Subitism: On Holy Ground

Acrylic paint on paper 25 cm x 22 cm

Towards the end of March and into April 2020 I fell ill with the Covid-19 virus. During that time I produced a few drawings despite feeling very unwell. As I convalesced (the effects of the virus seemed to last for weeks), I started to use colour in a new way in my ‘planning’ drawings and paintings- all smaller works on paper, as I wasn’t feeling well enough to work in my studio on larger pieces. Due to the enforced self-containment and isolation, my thoughts began to turn to past events in my life.

Years ago, conscripted into the South African Defense Force, I was stationed with a small team of other young men on the northernmost border of Namibia. We lived in tents for fifteen months and, since the window flaps were unhooked daily and left hanging down to allow a breeze through to relieve us from the stifling heat, we were host to numerous small wildlife visitors. Mosquitoes, scorpions and a miriad of other small flying beetles and moths were the regulars, but one morning a large stick insect (about 30 cm long) appeared on the underside of our tent roof. Bemused, we left it alone and watched it for days. After a while it hardly seemed to move. Finally, thinking that maybe it was dead, one of my friends poked it with a stick. Suddenly it jerked into action and out of its monochromatic body popped tiny but incredibly vivid red wings. I have tried to capture this slightly surreal and dreamlike memory here. Strangely it reminds me of the crucifixion story. Christ was poked to see if he was still alive while hanging on the wooden stick/cross, and out of his side flowed blood and water.

Published by Walter Hayn

I'm an artist- paintings, sculptures and film

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