|1938, born in Johannesburg, South Africa|
| South African landscapes, treescape, rockscapes and
flowerscapes as well as wildlife are the embracing theme of Frederike’s
work. Painting only what she feels deeply about, the sheer beauty of nature
is captured in this exhibition with honesty and originality. Watercolours
or pen and wash are executed on the spot in the course of her travels, while
the oils are painted exclusively with a palette knife in her studio, a technique
that gives her work a dramatic and unique quality.
Born in Johannesburg of Dutch parents, her training commenced at Rhodes University where she obtained her degree in Fine Art and subsequently a teaching diploma. Then followed a period at Central Art School, London in the design and making of stained glass windows – a technique that is transported with such great dramatic effect in her paintings.
Frederike has held many successful exhibitions both at home and in Europe where her reputation is now firmly established. In addition she has executed a number of important commissions for collectors in the USA – Firestone, Goodyear, General Motors, Ford.
“If all good painting is based on love and study, the mastery of technique and the originality of vision, all these combine in Fredrike’s work and are the qualities which make her paintings haunting and unique”. (Alfred Ewan – Watercolourist and Lecturer at Rhodes)
Ladies and gentlemen, I am here to launch Frederike Stokhuyzen: Born to be an Artist, a splendidly produced tome boasting magnificent photographic reproductions that make it a portable paper museum showcasing Frederike’s art. Marielle Renssen must be congratulated for writing this eloquent study, as must Frederike’s gallerist, Gail Dorje of the Cape Gallery who contributed, and who hosts the Stokhuyzen exhibition opening tomorrow. Born to be an artist abounds in insight, humor and anecdote, and forms the ideal introduction to Frederike’s fascinating life and considerable aesthetic achievement.
Frederike’s painting is fuelled by her passion for nature and landscape is her forte. Her still-lives, flower pieces and wild life studies are offshoots inasmuch as they portray elements within it. The art resonates national pride, for Frederike paints iconic sites enshrined as archetypes of South African topography like Table Mountain, Franschhoek and the Karroo. Such emotive landmarks are the focus of patriotic sentiment as they embody the rugged vigor of the South African identity. Frederike’s indigenous fauna and flora, her springbok, kudu, guinea fowl, umbrella pines, gums, jacarandas, disas, proteas, cosmos and vygies - too serve as rousing symbols of nationhood.
Frederike’s predilection is for nature in its virgin state unmediated by man. Only occasionally do rooftops and chimneys allude obliquely to the human presence, but generally Frederike paints eternal, unchanging pastorals seemingly untouched by modern civilization. The absence of visual interference from mankind, architecture or agricultural machinery confers intimacy and immediacy upon her work: the viewer can enter the landscape and feel that it his and his alone. Trees become stand-ins for humanity and assert an heroic resilience. Gnarled and rugged survivors, the trees arrange themselves in companionable groupings and act like sentinels guarding the terrain.
Although the Cape looms large in Frederike’s corpus, she and her husband, John are inveterate travelers constantly embarking on safaris into the Boland and beyond, to the Transvaal, Natal, South West Africa, Europe, Canada and Australia. The rhythm of Frederike’s life is a balance between home and away, between a disciplined domestic existence with 7 hours a day spent in the studio, and forays into the hinterland and far-away. These travels are quests, pilgrimages, spiritual journeys dictated by Frederike’s Romantic urge to portray the countryside in its original state, escape the distracting presence of humanity, and immerse herself in nature. Her longing to do justice to the variety and diversity of creation is another factor propelling her ever onward. In the book, Frederike’s insatiable wanderlust is evoked by her paintings of deserted landscapes in which a lonely road meanders past hills, mountains and rocks before disappearing into the infinite beyond.
As Frederike and John scour the country, Frederike seeks out some sight that excites her creative instinct, whereupon they immediately halt. John sets Frederike up in a deck chair beneath an umbrella. An ardent lepidopterist he then trundles off, net in hand, chasing fritillaries, leaving Frederike to paint undisturbed directly before the motif in peace and solitude. The artist never paints from photographs. Each work originates in intense, prolonged first-hand scrutiny of the terrain. To rely on photography is to falsify, for the medium freezes the landscape, eliminating movement and the subtle colours, light, shade and atmosphere that make painting so challenging.
Frederike’s creative ideas need time and distance
to mature: for a while her mind must lie fallow. Whilst on the road she
records the germs of future compositions in pen and wash drafts, and these
become the basis of her finished oils once she is back in her studio.
The drafts are relatively academic exercises in descriptive naturalism.
Nature’s forms are given volume and mass and set in receding perspectives.
In the paintings by contrast, this record of the landscape becomes an
interpretation of the landscape possessed of a new grandeur and sweep.
The View from the Glen to Camps Bay is a magnificent example of the geometricising abstraction Frederike brings to composition. The soaring verticals of the trunks and the blue horizon line of the sea bisect each other. The trees’ trunks and verdure become a series of flat, overlapping planes, like the wings of a stage set. Boughs and leaves are handled as regular and irregular ovals, arcs, diaper and fan shapes described in rhyming rhythmic curves that mirror the serpentine outlines of the shore, the crest of the mountains and the shapes of blossoming russet shrub in the lower right.
Instead of painting the entirety of the motif, Frederike
crops it so that it runs out of the picture space on all four sides. Here
sea, mountains, trunks and boughs extend beyond the frame at top, bottom
and sides. The resultant proximity is the equivalent of a cinematic close-up.
It eliminates spatial and emotional distance, plunging the viewer into
the midst of the pine grove and imposing far more intimate contact than
a conventional view would allow. The vista glimpsed through a screen of
trees is Frederike’s favorite compositional solution.
If fluctuating colour energizes and invigorates the landscape so does Frederike's highly distinctive line. Her line is jagged, angular, charged with tension and surprise. Its trajectory is fitful and swerving: it twists, zigzags, snakes, describes hair-pin bends, erupts into spiky, jagged contortions or traces mellifluous arabesques and sinuous curlicues, leaving a decorative linear filigree in its wake. This vital, springy line, coiling with contained energy, injects impetus and momentum into her every painting.
Another imprimatur of Frederike’s style is her use of the palette knife rather than the brush. She uses an armory of tiny palette knives, like miniature trowels, in tandem with thick, nubbly textured canvases that trap the paint in their weave, enabling her to sculpt it in relief in the bristling blades of wild grass. The palette knife enables the paintings to function on two different levels. When you survey the painting from a distance, you glimpse an immediately recognizable image, when you move into close-up; the work dissolves into pure abstraction.
The coppery mass of leaves in Autumn vines reveals Frederike’s bravura use of the knife to create miniature geographies of straight lines, ridges, crevices, whorls and trails of pigment that stand proud of the surface. At intervals Frederike distributes her paint thinly, allowing tiny pools of pigment to pour into the recessed areas between the weave where they form a regular pattern. She introduces networks of jagged hairline cracks by scraping away the paint and revealing the white canvas beneath, or scraping away the upper layer of colour to reveal another in scumbled passages.
The knife imparts a sculptural dimension to the oils, orchestrates textural and gestural excitement, whips up movement and gives the thick impasto a delectable painterliness. The brio with which Frederike wields the knife gives her oils a sparkling off-the-cuff freshness and spontaneity quite absent from the drafts. This magical vitality is seen in the golden glow of dawn outlining the mountainous skyline and the distant mists the sun has not yet dispelled. Frederike has captured the moment on the wing, and I congratulate her on her achievement, and wish her and John the best of luck with both the forthcoming exhibition and the future of the book.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank-you!
Gallery hours: Mon to Fri: 9h30 to 17h00, Sat: 10h00 to 14h00
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Reliable arrangements can be made to freight purchases to foreign destinations.
60 CHURCH STREET CAPE TOWN 8001, TEL: +27 21 4235309, FAX: +27 21 4249063