July 22, 2023 - August 27, 2023

White River, South Africa

Click here to view: Dialogues and Analogies Majak Bredell Exhibition Catalogue

Opening words by Gordon Froud

This remarkable body of work explores the relationship between the human body and the body of the earth. The large figures live on, in and around the earth in a constant relationship. The earth as mother, being, host and energy force allows us mere mortals and all other lifeforms, animate and inanimate objects to exist within her. Her gravity force, planetary energy, scientific and biological makeup captured in a bubble of gas becomes our home and our battery of energy.

The human bodies, drawn on large scale, both symbolize the earth mother and our own bodies and how they are connected. Often the figures live under the skin of the earth reaching down into the depths of the earth. The sometimes chunky, rounded figures suggest the comfort of a mother figure that has warmth and presence, able to enfold us in a loving embrace. At other times she births human, plant and geological form reminding us again that we all originate from her and are interconnected. The images become notations of the incantation that brings about the creative process that sings the land, air animals, plants and humans into existence.

The beautiful relationship of humans to animals plays out in a series of works where animal forms dance as equals with humans. These may be the spirit animals and forms that we relate to, or they could be symbolic of our beautiful codependence as we coexist on mother earth. Figures crouch, crawl and roll around the surface of the works revealing roots, tendrils, shadows, tears and representations of animals like fish or objects like stones and shells. Sometimes the figures become the very rocks, the trees, the water.

Drawn with great simplistic skill and dexterity that comes from decades of understanding practice and the ritual of drawing, these drawings are a powerful statement of the history of our being. Majak employs symbolism in a very deep way where the figures (particularly the female nudes) become symbolic of the moon, the sky, the sea, the wind and mother earth among other things. Her works embrace the fullness of form, the assertion of the power of the feminine all read within an ecofeminist framework where the relationship of man, woman nature and the earth are in constant conflict but also are always striving for balance and coexistence.

What is particularly powerful about this body of work is that it is experienced or felt rather and explained. Majak does not wield a stick of punishment or warning but suggests that we need to take better care of our earth mother, our planet, the animals, plants, each other and even the seemingly lifeless inanimate forms like rocks mountains and landscapes. I suspect that she may suggest that they appear inanimate or lifeless but are in fact perhaps living and moving more slowly and on a different vibrational level to us and that we should acknowledge this.

Congratulations on a beautiful, moving, sensitive and thought-provoking body of work that leaves us richer for the experience. We are privileged to be in the presence of the earth mother and Majak as an earth Goddess.

Gordon Froud

Head of the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Johannesburg

July 2023

Artist Statement

Majak Bredell

My recent works, INTERCONNECTIONS, are arranged in two parts: DIALOGUES & ANALOGIES in which the figure stands as a marker for the earth and LEVELS & LAYERS that intertwines an understanding of the animate earth into many layers of interconnectedness between us and the more-than-human world.1 I unravel the strands by which elements of the natural world have been woven through the fabric of religion, mythology, and lore. And, in my hope for the future, I use this unraveling to suggest that our affinity with the natural and animal world has always been there — hidden in plain sight.

Since the Paleolithic caves the nude body, in art, has symbolically stood for ideas of goddess, fertility, regeneration, gods, athletes, mythological and biblical characters, analogies for the seasons, the weather, the earth, the oceans, the sky, the sun and the moon, and so on. The metaphoric nude figure becomes a symbol for the race, for humankind — womankind and mankind. A figure without clothing or ornamentation to distract, communicates directly with the viewer, and can also be seen to represent the naked truth. My paintings and drawings continue this tradition in which the nude body stands in for the animate earth and humanity in relation and interconnectedness one to the other. In my explorations and dialogues between the human body and nature’s many “bodies” I am picking up from this long tradition of the nude body standing in for something else — in my work for the idea (not the ideal).

Most of us were socialized to look upward to find the sacred in an invisible realm. I reverse this notion by returning the gaze earthward, towards the sacred body of the Earth. I differentiate between the energies of earth’s deep finite “what-is-ness” and the high infinite energy of sky and cosmos, a realm that served for the imagined energies we projected onto the Heavens.

These works honour and celebrate the body, both our human bodies and the body of the earth. The landscape — both internal and external — opens to the many interconnections between the human and “more-than-human world.“ The works also point to an ecofeminist understanding of our planet as mother. If we look to the earth as if she were the mother body that supports and sustains life on our planet, would it make us conscious of the consequences of what we do to her? Will we be able to feel in our own flesh and bones, breath and arteries, our kinship to her soil and rocks and mountains and rivers and oceans — to the air that surrounds us? Would we feel the impact of ecological destruction, pollution, and exploitation as wounds to ourselves?