24 September – 10 October 2022


Philip Badenhorst, Gwenneth Miller and Adelle van Zyl grew up in rural areas in vastly different landscapes – from outposts in Western, Northern, and Eastern South Africa, yet they all currently live in Pretoria. Philip and Gwen have known each other since student days, sharing a passion for Neo-Romantic narratives and the sensuality of paint. Gwen and Adelle worked together at Unisa, where they both considered personal archives of belonging through their art and teaching.

The three artists work as independent creative researchers who use various degrees of abstraction as a means to think through contemporary notions of interconnectedness. They envisage extending physical and psychological spaces through a layering of meaning and material. Thinking about “stories that gather stories” (Haraway 2016), there are links between real and imagined ecologies. Each artist works with different locations – of concrete dwellings, natural sites, and soul spaces.

Philip paints imagined dreamscapes in densely glazed oil paint and expressive brushstrokes, to evoke sanctified space. His work is characterized by a dramatic use of chiaroscuro, building illusive light and shadow plays. Philip weaves a poetic rendering of figurative abstractions in strong colour. He transforms real life into assertive symbols, playing intuitively to create bursting compositions and linear forms, which dance with bold colour fields in rhythmic structures. Transparent layers of paint speak about veiled longings and perishing glory. Philip’s work is born from an inner necessity, moving personal narratives to embodied expression. It acknowledges the creative act as a dynamic process.

Philip Badenhorst, This storm is you, 2020. Oil on artists litho print (40 x 58cm)



Gwen reflects on the force felt in landscapes, objects and growth. In Limpopo, her birthplace, lichens grow with glowing colours in dry heat, anchored on rocks. Harsh landscapes yield fungi – creating life through mycorrhizal partners. Through the language of magic realism and with a microscopic eye, Gwen composes images below or next to another, to suggest symbiotic relationships.
She applies photography as an analytic tool to forms, abstracting and restructuring images to evoke new connections. One form grows into another through unfolding layers of drawing, monotypes, digital prints, paintings and collages. Through her medium manipulation she considers how organisms transform substrates into new materials.

Gwenneth Miller, Forest pickers, 2022. Mixed media sketch for a painting. 200mm x 280mm


Gwenneth Miller Forest walk detail 2022 Mixed media, Monoprint and oil paint. 200mm x 280mm


Adelle’s paintings emphasize reflected light and the transformative effect it has on everyday scenes. She renders cropped, close-up views of ordinary architectural spaces in oil paint, translating photorealistic precision into rippling geometric abstractions. These everyday details vary from the embossed glass windows of mid-century buildings to abstracted architectural details of rural churches. Her work alludes to internally laden aspects of the human condition and, through an intimate and intense focus on interior details the viewer is transported to a psychological space of surreal alchemy.

Adelle van Zyl, detail of Green kitchen II (2022). Oil on canvas. 710mm x 510mm.


Adelle van Zyl, detail of Farm House II (2021). Oil on canvas. 710mm x 510mm.



The exhibition visualises how all three practitioners ‘listen’ to what is underneath the surface. The works come from diverse ecological spaces, but bring to the fore a reciprocal flow of ideas and media response. On one hand these translations of space reflect how different the artists’ observations and experiences are from each other. Yet, on the other hand the exhibition is unified as a sense of urgency to consider relations with earth and each other.

Under the Surface opens at The White River Gallery, Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre R40 cnr Numbi Rd & Hazyview Rd, White River, Mpumalanga on Saturday, 24 September and will be available to view until 10 October 2022. Visit www. whiterivergallery.co.za

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