Hello, I’m Marlene Van Altena Dickerson.
Artists, whether professional or student, committed or just beginning, all are aligned to expressing through the universal language of art their hopes, their dreams, their perceptions of the world around them, I am no exception to this. I have over the years varied the complexity of my work, and have sometimes dramatically altered my approach to the techniques I use.
My courtship with art was no instant love affair, it was a painful realization that something within me required expression and was in need of identification. At the age of 33, I was introduced to the Impressionist artists whose work so entranced me that I took paint to brush to imitate the beauty of Degas and Renoir, to name but a few. Samples of this work succeeded in granting me evening art lessons with Phil Botha, a mentor on portraiture at the Wits Tech Art School. He nicknamed me ‘van Goghi’, I never knew why. For two years I studied under his expert guidance before taking classes with George Boys whose work is well known for its non representational and surrealist experimental studies. This was a far cry from the strict regime required in portraiture and I revelled in the freedom of expression which thus ensued. I subsequently enrolled for lessons in sculpture which served to enhance my spatial vision and love of form and usage of knife and clay.
In the late seventies I painted a portrait of Danie de Waal, to hang in the museum amongst his ancestors on the wine estate Vergelegen in the Cape Province. This was followed by a commission to paint Board Room portraits of the De Beers Directors amongst whom at that time were Harry Oppenheimer, Julian Ogilvie Thompson, Grey Fletcher and Henry Brooke Dyer; A commission to paint John Oxley, a former South African Ambassador to Australia followed, as did several more paintings of Henry Dyer and Julian Ogilvie Thompson as well as portaits of family members. In the late nineties a painting of the Law Professor to Natal University, Professor George Devenish was commissioned.
My progress stems largely in learning from past mistakes, but in the main I must say that growth has resulted from the contagion of the wide range of styles, concepts and techniques which have imploded my consciousness through the easy access of the world wide web which has the effect of a cultural explosion of artistic expression, where boundaries are pushed and new limits ever tested. Most artists and I for one, would admit to the influence of mass media upon the eye of the artist as well as that of the beholder. As with Shakespeare, there is a ‘borrowing’ in art, from whatever source suits the artistic temperament.
Exhibitions of my work have taken place in various centres, Art in the Park, Pietermaritzburg, the Millennium Exhibition, Womens Day exhibition, Artists of the South Exhibitions, Elizabeth Gordon Gallery, Etchings Gallery, and other local art group exhibitions. Sales of my work have been made through South African Artists to Russia and my work can also be found in England, Germany, Ireland, Spain, the United States of America and Wales.
My favorite art form remains portraiture where the enigmatic spirit of the person is sought through the medium of paint and when captured, remains indelibly visible as the iconic record of existence, a technique which photographic means is unable to portray or copy.
In the perspective of summing up , I feel a great need to reminisce on the past where the great compositions of the Italian masters were the work not of just one man, but of a group of men all under the guiding hand of the animating spirit of the Master mentor. It was such collaboration which produced new masterpieces for all antiquity. As an artist I can only live in my own time frame, however being forever under the shadow of these great masters of the past. I shall never know the meter of the masters as I am emancipated from their traditions, but what stands the test of time is that each stroke of their brush, or their chisel, speaks of their genius – it is this that inspires and spurs me into new frontiers of innovation and interpretation, and personally pushes me almost beyond my limits of expression. I shall paint as long as I can hold a brush, not for recognition but for the sheer enjoyment of all the beauty I seek to portray, whether human spirit, wildlife, floral, landscape , or to record my inner feelings of hopelessness and/or compassion and love.
Marlene Dickerson has exhibited her work at a number of functions and organised viewings including:
- Kolossi House, Ireland;
- Elizabeth Gordon Gallery;
- Etchings Gallery
- Woman’s Day Exhibition;
- Art in the Park, Pietermaritzburg;
- Wildlife Conservation Exhibition ICC;
- Sibaya Wildlife Conservation Exhibition 2007 and 2009;
- Artists of the South Group;
- Various Studio Exhibitions.