Tomorrow night (26 May) sees the opening of ‘Paper is You’ at Salon91 in Cape Town, where works by Elsabé Milandri, Gabrielle Raaff, Paul Senyol, Colijn Strydom, Marlise Keith, Katrin Coetzer and Andrew Sutherland will be on display. As the show’s title implies, all the artists will be exhibiting works on paper, both individually and as a group (the piece above is a collaboration among all of the them).  We’ve been a big fan in particular of Elsabé Milandri‘s beautiful ink paintings so we took the opportunity to chat to her about her subtle and sensitive approach to art.

We love your ‘Assisi’ drawings. What was your inspiration for this body of work?

When my son, Luca, was 10 months old, I noticed how many friends and family continually wanted to give him soft toys as gifts – as if he needed so many. It seemed much more of a metaphorical thing to do than a pragmatic thing. So this series of drawings developed as a prayer for his protection, in which all the animals in this world keep watch over him. The title refers to Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and the environment, who addressed the animals as brother and sister when he encountered them. I don’t believe humans are as separate from other living things as modern life would make it seem.

Why do you choose to work in a wide range of media, including ceramics?

I haven’t yet been able to settle on one medium that quite meets the needs of all my projects. That said, for the past year-and-a-half, I’ve worked mostly on paper. I find it allows for greater immediacy and I like the medium’s associations with books, letters, writing, knowledge and language. It’s also convenient: I was able to take my entire solo exhibition on board the plane as hand luggage!

You’re fascinated with gardens – why is that?

I find that gardens are mythical places – spaces of wilderness curated by humans. One of Luca’s first words was ‘buite’ (‘outside’) and we’ve spent many hours together exploring my husband’s family’s garden in Hout Bay. This garden, together with my family’s garden when I grew up, was the inspiration for my previous exhibition, ‘Sostenuto: Maps and Details of Two Gardens’. On one level, it was a way of making sense of my personal history; on another, it was a way to make sense of the environmental concerns that we all currently face.


What else have you been up to this year?

I had a solo show of drawings in Pretoria in March and was also a guest lecturer at UCT. I currently have a few projects on the go, including a small mountain of ceramic works-in-progress. But mostly, I’ve been a full-time stay-at-home-mom who works when her child sleeps!

Visit Elsabe’s blog Last Two Seconds to see more of her creative work in progress.

‘Paper is You’ runs at Salon91, 91 Kloof Street, Gardens, from 26 May to 25 June 2011.