The sea endures as an eternally appealing source of inspiration for artists and Kylie Wentzel does not differ much as the Durban beachfront has come to occupy her imagination and the works in her latest solo exhibition Salt. You’ll find no shimmering light, no oceanic palette of deep blues and frothy, textural whites; instead her paintings and sculptures are rendered in expressive splashes of pink orange and lilac combined with graphic patterning. She conveys elements of an oceanic atmosphere without any direct references to the ocean or depictions of the sea itself. Instead, Wentzel draws our focus to the ordered spaces of beachfront occupied with commerce, leisure, tradition and fitness rather than the expanse of an ultimately untameable sea.
Wenzel’s paintings aren’t of a contemplative and mysterious sea, rather hers are paintings that examine places “where people congregate to sweat, swim, eat slap chips and perform rituals in the shore break,” says Wentzel.
Evident in her style is the influence of lino printing and the provocative expressions it lends itself to when treated imaginatively and skilfully. Her mark-making, combination of picture and text, and bold graphics are influenced by printers such as Azaria Mbatha and John Muafangejo. “The uncontrived forms and bold marks in their prolific prints personally pushed me to see the world less delicately than before.”
In her paintings the appeal of the Durban beachfront, with its sun-drenched, Indian Ocean luminosity is felt as it seeps through the works. The insertion of black and white, painted wooden-sculptures in the exhibition are a nod to the sand artists, their natural flair for sculpting and sculptures they make that border the promenade and piers on the Durban beachfront. “The strong visuals of wild beasts, love letters, motor vehicles and advertisements [sculpted in sand] are important details in one’s experience of the space,” says Wentzel.
Wentzel’s themes are not overly complex, abstract or theoretical. “I’m personally not heavily invested in bringing profound meaning to the subjects that make up my paintings,” she says. “The things that stand out to me speak strongly on their own and when I morph connections between references, they can oftentimes be as random as a daydream.”
Her paintings are personal, interested in her observations and reflections, people encountered and the stories they tell. In these paintings Wentzel is plainly not trying to reproduce faithfully the beachfront before her but rather attempting to record on the spot the happenings on the beachfront and the salt that flavours it.
Kylie Wentzel graduated with a BAFA from the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town in 2015. She went on to receive training in relief and intaglio printmaking techniques while apprenticing at professional printmaking studio, Warren Editions. ‘SALT’, presented by Kalashnikovv Gallery, is her latest solo exhibition of works on paper and canvas.