The artworks made the small gallery feel like a surreal wonderland. As you walk in, the green leaves on the back wallpaper was in tune with the beautiful acrylic paintings on the walls, framing the space into a literal artistic oasis. That’s exactly what the local Garden Route artist, Ingrid Nuss, calls her exhibition: Oases of the Mind.
The exhibition opened on the Thursday of 27 June at 101 Meade Street in George and I was lucky enough to attend with two of my journalism interns (and some of our other art-enthusiastic team members). We also had the opportunity to sit down with Ingrid and hear her tell her story.
Ingrid lives in Wilderness and though this was not her first solo exhibition, it was my first introduction to her work. Upon exploring the beautiful art pieces and reading their descriptions, I got swept away by this idea of the magical reality and imaginative oases that humans create to escape the chaos of our modern reality.
“The whole oasis theme – it’s somewhere safe in a time when a lot of things are going on,” says Ingrid. “In our world, what we focus on or what we’re taught is maybe not necessarily the most uplifting thing, with all the seriousness of the situation of Earth. But then, just to go to this oasis and to focus on nature and to focus on the stars, and to go within yourself and think: what is life really about? These are the kind of spaces I’m depicting.”
A tiger on a couch with two surfboards against the wall, with a view of outer space from the window. A patterned toucan on a bright red branch. A floating piece of land with a single tree among the stars, depicting what’s left of the earth after humans are done with it. These are some of the images filling the gallery space for the next few weeks. Ingrid’s work is inspired by artist such as Salvador Dali and Frida Kahlo, but also by her own active imagination and childhood exposure to nature through family camping trips and their temporary stay in Namibia.
Excerpt of Ingrid’s description of the exhibition
“Each painting can be seen as a refuge, sanctuary or hiding-place the artist has created in order to make sense of the reality we live in today. The uncertainty of what the future will hold because of mass production, global warming and creating sameness in our human race is an unsettling one. Within the artworks Ingrid Nuss looks to nature (scientific and biological) and the continuity of space and time for answers.”
Ingrid explains that she never sketches out the whole scene when starting with a piece. She begins with an idea and lets it evolve throughout the painting process. Her use of acrylic paints supports this, as she doesn’t have to wait too long before adding more layers or new elements to the work. The pieces themselves can take her anywhere between one week and several months to finish. “I can never finish a piece unless I have a new piece in mind. So I have to be able to let go and move on, rahter than being like, ‘What am I gonna do next?’ But as soon as I get an idea for a new painting, then it feels like I can finish the other one.”
In the middle of the room, across the entrance and the complimentary wine table, those who attended the opening could help themselves to prints of some of the art pieces. Postcards, large and small prints, even gift cards.
I purchased a signed copy of “The Garden Route’s Finest”, a depiction of a floating mound of trees and plantlife indigenous to the Garden Route, with a Knysna loerie perching on one of the roots. My favourite bird. As a travel writer, I’ve seen a few places and hope to see more still. But this particular piece spoke to me, as if it was a literal piece of indigenous Garden Route that I would always be able to take with me, no matter where my path leads me.
Ingrid Nuss is still growing as an artist at the age of 35, with a lot of what she calls “art dreams” for her future. Her love for the Garden Route, its natural scenery and its art community is something that inspires me to appreciate the wonderful creative minds in our local area even more.
During this particular Thursday night, I certainly experienced my own oasis of the mind by being able to attend the exhibition, meeting the incredible artist and sharing a love for art with other inspiring people in the art community.