New York Arts Magazine – Under the African Sun
“The way in which she takes on a modern interpretation of the country is something that has rarely been seen before.”
Courtesy of the artist.
BEAU VAN ZYL: UNDER THE AFRICAN SUN
Under the heat of a gleaming sun animal’s fly, forage and charge in magnificent colors. This is the visual excitement one feels in front of Beau Van Zyl’s figurative paintings. Beau van Zyl is a painter whose work encompasses major themes in an incredible manner. Africa is her inspiration, and the twist she puts on what one normally would think of as African art, is something new to the eye of most audiences. With an extremely wide range of interpretations, she touches on everything aesthetically pleasing to the eye: from its impressive landscapes and wildlife, to Africa’s lifestyle and its people.
The way in which she takes on a modern interpretation of the country is something that has rarely been seen before. The landscape of Africa is one that, to foreigners, is intriguing and striking, and almost unbelievable if it has never been experienced. That’s because Africa is one of the most intriguing places there is. There is a musical rhythm, an intense pulse that one can feel in the paintings of Beau Van Zyl. Beau’s work seems to channel the energy and spirit of a land whether it is a flock of seagulls or a herd of zebras. For years, Egypt been a cultural focus of the Arab world, particularly the fast, upbeat rhythms of sub-Saharan Africa, and in West Africa this was transmitted through the Atlantic slave trade to modern samba, blues, jazz, reggae, hip hop, and rock. The 1950s through the 1970s saw a fusion of these unique styles with the popularization of Afrobeat and Highlife music, all of which have had a profound impact on Western culture and the arts in general. In Beau Van Zyl’s latest works – these rhythms sing.
Beau van Zyl’s use of color, or what she calls “the most important ingredient,” is truly the most striking characteristic of her paintings. Some pieces showcase bright blues and oranges, while others are based on tones of grey and brown, each individual work is as vibrant as the next, creating a viewing depth beyond belief. This is most apparent in her painting entitled Surfer, a small, hot-reddish figure skates under an immense wave of bluish-green. The color contrasts are amazing, fresh and contemporary. She paints this scene with such richness that one can almost hear the rush of rolling water. Similarly, Sunset Pelicans is an incredibly poignant work with stunning color. A half a dozen pelicans gather underfoot a bright red-orange sky, beneath their feet a field of black. The background is rich in atmosphere. And the pelicans white coats are beautifully rendered with delicate strokes. Whilst the red sky is painted in grand, quick sweeps which shows Beau’s affinity for gesture painting.
Courtesy of the artist.
What Van Zyl seems to manage, is to fully bring a person into her work-often by painting her frequent subjects, animals, with extremely personable eyes-thus revealing something special about the animals she paints, making the mysterious African geography more approachable for the viewer. She paints the African landscape in an almost innocent way, taking little bits of it at a time, so as not to overwhelm the viewer with too much of the unknown. In this way she upholds the idea of Africa as an extremely colorful and prolific place; this is truly showcased via her paintings.
Take for instance her Zebra paintings. Amidst an orangey-yellow expanse three zebra busts appear in creamy shades of white and deep black hues. They subtly emerge in all their refulgent glory. The bright background is a like sweeping wash of paint that is reminiscent of the hot African sun beaming in the sky.The zebras rush out from the left hand side of the canvas charging headlong into the picture plane. Our modern zebras evolved among the Old World horses within the last 4 million years. And their unique and dazzling striping helps them hide in grass. In Van Zyl’s painting they are as dazzling as ever, this work will surely stun visitors.
What is so wonderful about her works is that her subjects, colors, and themes are not the only prolific aspect of her paintings. The technique she uses, the textures, even the surfaces, differ greatly from piece to piece. Using both ordinary brush techniques and others such as knife- and flow- techniques, she always seems to choose the fitting and appropriate look for the subject of the piece. She also paints not only on canvases, but on cardboard as well, and with acrylic or oil paint over newspaper articles. This innovation and experimentation is the mark of a real artist. I recently had a chance to interview Beau to find out more about her.
Courtesy of the artist.
Jill Smith: I love the animal motifs in your paintings. How did you arrive at painting this way?Beau Van Zyl: Not only was I inspired by the vibrant and rich animal life that South Africa is so proud of, but also by the work of a great South African artist, Sakkie Eloff. He has such an interesting and unique way of using color that it is difficult not to be inspired. After seeing his work I could not wait to start painting. I am very fond of animals and nature and therefore I enjoy painting animals. I especially love their eyes and attempt to capture the essence of the animals in all my paintings.
Jill Smith: The colors and sensations of Africa really come through in your work. Is there a message that you want to convey to the viewer about your experience in that region?
Beau Van Zyl: Africa is comprised of an abundance of beautiful wildlife species, interesting and varying vegetation as well as diverse human population. South Africa strives to embrace all of this, and as a result bustling communities have been established which are bursting with color and a wide range of emotions. I want the viewer to experience the wonderful diversity and ‘full of life’ feeling this country offers. I try to achieve this by drawing on the moods and emotions I feel around me and make use of the stunning colors I am exposed to. I then create people or animals that complement these colors.
Jill Smith: What inspires you to create artwork?
Beau Van Zyl: I enjoy taking photographs when spending time with friends and family. I am inspired when I capture that ‘stolen moment’ and try to recreate it in my painting. Nature and animals are very dear to me, I enjoy spending time in the bush or on farms watching animals interact with each other or taking in the beauty of the flowers and trees. South Africa also boasts of wonderful landscapes just waiting to be captured. I am very sensitive to the moods and feelings of others and I like to use this to drive my inspiration. There is so much positivity and beauty in this world that we are blessed with, and I love to create pieces that allow others to be reminded of it daily.
Jill Smith: Have you ever painted a large mural of something on the façade of a building, it seems that it could be really be dynamic?
Beau Van Zyl: Yes, I have done several murals. The first one that I painted was a large landscape on the wall of a shop. This created a unique kind of publicity and increased business for the shop as people were drawn by the murals and therefore noticed the shop. I have four children so naturally I began to do many freehand scenes on the walls of children’s rooms. Earlier this year I also had the privilege of being contracted by the South African government to paint a mural on a large building in the region of Ermelo in Mpumulanga. Here I painted the different layers of soil, focusing specifically on the coal layer, which is so important to this part of the country.
Jill Smith: Fascinating! What future plans for your work can fans anticipate?
Beau Van Zyl: I am so passionate about art that I am continually experimenting in different ways to use and manipulate paint. My fans can therefore always look forward to new and exciting pieces. In the near future, I will be playing with different color combinations in order to create certain moods and feelings. I will also make use of white spaces, which are always interesting as they have the ability to give off the impression of wide-open landscapes. My fans can also expect new work created by using different pallet knife techniques. The idea is to create a story of a face or figure by painting only a suggestion of it. This leaves some room for the viewer to formulate his or her own opinion of the painting. My fans will not grow tired of my work, as I always look for new innovative ideas and creations.
Clearly, Beau Van Zyl is an amazing artist who shares her sense of beauty and wonder with us all. Taking her inspiration directly from nature and using an amazing array of colors, her light-filled paintings express a range of emotion that not only suits the eye but also the mind; her paintings are meant to make people think as much as they are aesthetically pleasing. They are extremely multifaceted in this way, for they also function very well in a strictly decorative, decor setting.
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