By BRUCE DENNILL
Artists and sisters Dr Nathani Lüneburg and Dr Liezel Lüneburg will share the White River Gallery space in two new, deeply reflective, and thought-provoking solo exhibitions. In a testament to the restorative powers of art, Nathani’s In Loving Memory Of Loekie, And All The Others and Liezel’s Imperfect
Nathani’s In Loving Memory Of Loekie, And All The Others is a multi-layered exhibition celebrating her dogs, which have brought calm, solace and protection to her life. Named after her dog Loekie, who passed away shortly after lockdown, the exhibition showcases various pieces of work including 28 pen-sketched portraits of all the loving dogs that have protected and supported Nathani from childhood to adulthood and a powerful stop-frame animation titled Diaphragms, featuring 2613 frames exhibited in a life-size cubicle that can only be occupied by one person per viewing. This functions as a device meant to emulate the isolation Nathani experienced during lockdown.
Liezel‘s Imperfections looks to her life-long fascination with circles and curves, as well as her personal struggle with and acknowledgement of imperfection. Liezel calls her drawings “mandalas”, in reference to the Tibetan meaning for the word “mandala” – “that which encircles a centre”. A centre in this context symbolises meaning and that which encircles it is a representation of the meaning. Liezel employs live succulents as her medium of choice, grown in her own extensive garden. The drought resistant succulents symbolise life in abundance, hope for the future and spirited resilience and durability.
Nathani Lüneburg talks about her work.
What sort of training have you received and how important do you think it is to seek training (in terms of learning first principles and refining technique)?
I have obtained Bachelors, Honours, Masters and Doctoral degrees in Fine Arts and attained training in traditional and contemporary as well as conceptual art. This established my sense of understanding ideologies, conceptual aspects and theoretical contexts in the world of art. Formal training cultivated a more individualised and philosophical viewpoint instead of restraining myself to managing visual art from the marketing positions of visual communication only. I have gained critical proficiencies to question and magnify the visual culture of multimedia today. Although it is pivotal to be formally trained as an artist, it is possible to be self-trained and just as accomplished as an officially trained artist. Self-trained artists have the ability to become independent thinkers, inventive creators and directors of their own course.
What is your principal medium, and why did you choose it?
I employ the technique of digital stop-frame animation and produce animations from up to 10 000 frames in 4 minutes, depending on the speed of the sequence. The medium is applied since the moving image is particularly stimulating to me. Each frame is a painting coming to life through movement in virtual time and space. Technology and art have been interconnected since the birth of photography and using technology as a mode of artistic communication has always been as interest of mine.
Describe the techniques you use most? How complicated are your methods, and why is each step necessary?
Working with creative software such as the Adobe Creative Suite assists in producing techniques through which images are exposed to constant movement. The original frame I start with is shaped by thousands of layers peeled and constructed into moving sequences. The original frame is a digital painting, painted and drawn with digital software using a mouse. The image is then manipulated and reconstructed by a following layer that becomes the next frame. Each frame is saved numerically and finally dragged into a video formatting software that converts the frames into a moving sequence. The latter’s speed is then manipulated and exported as a Mpeg4 after the score has been created. The frames influence each other and continuously collaborate to form the product. The degree of complexity is severe. Frames and layers need to be prudently calculated and one mistake can cause major implications, since reversing to rectify mistakes takes hundreds of frames to be redrawn.
What technological tools do you use in your work?
I work with digital painting software such as Adobe Photoshop in which the digital paintings are created. The sequencing software is Adobe Premiere, in which the score is also conducted. Photoshop is the ideal program to use as it features digital brushes and drawing tools. The Liquify tool is also paramount to my art and is used to create movement from one digital image to the next. Pixels are pushed and pulled to form symbols and images. Digital stop-frame animation is different from stop-frame animation in that digital images are created and moved through liquification, whereas stop-frame animation involves the physical movement of objects between frames. Using Adobe Photoshop and its imaging tools allows me to document and reflect on the imagery both during and after creating the artwork. Thus, a relationship between thinking and drawing exists.
Who is the single other artist whose style you most admire, and why?
Jan Švankmajer is a true auteur in his cinematic productions. He applies metamorphosis as a narrative strategy and the stimulating revelation in his bodies of work is how narrative strategy causes hybridity between live action and animated characters. Švankmajer’s films provide a prerequisite to the understanding of the relationship between surrealism, metamorphosis and hybridity which obtains fantasy and mystery. My interest in his filmic oeuvre is embedded in the role that fantasy plays in his films. My own short films utilise intuitive fantasy, which is rooted in the unconscious, just as in the case of Švankmajer’s motion pictures. The unconscious psychological activities in his films, produces trauma and its consequences, repression, screen memories and anxiety
Galleries and other traditional means are only one way of marketing art. What do you believe are the most important other routes, and what is the most important insight you have gained in that area in your career?
I am of the opinion that platforms such as social media assists in promoting art. However, I am a firm believer in the power of gallerists’ influence in society and that their marketing skills are invested in serving the artist to obtain exposure. Interviews with press are a means of prodigious coverage and throughout my career I have observed that formal and academic reporting and critique on my artworks through printed and digital articles provides extensive publicity. An alternative route of marketing is appointing a publicist. Not only do they arrange radio and television interviews, they also play a fundamental part in endorsing the artist in social media and engaging press to visit exhibitions.
Why do you create? What are your stated goals in producing art?
Through my animations I employ the technique of morphing. The distortion caused by the morphing connects to the ever-changing and fragmented nature of traumatic memories. These memories are stored in dissociated fragmented sections in the unconscious mind, which emphasises the fact that traumatic memories cannot be recalled in a normal manner. In this way, my digital stop-frame animations establish an intimate correlation between the nature of the medium and its visual context and content. I create to access the unconscious and to awaken trauma. This serves as self-healing – a process I cannot do without.