04 December 2011 by Dianne Tipping-Woods

Pedestrian paintings

Pedestrian Paintings (2006-2011), Andries Gouws‘s travelling exhibition, will be on show at the Pretoria Art Museum from 8 Dec 2011 to 29 February 2012. The exhibition will opened by Prof Michael Godby (History of Art, UCT) on Thursday, 8 December 2011 at 18:30.

The exhibition combines the interiors and still-lifes known from Gouws’ previous shows with a series of paintings of feet, which he has been working on since 2006. Unusual as the subject matter is, it is also compelling, and while Gouws’ feet paintings remain in the tradition of interiors and   still-lifes, they have a different intensity.

As the artist explains;  “these feet do not have the same meditative quality as my still lifes and interiors.  They are more confrontational; engaging with feet disconcerts me - they look back at me in a way objects in a still life or interior don’t.”  These are not young, pretty feet. Gouws does not conceal the battering that his subject matter has endured. They are old feet, tired feet, sore feet. They pose questions; what roads have they travelled? Whose feet are they? What shoes have they worn? Who will rub them when they ache?

While his earlier work, he says, “often suggested that Vermeer and Piero were the artists I had looked at closely”, the current paintings “suggest other triggers: El Greco; Grünewald, Caravaggio even”. For his wife, the novelist and artist Ingrid Winterbach, his paintings of feet have a “Baroque religiosity”.  Though he is an unbeliever, the echoes of Baroque religious painting in his rendering of feet shouldn’t be that surprising, given his expressed admiration for Velasquez and Rubens.

Of course Gouws is not the first to find feet a fitting subject for art; Leonardo da Vinci described the human foot as a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.  Feet, and bare feet in particular, are also intensely vulnerable. Gouws’s pictures of them are sometimes uncomfortably intimate, but they are anything but pedestrian.

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