.
Within the built-up urban environment of our inner cities there is little space for gardening. Here the tree canopy softens the edges of concrete structures and brings shade and dappled light; cooling the immediate environment underneath. The trees also connect us back to the earth and ultimately to ourselves. The movement of swaying branches against the mute expanses of high rise buildings, and the vibrant greens against the neutral tones of concrete generate an unpredictable and surprising energy. It is an energy generated by the tension between the geometry of the urban grid and the organic lines of Nature. Painting this series reminded me that we need Nature in our urban areas.
Many of Adichie’s books and short stories centre on the life of the immigrant/migrant. Her stories made me reflect on my own immigration. How difficult it was at the beginning and how it has enriched our lives. But also how we have lost things as the immigration both obliterates and emphasizes aspects of your own culture. A layering and revealing takes place. A surprise. A closer scrutiny of your own history and identity. What you cling to, what you discard and are willing to change changes your history. It changes you and moulds you into a richer being. These three small paintings were created as an homage to a favourite author.
I was steeped in the books of Elena Ferrante when I started this small series of paintings for a group show. Only after they were complete did I feel a strong connection between the abstracts and the different personalities of these three characters.
Karatara is an area along the Garden Route, known for its forests. I spent a few days atop one of the steep, round hills of Karatara, where clouds played with the light on nearby hills. Just down below, towards the snakelike Karatara River, the indigenous forest is dark and dense, harboring bush pigs, small buck and large green inquisitive Loerie birds.
Most of my work is a response to the interaction of the man made with natural forms, but these two paintings were inspired by poetry. After the Harvest series I needed a break from the intense summer colours and abstracted shapes of nature, or so I thought. I enjoy modern American poetry and from time to time I jot down a phrase or a few words that intrigue or entertain me. I have collected a box of odd lines of poetry to refer to when the need arises. Then I tack a few of these strips to the wall and enjoy ruminating on the words while I paint. Starting this series, intitially without any reference point felt like a leap into the dark. That was, until I found Countee Cullens’ line ‘The little buried mole continues blind’, which described exactly how I felt as I was painting in a muted palette and without any visual notes to refer to. The strong shapes and textures that emerged in both paintings reminded me of an aerial view of a river in Flood: the full force of nature taking back some of its own.
Work from my studio at Eastside, Cape Town 2018 This series uses large areas of neutral greys. Some were influenced by the stormy weather, others by an everyday object like potplants, or simply by a word, like ‘monolith’, or ‘jut-land’.
Whole sections of the Cape Town coast are peppered with large granite boulders worn smooth and round by the sea. Sentinels and protectors both, they enclose ponds and pools where the pink seaweed bobs up and down with the ripples.
Work from my studio at Eastside, Cape Town 2018-2020