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Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Red Dot Gallery presents charming Belinda Ross landscapes

By Andrew Mulenga

In case you missed the opening of Under A Zambian Sky a solo exhibition by landscape artist Belinda Ross, or just have not yet found time to view the on-going show organised by Red Dot Gallery at the P’zazz restaurant, Zebra Crossings/Ababa House in Lusaka, the paintings are still on display until 26 June and are certainly worth a look.

Under A Zambian Sky, (oil on canvas)
by Belinda Ross
Even at first glance Ross’ paintings reflect the work of an artist who is truly passionate about painting as a process, someone who is obviously engrossed in it for intense long hours, and probably musically changing her paint brush sizes as rigorously as she applies her brush strokes to the canvas.

But maybe her process is best reflected in her own words as stated in her short artist’s statement for the exhibition.

“Painting, to me, represents total abandonment. Painting affords me the opportunity to illustrate my interpretation and appreciation of landscapes. Through manipulation of paint texture, colour and application I am continually exploring and discovering new techniques,” testifies the painter who grew up on a coastal farm in South Africa’s Eastern Cape just outside Port Alfred which instilled in her a “love and deep connection to the earth”.

“I set out to try and recreate on canvas the rich earthly tones that usually lie unseen on the surface of the earth and what I sense from my creative instinct.”

Aloe In The Wild, (oil on Canvas) by Belinda Ross
And indeed recreate “rich earthly tones” she does. Not only does she replicate natural earthly colours, but she brings to life what would be almost barren, yet picturesque landscapes that appear animated despite the fact that she does not place any wildlife or human figures in any of the paintings showing in Under A Zambian Sky. Probably the best of such specimens is the painting that carries the exhibition title itself Under A Zambian Sky that shows a typical rocky outcrop with parching, yellow shrubs and golden savannahs such as can be found in many parts of Zambia in October, just before the rains begin.

As a subject, she also appears to be in love with Aloe Vera, the plant famous for its rejuvenating and medicinal qualities which grows so abundantly in most parts of the country. This plant, always appearing in its wild, natural habitat is a recurring theme in her work carrying such romantic titles as Aloe In The Wild.

But it is not just the pictorial vitality of her paintings that is an entertaining element of the exhibition. Ross has quite an assortment of canvas sizes ranging from tiny 15cm by 15cm miniatures to some unusually formatted, wide-view paintings that would be almost impractical to frame and are best kept frameless owing to their slender horizontal proportions.

For a small exhibition, the show is neatly curated and the hand of Red Dot Gallery’s Serena Ansley is evident as she knows the display space which also serves as the main restaurant area ever so well, placing the paintings in clusters according to canvas size.

All the paintings in the show are done in oil on canvas, but this has not always been Ross’ medium of choice. Until 2007, she had preferred to use watercolour, painting detailed botanical illustrations; which is no surprise as she does have a Higher Diploma (1994) in Botanical Illustration.

Tranquil Water Lillies, (oil on canvas)
Nevertheless, although she is not an abstract painter and bears the characteristics of a post-impressionist which almost makes her a realistic painter who mimics real life, her artist’s statement further reveals that while it may not be visible in her work, the process of creating provides her a liberty that she would not otherwise have, an opportunity for escapism, one might presume.

“Whilst painting I experience a sense of unrestricted freedom that I as a woman am not able to demonstrate in other areas of my life. I am of the belief that exposure to art, and associated creative influences give my life a deeper meaning and a sense of humility,” declares Ross who is also a wife and proud mother of three daughters.

“What do I want to express with my work? Nothing else but that which every artist seeks: to achieve harmony through the balance of the relationships between lines, colours and places. But only in the cleanest and strongest way”.

Between 2007 and 2009 Ross has exhibited in over ten exhibitions in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. In 2011 she exhibited in at the Sugarbush Farm in Lusaka and at the American International School a year later.
When Under a Zambian Sky comes down, it makes way for Two points of View, an exhibition of wildlife and nature paintings by Katerina Ring and Lynne Taylor at the same venue opening on Thursday 27th June at 17:30hrs.

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