15 April 2012 by Dianne Tipping-Woods

Say Watt?!

The pictures roar with colour and pulse with movement. There is an intensity and a fluidity to them that is accomplished and spontaneous – a bit like the artist herself.

Anne Watt in her home in Hoedspruit.

Lowveld artist Anne Watt's latest body of work is on show at the Chalkhamhill Gallery in Hoedspruit. The exhibition is called Reflections and comprises of 20 art-works created using a mix of oils, water colour and ink. Each piece has been carefully selected by the gallery to form part of “a narrative of a South Africa that is alive, multi-hued and always in motion.”

Through my art, I want people to see the rawness with the beauty and to become aware of the richness of the life around us.

While Anne has been creating art her whole life, this exhibition is special; “It’s about me and my expression of the world I love,” says Anne; "not a day goes by that I don’t wake up and get excited about where I am."

Perhaps it's because she wakes up in Hoedspruit, with views that stretch from Mariepskop to the Kruger National Park. The area's natural palette is made up of the warm and vibrant tones of the bushveld that Anne reflects in her art, a stark contrast to the muted tones of Glasgow, where she grew up. 

It's not just the place though; it's also the people. Her fascination with the way South African women walk and carry themselves is what inspires the animated figures she paints, “I started sketching that movement and haven’t been able to stop."

Since leaving Scotland in search of warmer climes, Anne has lived in Australia, Papua New Guinea and Johannesburg, before settling in Hoedspruit 8 years ago, after a 9 month return trip to Perth convinced her and her husband Stan that South Africa was home; “Australia was so boring compared to the vibrancy we found here; I realised that my heart and my art are rooted in Africa.”

Through her work, Anne wants people to see "the rawness with the beauty of this country and to become aware of the richness of the life around us". She cites the drive from Hoedspruit to Nelspruit as an example; "there is always something fascinating to see. Even just the colours of the clothes people wear make me think ‘wow’,” she exclaims.

Anne works quickly and confidently to capture what she sees. To create the art on show in Reflections, she simply put colour on a canvas and looked for the life in the image; “it was always there,” she confirms. 

The pieces on show are numbered 1-20 and Anne has invited visitors to the exhibition to comment on them in the guest-book. “People will see different things in the images and I’m interested in that,” she explains. The guests at the opening of her exhibition were enthusiastic in their comments. One entry catches my eye, “To me this image is about the keepers of happiness, the mothers of Africa,” writes an American visitor.

My favourite piece, a large flaming canvas, burns with life; to me it represents Anne’s vision of South Africa spoken through her art; dynamic, powerful and always beautiful, even amidst hardship. I'm still thinking of a possible title.

You can read more about the opening of the exhibition on the Slowvelder, a blog written by one of Anne's art students, Jackie Hills. I also have lessons with Anne from time to time and am very keen to go on one of the art safari's that she runs with Stan, her high school sweetheart, who she married in 1972. 

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