Tanja Truscott is a South African artist born in the Netherlands. She began painting late in life, after a degree in graphic design and a few decades in educational publishing and teaching. With hindsight, she says her journey towards abstraction seems a logical progression from naturalism: ‘Back to my Dutch heritage, in love with modern design.’
Truscott adds: ‘The Eastside Studios in Cape Town from where I work are housed in what was once an industrial building. Under the high roof pitched on old trusses, one becomes instantly aware of the weather outside. In the midst of winter, the notorious Cape storms lashing the sides of the building and pushing through the cracks entered my painting in a very direct way. The sound of the pelting rain and whistling wind became the orchestra to which I worked and the impetus to which my work responded. My first series of paintings completed there were weather paintings and are indicative of how I work.
‘Now in warmer weather, I regularly head outside for inspiration. I’m always drawn to nature on the edges of the city, where its wildness and untamed spirit meet the structured and man-made. I will spend a day in a commercial vegetable and fruit farm with its almost industrial infrastructure; or in a formal flower garden on the edge of a small town, contrasting with the mountains in the background. Here I absorb the sounds and sensations of a different universe to that of the studio. I take in the colours and delve into the details of my surroundings by taking pictorial notes in the form of ink drawings: of lines, patterns, textures, shapes and colours.
‘The Swartland paintings were conceived in the undulating hills north of Cape Town, where the telephone poles run across contours and wheat fields.
‘Once back at my studio I draw from these memories. I work intuitively, responding directly to the visceral recollections of the place remembered. The unexpected, in accidental gestures and unselfconscious mark-making, plays a large role during this initial part of my process as I work quickly all over the paper.
‘Painting on paper allows me to work fast, as it partially absorbs the oil of the paint and I can layer it without waiting for it to dry completely. As the marks build up one on top of the other, they start to hide or sometimes emphasise what is underneath. In the final painting these marks below the surface often become more suggestive and seductive than what is immediately visible. I enjoy this layering, using the transparency of some colours against the flat, opaque richness of others. In looking closely at the paintings these half obscured marks and details are discovered; they enrich the final artwork.