‘When I first saw one of Claudia’s paintings several years ago, I was struck by a strange sensation. Clearly, I could see a plant form in front of me. But there was something else that I couldn’t put my finger on. Was it an eeriness about the shapes, was it an almost sexual quality that these plant forms contained? Yes, it was both of these, but it was something more. The tension in the form and symmetry, the taut wound-up quality of the painting technique, cause the paintings to bounce. They vibrate, they pulse, they throb. That was it. The paintings are super intense! They are explosive! They suck the viewer in, they overwhelm us, they absorb us in their vibrant colour, their life force takes us over. They have an edge that simple hyper- realism could never have. They start from the simplest seed, often dead and totally unremarkable, and through her painting focus, end up by exploding in our faces’.
My work challenges the traditional concept of flower painting; what botanical art is not.
Attention to detail is vital to me. I am a great observer of the detail of form and shapes in nature and in the human body. I have always observed the world through a micro setting, in an almost abstract way. I zone in on the small, unremarkable things in nature, an unnoticeable pine cone or a dried up, burnt out plant carcass.
Plant forms provide the detail that holds my attention. My paintings are not botanical surveys, nor intended to be photorealistic, or even entirely representational. The subject matter is almost irrelevant. My painting is about form and structure, about harmony and tension. It’s about rhythm, contrasts and vitality.
In my most recent work, I offer the viewer ‘windows’ into micro-landscapes. By zoning in, I expose the spaces surrounding the flowers: the non-subject. I present a magnified perspective of chunks of plant matter, reframing these as vital structures in their own right. Plunging into this unnoticed space, I break it down to reveal a world of texture and movement. I further break down these forms and capture the light between.
Through the exploration of collage, my image making becomes further abstracting. These slightly uncomfortable combinations of reconstructed landscapes jump the register. Cropping, isolating and reassembling redefines the subject.
The Yoga discipline has been a significant part of my life for over 20 years. Bodies (the basis of yoga) are organic, and so are plants and nature. Both deal with form and balance, both use structure and are composed of the tensions of opposites, and counterpoint.
Each artwork taps into the coexistence and interdependence of nature’s male and female forces. Each yoga posture, in order to arrive at a point of equilibrium, must rely on the inter-relationship of nature’s contrasting forces. In the same way, each plant holds within it, this subtle tension, in order to be rooted within a perfectly balanced structure. My painting explores this unique, underlying energy which each plant form has to offer, celebrating these male and female counterparts that both oppose and harmonize with one another.
‘ All the paintings in Rooted possess a straightforward clarity and brightness. And this is not limited to the plants themselves but the very light that surrounds them.them’. ‘Gurwitz works holistically rather than in a scientific framework. When a plant moves her, she needs to paint it, driven by a strong compulsion to get it out onto the canvas’. ‘Rooted gives the viewer an opportunity to look at the vibrancy of plants – often those overlooked and under-appreciated. Go and see it.’
Lucinda Jolly; Cape Times Review of Rooted, Claudia Gurwitz’s Solo Exhibition at The Irma Stern Museum