Posted: October 19, 2014 in Art Movements
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Posted: October 15, 2014 in Art Movements, Grade 11

Modern Masters is a four-part television series detailing the life and work of four giants of 20th century art: Henri Matisse; Pablo Picasso; Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol.
During the course of the series, presenter and journalist, Alastair Sooke, explores why these artists are considered so important.

They Don’t Make Them Like They Used to, 2008.

They Don’t Make Them Like They Used to, 2008.

The works of Mary Sibande depicts her alter-ego Sophie, a domestic worker who finds refuge in dreams where she emancipates herself from the realism of an ordinary existence, cleaning other people’s homes.

Mary Sibande developed the character of Sophie in series of life-size sculptures and photographic prints. According to Sibande they are a collection of fantasies and imagined narratives, developed from her personal history. Her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother were all maids. Sibande was the first woman in her family allowed to study and she wanted to celebrate this.

“I wanted to celebrate them (the domestic workers). I think they are heroes. It was so hard to put food on the table.”

Sibande uses the human figure as a vehicle for exploring identity in context of a post-colonial South Africa. In the process she also comments on the stereotypical depictions of especially black women in South Africa. The figures used in sculptures are casted from the artist’s own body in fiberglass and silicone, the same material used for shop window mannequins. Sophie’s Victorian costumes are handmade mainly from the blue fabric typical of domestic workers uniforms and workmen’s overalls in South Africa.

Her sculptures and photographic work depicting the domestic work are not intended to create feelings of shame, anger or humiliation in the viewer , but rather to transcend this reality where the domestic worker is able to liberate herself. The implication is that we can all be freed from the past. This is particularly significant for the victims, perpetrators and beneficiaries of Apartheid.

In these works Sophie’s eyes are closed reflecting the aspect that daydreams are products of inner dialogue. The works have a theatrical quality which places them in a realm of fantasy. Her dress is a protest against being a maid and at the same time it is the facade that allows her fantasies to come to life.

According to Sibande, faith and fashion have always been areas of interest for her. “People don’t just wear plain clothes but explore different possibilities of how and when to wear their clothes. I am often reminded of the ‘Sunday special clothes’ one wore as a child, this idea has matured and become a standard idea at places of worship. It is almost as if looking your best and worshiping are birds of a feather. Ideas of gender and race seem to be also another space of exploration. The work was an attempt at subverting the image of the inactive or passive woman.

mary sinandeThe-Reign-

The Reign, 2010.

Sibande raises the ordinary women high above the ground, to hero status, thus simultaneously celebrating South African women who have been negatively affected by Apartheid, yet lived courageous lives.

In Reign, Sophie reveals a purple undercoat beneath her trademark blue frock, revealing at the same time a starting point for her later Purple Shall Reign works. 

Mary Sibande, A Terrible Beauty is Born, 2013

Mary Sibande, A Terrible Beauty is Born, 2013

Her latest works are an offshoot from her earlier sculptures of Sophie Ntombikayise.  Mary Sibande employs the human form as a vehicle through painting, photography and sculpture, to explore the construction of identity, particularly black women’s identity, in a postcolonial South Africa.

Sibande draws inspiration from a specific event in the late 1980s, in which the police sprayed protestors with a water cannon laced with purple dye to enable them to identify and arrest anti-apartheid activists. This act motivated Mary’s interest in the roles that colour played in the history of this country. Colour remains a predominant factor in our social interactions and it continues to play a dominant role in our perceptions of one another as South Africans. In Sibande’s view it is like a monster that we are all too familiar with. On a personal level, this new work comes full circle as Sibande connects it back to her very first exhibition, where she displayed a figure – that represented her – in purple attire.

The work of south African artist Mary Sibande

Sophie-Ntombikayise, 2009

This new body of work marks Sibande’s break with her alter ego ‘Sophie’, both figures, however, still have their eyes closed. This suggests that the purple encounter is a further daydream/fantasy of an undepicted external Sophie. In A Terrible Beauty is Born (2013), the domestic worker’s uniform is removed from the Sophie figure by the purple creatures. The tentacled creatures are referred to as “non-winged ceiling beings”. Given that the uniform was instrumental to the reading of much of the political content of Sibande’s previous work, through the connection to her family history, this suggests a release from the connotations of servitude with which they are imbued. In this sense, the implication is that Sibande’s duelling figures could be read in terms of the splitting of the super-ego; Sophie Blue, defined by (unjust) social conventions and the Sophie Purple, impulsive, instinct-driven.

mary sibande duel

Purple Shall Govern, 2013

Purple Shall Govern, 2013

According to Mary Sibande;

This sculpture was dressed in a purple costume and its function was about taking control of identity (or my identity) through its gesture and naming. In a way, purple for me has become about taking control of elements that were not afforded to black people in apartheid South Africa. So, the title The Purple Shall Govern is about extending that declaration to the next level, and taking it to a performative level. Purple for me is a colour of privilege, I am attempting to use this privilege afforded to me by those who have fought for it.

‘Purple is a colour of royalty. The clergy and the royalty of England wear, or wore, purple if they were meeting an important person. Purple dye was expensive and only the rich were able to wear it. So I thought: ‘I like the idea that this colour places you. I thought, I am actually privileged and rich at the same time. I am not like my mother, I am not like my grandmother and I’m not like my great-grandmother. And I needed to elevate the figure that represented me.’

It is a reference to a march that took place in Cape Town in 1989, where the police sprayed protesters with purple dye to mark them for arrest after the march. The slogan that emerged was that the “purple will indeed govern”My question is whether they will govern even though they are marked to be arrested.”


For Mary Sibande the purple tentacle, root-like appendages, puts Sophie in limbo where she is evolving. You can’t exactly say what they are but according to Sibande;

I have recently encountered Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s concept of the ‘rhizome’. They say a rhizome has neither a beginning nor and end, but always a middle. The philosophers speak about the idea of roots that build up a body. With this work, the ideas of violence are insinuated and yet the violated and the violator are connected.

Francisco Goya, Fight with Cudgels', c. 1820–1823

Francisco Goya, Fight with Cudgels’, c. 1820–1823

The figures’ gestures are ambiguous in being neither violent nor defensive, in reference to Francisco Goya’s Fight with Cudgels. The creatures are Sophie turned inside out. They are a look at intestines, an inspection of the mess within.

This work is about deconstructing the familiar ideas built into my work. In other words, questioning what Sophie, the character, had dreamt of. The way to make sense of the dreams is to interrogate their nature, their context and how they built themselves up. In the process of letting go of older ideas of my work, I am opening doors for new challenges.

‘The Purple Shall Govern’ presents the next chapter, in which Sibande speaks of her own aspirations, desires, fears and anxieties of being a woman. The concept of rebirth, where she refers to the idea of transitioning from the person you were before into a new or different idea of yourself – death and rebirth – is extensively explored. 

References and Further Reading


Lesley Mofokeng, City Press

Just be Nothing

The Observer, Sunday 26 August 2012





Marcello Barenghi is an illustrator and graphic designer based in Milan (Italy). In the 80’s he discovered coloured pencils, but he felt the need to find out a different technique that would allow him to cover large areas, shading and avoid the grainy look of colored pencils.
He also began learning the techniques of tempera, watercolors and clay modeling. In 1985, the discovery of airbrush allowed him to improve the texture of his illustrations.

In those years, he was fascinated by Derek Riggs, the legendary illustrator of the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden; for several years he worked on the figure of Eddie The Head and on his way to represent it.
In the late ’80s, while attending the school “Art and message” in Milan, “he met” other artists who influenced his education; for their technique and vision: Hajime Sorayama and his chrome robot, Tanino Liberatore and his Ranxerox, the Eleuteri Serpieri and his Druna, Richard Corben and Simon Bisley. He considers the style and the visual power of Tim Burton, author and director of unforgettable images, environments and architectures as very close to his ideal beauty.

You can read more about him and his work on his website.

Tutorial on how he draws.


Sand performance was suggested by her husband. Initially, Simonova was unsure, but she decided to try it in the absence of other viable options to improve their financial situation. When tests with beach and river sands proved both unsuitable, Simonova’s husband began researching better options on the internet. He sold his printing equipment to buy 3 kilograms of expensive volcanic sand.

Simonova began experimenting with the medium at night, after serving as a full-time mother throughout the day. She found it challenging, but persisted in spite of early impulses to give up. Physically grueling, the art form required her standing for long periods of time and also required her to retrain her vision to adapt to the unique medium.

From Wikipedia

A definition of positive and negative space in design can simply be described as that positive space is the areas in a work of art that are the subjects. Negative space is the spaces around the shapes. It is just as important to consider the negative space in a picture as the positive shapes.

Positive and negative space play an important role in determining the overall composition in a work of art.  By understanding positive and negative space and applying your knowledge, you can become more successful in designing your compositions.

Sometimes artists create pieces that have no distinction between positive and negative spaces. M. C. Escher was a master at creating drawings where there was no distinction between positive and negative space. Here is an example of Escher’s work which show the interplay between positive and negative space:

M.C. Escher

M.C. Escher

Here are more examples of clever use of negative space.

Dirty Harry

Dirty Harry

Two for Love Logo

Two for Love Logo



negative melbourne

negative throat

Peter and The Wolf- Phoebe Morris Illustration

Peter and The Wolf- Phoebe Morris Illustration

Lightbulb Art

Lightbulb Art

by Rene Gruau - awesome shapes and negative space and light!

by Rene Gruau – awesome shapes and negative space and light!

Rene' Gruau

Rene’ Gruau