30 August 2023
A La Piscine
Adele van Heerden illuminates public
spaces of joy and solace
by Kate Mothes
Continually inspired by the shorelines, architecture, and nature around her home in Cape Town, Adele van Heerden translates her observations and experiences into luminous gouache and ink paintings. A La Piscine and Oceanic, recent series focused on swimming pools and shorelines around the city, highlight airy, open spaces and glistening water, totally calm and devoid of people. “My primary obsession at the moment is painting water,” van Heerden says. “This started in 2021, initiated by a hip condition that demanded a lot of rehabilitation in the water. So, I started swimming in the seas and pools of Cape Town almost daily.” She continues:
Water is always moving, wobbling, reflecting the colours of the sky on it’s surface and structures around it, but also wobbling and distorting whatever is beneath the surface. David Hockney famously spent much time on the formal problem of representing water in California swimming pools, a location now regularly beset by droughts and water restrictions. This runs parallel to what we have experienced with the Cape Town water insecurity and the countdown to Day Zero, a significant ongoing problem facing our municipalities.
Van Heerden takes photographs wherever she goes, documenting a range of landscapes and interiors. When she returns to the studio, she references the images and uses a technique she developed to apply paint to the front and back of drafting film. The transparent material allows light to filter through, brightening the colors. “My goal is to capture a specific moment in time, to freeze it, and give shape to the experience,” she says.
© Adele van Heerden, courtesy of the artist
Header image: Detail of Secret Sanctuary (Long Street Baths)