Kirsten Beets Paintings that respond to South Africa’s long-term drought

Cover Image - Kirsten Beets

When you look at Kirsten Beets’ oil paintings, you can almost hear children splashing in the water, smell the sunscreen on your skin and feel the looming, lazy heat of endless summer days. It makes many crave sunny weather and blue skies, except for the South African artist herself, funnily enough.

Due to the lack of rainfall there’s a significant drought in South Africa. “We are in quite a severe water crisis at the moment,” Kirsten says. So people aren’t allowed to fill their pools and the summery outdoor sights she creates are actually quite rare.

“I was interested in putting people back in a natural environment,” Kirsten explains. “I know it doesn’t look natural,” she says, referring to the candy-colored shapes which feature in her work, “but the images are based on a place here called Kalk Bay. They’re man-made geometric shaped pools, connected to the sea. Water is the natural element.”

The series might partly be a reaction to the water crisis, but it’s meant to show good vibes. “You could read more into it, but on the surface, I want it to be enjoyable, happy and positive. I think people needed that at that point, and I needed that – to paint some positivity.”

To make her images, Kirsten adapts photos she took of the area. “It’s interesting, because I lived here my whole life, but if you visit places with a camera it feels like you’re a tourist.” So she got into her role as first-time visitor. “All the images, you really associate them with holidays. I guess that’s were my head was at,” she says.

Kirsten thinks her future work will take a bit of a darker direction. She looks forward to drawing shadowy evenings with blues and blacks. “I’m tired of the sun, blue skies and white lights, I think everyone is pretty tired of it. We haven’t had rain in six months! It’s kind of funny because you’d think you can’t have too much of a good thing, but you really can.”

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