Artist Morné Visagie’s fascination with blue began with his upbringing on Robben Island, and culminated in a recent exhibition at WhatIfTheWorld Gallery in Cape Town.
SINGING THE BLUES
For many of us, blue is an ordinary colour, no more remarkable than any other. For artist Morné Visagie, blue is one of his earliest colour memories and has played a significant role in his life as well as his work, culminating in his most recent exhibition, There are Gold Flecks in The Lapis, at WhatIfTheWorld Gallery in Cape Town.
“I used to find colour to be bold and demanding to work with. But I found a use for colour somewhere. As my practice developed into being abstract, minimalist and non-figurative, colour became a means of representation. Growing up on Robben Island in the early ‘90s, being surrounded by this frightening mass of water and with its mirror in the sky, the ocean became a recurring metaphor in my work. And so blue made its way into my colour palette. I have however, in recent months, started exploring the use of other colours and representation of them, says the artist.
Morné’s latest exploration into blue has its beginnings in 2011, when he was still a student at UCT’s Michaelis School of Fine Art. He went to Johannesburg as part of an exchange print exhibition between the Wits School of Arts and Michaelis. Two key events took place: Morné exhibited a blue lithograph, and he met another art student, Murray Kruger who, in response to Morné’s lithograph, started sending him snaps of different shades of blue taken on his cellphone. “He would send me a different blue every day. Be it a picture of a shirt, carpet, door, window, car… He did that for a hundred days; I collected the blues and saved them, and I’ve always wanted to do something in response to that, as a reply to Murray.”
On 31 August this year, Morné began a performative print exhibition with an opening at WhatIfTheWorld, where he set up a studio in one of the gallery’s exhibition spaces. At the opening, visitors were treated to clear surfaces, white sheets of paper, trestle tables, the artist’s tools and tubes of paint. Over the next weeks Morné would once again revisit his fascination with blue, as he came in each day to recreate the 100 blues Murray sent him. “It was also an incredible learning process for me because I’ve never worked with oil paint,” adds Morné who has worked for years as a printmaker, primarily using ink as his medium. “It was really exciting and ended up being almost scientific, you know, two drops of Prussian Blue, one drop of Cadmium Red, half a drop of Sap Green and a bit of this and a bit of that and you end up with the blue that you want. I got to work with so many different colours, but in the end it was to create blues.” The performative exhibition ran until mid October, at the end of which Morné had recreated Murray’s 100 blues in oil paint, and in so doing continued painting the colour into his own personal history.
USE BLUE IN YOUR HOME
“Blue is not an attention-seeking colour, as much as it asks for appreciation. It’s calm and keeps things together. So, instead of using it en masse, take blue in moderation: make it a focal point through details. I love the fresh green of plants against ultra-marine blue, as in the Jardin Majorelle, Yves Saint Laurent’s home in Marrakech. – Morné Visagie
THE BENEFITS OF BLUE
“Blue is the world’s favourite colour – refreshing and revitalising, it is also relaxing and calming. In colour therapy blue is used to promote learning and decision-making; it also helps reduce pain and is great for soothing headaches.” – Anne Roselt
PHOTOGRAPHS: JAS RAS AND WHATIFTHEWORLD GALLERY
PRODUCTION: SUMIEN BRINK
WORDS: MALIBONGWE TYILO