Making the paint herself with earth pigments, Ann Gollifer’s (b. 1960, Guyana) work in watercolor is part of an ongoing series titled “The Archaeology of Love”. Stemming in part from her interest in how politics and power have defined ecosystems, the series explores the possibilities of human redemption in the face of climate change and global warming.
“Archaeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture”, she says. “If we understand where we come from, who we are, and what we must become, we might have a chance of survival in a simpler future. It is strange to think that perhaps nothing will be left of us in a few hundred years.”Mythological, metamorphosed creatures - composed in the rich burnt earth colors of sienna, umber and ochre among others - speak to fecundity and the feminine, reminding us of the primordial whilst questioning what lies ahead. At the heart of the series, Gollifer’s enormous ‘body maps’ triptych reflects her long-standing interest in gender and identity, and the fact that she has used her own body in her artwork for years. “It is easily accessible ata moment’s notice”, she says. As an extension of this, Gollifer decided that she wanted to work with other female bodies, “so I chose women who are close to me, important in my life; the women I laugh with, cry with, work with. It is quite an intimate thing to draw around someone else's body, and then carefully arrange them onto a chosen ground - the result is often surprising, shocking, funny. I am very conscious that they have given me permission to use their shape in this way.The actual, real human shape is so descriptive of the human that, even when distorted by drawing, it keeps that essential humanness to its overall form, which is something that I could never, ever make up off the top of my head.”
Gollifer has lived and worked in Gaborone, Botswana since 1985. A multidisciplinary artist, her own navigation of identity informs much of her work: she was born in a remote part of Guyana to British and Warao-Arawak parents, who traveled and worked widely during her childhood, and completed a Masters in History of Art at Edinburgh University (1983). She has exhibited in multiple group and solo shows across multiple countries, and her work has been collected by the British Museum, the National Museum of Botswana and the Triangle International Art Workshops amongst others.
"My work in watercolour on paper is part of an on going series titled ‘The Archaeology of love”. Archaeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. I like the idea of ‘An Archaeology of Love’. It brings to mind Pablo Neruda’s words: “I have to go back to so many places in the future… there to find myself”. Neruda’s envisioned future was based on his belief in the miraculous. We have to hope that we can find ourselves in time to save our beautiful planet… and in his words let it be the happiest not the bitterest moment of our lives.
I make my own watercolor paint using artist quality earth pigments suspended in Gum Arabic. I have made a conscious decision to limit my palette to Ochres, Umbers, both raw and burnt. For whites I use chalk and for blacks, bone char. This strong connection to the earth oxides, pigments used by the first human artists on skin and bone and stone, is part of a process of reflection that must happen as I make the work. I think about the beauty that is contained in a new shoot as well as in a dying leaf. I think about the human race and its place in nature. I think about how we were once so connected to the natural world that we were part bird, part fish, part hunter and hunted. I am reminded of ‘First Peoples’ reminiscence of the time ‘when animals were people and people were animals’. It is strange to think about a future where nothing will be left of us, neither our perfectly ordinary, and too often ugly human nature nor our ability to transcend into the miraculous." - Ann Gollifer, February 2020
Acquired from Guns & Rain Art, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa