Saturday, March 05, 2016

The Confidence to Let Go

“Painting is a kind of surrender;
a constant balancing act between decision making and letting go.

Cathy Layzell

For the South African painter Cathy Layzell, her journey from book designer to fine artist has been one of gaining the courage and confidence to trust in herself.

As she explained to Between 10and5’s Jessica Hunkin “I wanted to work in the arts for as long as I can remember, but it took some time before I was brave enough to leave gainful employment. I grew up thinking that if one wanted a career in the arts one ought to get training in something useful like graphic design or textile design… I spent half my life learning to draw and paint figuratively and it has been rather a joy and relief to finally throw off those shackles and embrace pure abstraction. These days I really feel like the paintings paint themselves; I start somewhere and end up somewhere else entirely…  For all the lists and plans and grand schemes that I have in my head, when the paint is ‘flying’ something else just takes over. I’ve had to learn to trust that something else.”

Layzell grew up on the outskirts of Durban in the leafy upper-class suburb of Kloof. “My mum had green fingers and our garden was a tropical paradise,” she recalled.

In her early twenties, after gaining a BA in Fine Art from Rhodes University, Layzell moved to London to work in publishing and interior design for the best part of a decade. The death of her father when she was 29 saw her take up painting again which she has pursued up till the present day.

The theme of nature recurs throughout her work with three of her exhibitions in the last four years being based upon the concept. From the culture of the garden to the wilderness via a tropical paradise.

About her 2015 exhibition Polynesia, she wrote “With Matisse’s pictorial fantasies and the tropics as my muse, I have used images and memories of tropical coral reefs, the weightlessness and freedom of swimming and diving underwater, and the magic of refracted light to distil my own Paradise.

As Layzell’s life has evolved so too has her painting, for as she has said “I started out as a still life painter and I suppose that the age-old idea of ‘memento-mori’ re-occurs; the cycles of life and death in nature.

Layzell’s current exhibition Wilderness is on show at Cape Town’s Salon Ninety One until the 26th of March.

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