install

If Lesley received an art education fundamentally similar to Frances’ in several technical details, then I wonder when and where it might have come from. Perhaps there was an excep-tional art teacher at Escort High School, for the teenage Lesley that Pauline Podbrey describes in her autobiography is a competent artist well before she goes to train at the Camberwell. If there was such a teacher, why was she so keen to leave high school at sixteen? Or was she perhaps an autodidact inspired by the Victorian trope of the young lady who draws and paints? Neither her mother nor her sister showed, in my experience, any inclination towards the fine arts or, for that matter, to the bohemian way of life or left wing politics. I do not have any examples of Lesley’s art or thought dating from before her Camberwell days, so I cannot say what Pauline based her assessment on.

While Lesley’s art hardly moved beyond what Victorian painters like Sisley and Pissaro had achieved stylistically, art itself moved beyond her. Great projects like Cubism, Dadaism, Abstract Expression, Minimalism, Pop and Op painting hardly touched her aesthetics, and the developments in fine art from the 1960s onwards must have seemed a mystery to her. The performance, the installation, the creation of the aestheticised ambience or the de-aestheticised one in the name of Art, the production of volumes of documentation in an effort to hedge off the critics, the mystifications and poses were all outside of her world. For her, art, aside from an aesthetic expression, was a means of livelihood and so had to conform in some measure to the expectations of the middle-class white South Africans who might be expected to buy it, rather than to those of academics, competition judges or curators.

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Part 1       Part 2     Part 3     Part 4     Part 5     Part 6     Part 7      Part 8     Part 9     Part 10

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