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ART NEWS FROM MALAWI

Since moving to Malawi 8 months ago, back to my roots, so to speak, to work on the family crocodile farm at Lake Malawi, I’ve come to realise that blessings come in many forms and change may well be a wondrous thing. When we arrived ,[November, aka ‘Suicide Month’]it was unbearably hot and humid and from a watercolor perspective, I had to adapt new ways to manage my washes, keeping the paper wet, getting the paint down before the paper dried, while at the same time sweat dripping down my nose making ‘cauliflowers’ all over the place.

Malawi is still a beautiful country, diverse in so many ways and full of dichotomies. So much of it is naturally unspoiled Africa, beautiful and vast while other parts are so intensely populated, one can’t help but wonder where everyone lives and how they exist. For an artist the choice of subject material is enormous, sometimes overwhelming in fact as one is faced with painting possibilities around every corner.

It’s not surprising then to discover that Malawi has some very talented artists, many of whom are self taught and many struggling to get recognition and exposure as they are faced by many challenges from economics to a lack of proper art supplies and tools. Most art supplies that are available are of a poor quality, very limited and expensive and many of the local artists are restricted to what they can get their hands on or make themselves. As a watercolorist, and there are very few of us here, I have to import all my materials. Covid and the consequent drop in tourism, which Malawi is very dependent on, has had a marked negative effect on any art market, but the Malawi artists are resilient , positive, never give up and take every opportunity to market and at least get exposure. The problem is further exacerbated by Malawi being a land- locked country and at present all the land borders remain closed and limited flights are available.

It is not surprising due to the above reasons art generally faces challenges in Malawi and there is a lack of general art classes, workshops etc. There is a hunger amongst the people, both in the ex-pat and local communities to be creative, have artistic input, learn techniques and have some professional guidance. There are some informal groups amongst friends who get together periodically and basically share ideas and experiences, but with limited art supplies.

Recently I held an Introduction to Watercolors Workshop in Lilongwe at a charming venue, Lark Cafe. The second day of advertising the workshop was fully booked. I was humbled by the enthusiasm and the desire to learn despite the tutorial being in a what is considered a difficult medium. The challenge of lack of decent art supplies forced me to provide all materials which I imported beforehand. The results were amazing, considering some had had no experience with watercolors at all, and even more important we had a lot of fun, despite some exasperating moments.

What is obvious is there is a need and a desire for both accomplished artists and beginners to promote the visual arts in this small country. People want to learn, broaden their experiences and awaken their creativity. Already there are plans for more workshops; I have been approached by the same venue to do more, and other venues in other parts of Malawi are keen to host.

Artists need to stay connected, drawing inspiration and encouragement from each other and how fortunate we are here in Malawi to be surrounded by an unending kaleidoscope of variety and natural subject material. I am humbled to be part of this journey.

Barbi Cunningham.

Email;-barbi@wam.co.za

Tel ;-+265 999911639

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Fabriano

WASA showcases Southern African Artists at Fabriano on Monday, 7th June 2021, watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWYljw8eWOw

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Contest

Critiques & Comments Rhino in Shade (Watercolor)

Artist: Rynier Keet

“The mood of this painting really caught my eye. The cool background and the cast shadows of branches across the rhino create a sense of calm stillness. The close cropping of the composition invite the viewer to examine the expression of the rhino. Once the viewer steps closer, they are rewarded with intricate textural details in the focal area. The contrast in this painting is mainly from the colour temperatures rather than values and it works. The overall effect is that of intimate portrait of an individual.”

(judge Christopher Reid)


“An exceptional painting  and a well deserved winner. Considering this is on a full sheet of watercolor paper, 56 x 76 cm, is a challenge in itself.  The rhino portrait dominates the whole paper, maintaining perspective and proportion at all times. The artist obviously has good drawing skills and knowledge of his subject. This painting is all about the rhino, the attention to detail in portraying the texture of the skin and horn is masterful, every crease and wrinkle is accounted for. In addition the implementation of dark and  subtle shadows  add depth and  drama. The muted background in complimentary hues forms a good support without detracting from the main subject”

(judge Barbi Cunningham)


“When working a portrait close-up one has to be very precise and there is no room for any mistake. The artist has painted so much details and in successfully doing so he/she has proven how he/she has mastered this technique. The texture on the skin is so realistic and so are the shadows casted by the branches. By working the background blurry the artist has made a very good decision as the subject remains focused.

A masterpiece which can only be done by an artist who master his art.”

(judge Riaz Auladin)

https://www.facebook.com/rynier.keet.3

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Contest

Critiques & Comments First Light (Watercolor)

Artist: Coleen Williams

“Coleen has effectively used abstract elements to support her realistic subject matter and add complementary colour contrasts. The variation of colour within the zebra stripes creates interest and shows form. The minimalism of the foreground used as a negative space helps frame the composition while keeping all the focus on the zebras.”

(judge Christopher Reid)


“The capture of light and the usage of leaving the white of paper, especially with the application of the grasses, is what makes this painting fresh and engaging. The zebra are beautifully captured forming the focus of the composition, the contrast between the black and white with a whisper of  a warm brown give the zebra life and a third dimension. The loose and abstract background forms a lovely contrast to the detail and solidarity of the  zebra, without detracting from the main subject.”

(judge Barbi Cunningham)


“A great painting : blurred background to give more emphasis on the subject, much detailed subject and an excellent light. Great title as well which is well reflected in the painting. It is so well executed that one can sense the love bond between the two subjects. Hats off to the artist.”

(judge Riaz Auladin)

https://www.facebook.com/ColArt.ZA/

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Contest

Critiques & Comments Dome of the Rock (Watercolor)

Artist: Faizal Dilloo

https://www.facebook.com/Faizal-Dilloo-Arts-1075005365865575

“What a beautiful play of light and shadow.  A nice composition painted in such a way so as to keep the eye of the viewer up on the walls and the roof tops, and the viewer has no pain to go through the whole of the painting. A great sense of depth and a good choice of harmonious colours and a limited palette make it a feast for the eyes. Even the walls have the chalky feel that they have in that part of the world.

I love the way the artist has simplified the intricacies of the place. Hats off.”

(judge Riaz Auladin)


“I think what struck me with this painting was the ability of the artist to simplify what could be a very complicated and busy subject. A very clever  application of  the wet into wet technique, but keeping the contrast between the highlights and shadows is masterful and very easy on the eye. The loose suggestions of the forms of the buildings, the windows and textures, as well as the muted colours, give a lovely contrast to the Dome which draws the eye into the focal point. I was a little distracted by the perspective of the tower situated right next to the Dome. There’s a lovely concept of distance in this painting and the incidental addition of the birds add a sense of movement to the overall scene.”

(judge Barbi Cunningham)

https://www.facebook.com/Faizal-Dilloo-Arts-1075005365865575