Friday 22 June 2012

Painterly Wild About Life with an expatriate

By Tajudeen Sowole
FROM an expatriate, Celeste de Vries, who shares her passion in naturalism painting, comes a contribution to conservation of the eco-system in Nigeria.
Vries, a South African, who is also the General Manager of an electronic security company based in Lagos, expresses a combined art and science skill in her first solo art exhibition titled Wild About Life, which opens tomorrow at Watersworth Gallery, Lekki-Phase One, Lagos.
Bringing her studies of wild life garnered over decades from when she was under 10 while growing up in South Africa, and infusing such into a self-taught art skill, Vires, indeed, exudes some level of understanding of nature.
In media such as acrylic, oil pastel and charcoal, she renders images that celebrate the rich nature of Africa.
Lion, one of Celeste de Vries’ work

 Vries disclosed that 20 per cent of the proceeds from the exhibition would be donated to the conservation of the critically endangered species in Nigeria. In what looks like a games reserve capture, acrylic on canvas rendition of action scene involving an elephant chasing off irritant vultures will certain evoke passion from viewers. Titled Angry Elephant at River, what exactly is the larger animal angry about?
The flock of vultures, it appears, are being chased away by the elephant “from the river where it intends to take a drink.” Scenes such as this, the artist disclosed, “are very common in some of parts of South Africa.”
Again, the alertness of one of Africa’s most cherished species, the Lilac breasted Roller reflects the artist’s understanding of nature.  In charcoal, sketched on textured paper, the birds are perching, and also having a “clear view of approaching snakes,” via the bare branches.
 AFRICA’S rich eco system has astronomic perspective, so Vries’ African Skies series explain in acrylic on canvas. She notes that with “an abundance of water and powerful thermals, the African skies produce some of the most incredible cloud formations.”
On the diverse flora and fauna in Africa, which she expresses in the piece 5 Lavender, “the sweet fragrant cure to depression and stress just reached a new height in calm,” she said. It’s depicting the “varieties of lavender on a soothing green background which is serenity itself.”
Still on the flora and fauna comes Lobster Claw Crazy, said to be about “200 variations, found in tropical areas all over the world.” But Vries must have been surprised to see these plants all over Lagos.
Quite significant is Wild About Life, for both the artist and Watersworth Gallery: it’s the artist’s first solo anywhere in the world and the gallery’s first exhibition. The curator and director of the gallery, Chinaza Orji said the gallery “is pleased to present the work of Celeste, which is the first show in our solo exhibition series.”
She described Vries’ use of the medium implored as “capturing the essence of both the wild life depicted in them as well as their natural surroundings. Every piece has a life of its own and one connects the animal or scene and its mood instantaneously.”
Coming from a privileged background, which gave her the opportunity of traveling widely appears to have enhanced her understanding of nature. This is captured in her profile thus: “throughout her life, she has traversed the African continent. Her passion for Africa and the rich diversity of its fauna and flora is evident. She brings to us a taste that demonstrates a creative flavour nurtured through her travels of this marvelous continent, obviously keenly aware of her environment.”

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