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ISOBEL KNOX

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ABOUT ISOBEL KNOX

 

I was born at home on a farm in the foothills of the mighty Drakensberg Mountains of Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa. My earliest memories were happy ones - playing in the mud with my white brother and making clay oxen with my Zulu brothers,  plaiting bangles and baskets with the older girls, grinding mielies (corn) with grinding stones, taming animals, cracking whips, throwing knives, riding bareback until I received a sheepskin saddle for my 12th birthday. I had a great start in life but then it all ended.

 

I was forbidden to run wild with my closest playmates any more. We went to live in town and I spent twelve years in a Diocesan School for white girls. I really hated school but found solace behind the piano there, and loved to draw even when I wasn't supposed to. And I loved Biology - our biology teacher was extremely elegant, everything was shipshape in the lab, particularly her blackboard, chalk and dusters, and her schematic drawings were absolutely fantastic! The art classes sapped my energy. The art room was a fine piece of architecture but it was a mess and the art teacher embarrassed me. I was only interested in Egyptian Art and nobody could understand that. I drew pictures straight out of my head, but after Fine Art studies at UKZN, where I fell in love with Gothic Art and Surrealism, I lost that ability. I enjoyed the disciplines and skills of drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics and printmaking, but struggled with inner conflict and unacknowledged creative block. After 30 years working as a fashion designer, textile designer, set painter and stoneworker, I came back to Fine Art. My mother had died and my son was an infant. His birth sounded a call deep within me, and I had to paint again. I don't believe I chose Fine Art - I think it chose me before I was born - my father was also an artist, and so is my daughter.

 The traditional role of an artist in Africa is to capture the life force and carry it for the community and that is what I do. It lies dormant in tubes of paint, in the implements I use to apply paint to surfaces, and in the surfaces themselves.

Surrealism employs the shock of familiar things presented in absurd and unfamiliar conditions, and this shock awakens the subconscious mind - the place of forgotten things and unresolved issues. I now embrace anger, depression, joy and sorrow with equal enthusiasm. The beauty of life is that it changes all the time and this cannot occur without this dynamic cohesion of extreme opposites.

I believe in the pursuit of happiness as a noble ideal, and for me art is love - but it's not a career the faint hearted.

I believe that we are all spiritual beings with magical powers.

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