StArt @ The Wolfshack
'Shifting Horizons' is Barbara Böhlke’s fifth solo exhibition. Most of the paintings on this exhibition were made using only natural ochres, as well as ash and charcoal. She is well known for her large-scale painterly works. In the past Böhlke has worked predominantly with oil paint on canvas, for this exhibition she shifted her focus to work with natural pigments. White acrylic paint and gel were used as binders for the pigment. The colour of the ash was influenced by the kind of wood that was burned and ranges from a light yellow grey to a blueish grey .
Böhlke describes the challenges of working with the ochre powder compared to more conventional painting materials; “the pigments seem to be unpredictable, resisting any painting techniques I am comfortable with. To achieve the intensity I am aiming for, the pigments are applied in many layers with dry sponges”. Integrating these natural pigments into her process, Böhlke has developed this process in tandem with learning the composition and reactions of the materials themselves. “When I use Otjize it feels as if I am working with tangible ‘real’ material. It has a different visual and haptic quality to conventional paints like oil or acrylic. The main attraction though is that the colours, texture and sometimes even the smell and the knowledge that the pigments are mined and traditionally used in Namibia immediately provoke associations and memories by literally being closer to home soil.”
While often inspired by the expansive landscapes, seascapes and skies of Namibia, Böhlke says that her works “mostly reflect a psychological ‘inner’ space, rather than describing a physical space”. Böhlke is not, “interested in depicting renderings of ‘real’ landscapes/people, [rather] I tap into memories, and associations”. The artist explains, “having grown up in the desert I have always been fascinated by horizons and mirages, both are elusive: the horizon being the apparent line where earth and sky meet forever shifting as one travels through space while mirages as optical illusions are dissolving as one gets closer. I regard both as metaphors for the tension between illusion versus reality and questions about truthfulness that I am confronted with when painting.”
Barbara Böhlke was born in Swakopmund and now lives in Windhoek, Namibia. Böhlke received her honours degree in Fine Art in 1989 and has been an active part of the Namibian art community ever since. Böhlke has exhibited extensively both locally and internationally.