ew_amasidias-dream-web

Amasidia’s Dream
2011
Softground and aquatint on Zerkall
Intaglio 250gsm
Edition of 10
Paper dimension: 47.5 x 38 cm
Image dimension: 24.7 x 22.4 cm

 


“The white bull” by Voltaire is a fable set in ancient Egypt.

Amasidia was a princess grieving for her lost love Nebuchadnezzar that disappeared 7 years ago. Unbeknownst to her, her father King Amasis hired a Magi to transform him into a white bull, and he was banished from the kingdom.

But one day as she walked in the outskirts of the kingdom she noticed a most magnificent white bull, in the care of an old lady. She was immediately enamoured by the bull, and the bull also came directly to her. He threw himself at her feet. He kissed them. He shed tears. He looked upon her with eyes in which there was a strange mixture of grief and joy. The lovers recognised each other, and their love conquered the spell of the Magi.

The bull regained his human form and reclaimed the rule of his kingdom.


ew_cold-stone-fear-web

Cold Stone Fear
2011
Softground and aquatint on Zerkall
Intaglio 250gsm
Edition of 10
Paper dimension: 47.5 x 38 cm
Image dimension: 24.7 x 22.4 cm

 


In Herman Charles Bosman’s autpbiography “Cold Stone Jug” he talks about the fear of insanity creeping up on him to such an extent that it eventually becomes insanity itself:
The thought of going mad inside the prison was a terrible thing. Every single convict in the place had a lurking fear of it happening to him. Because, periodically, a convict went mad. And you never knew who it was going to happen to next.
There were numbers of convicts like that in the prison. They were stark mad, some of them, and they suffered from all sorts of hallucinations: I don’t want to mention any examples – because even at this distance of time they sound too frightening – and the sight of the quiet madmen in the place would make the sane convicts shudder; for every man in that prison had the fear, hidden away in the back of his mind, that some day, without his being able to do anything about it, his own reason would go, also.
And during this time I found out what insanity was. I found it out through my own symptoms. I realised that insanity had nothing to do with the brain. The ancient Greeks were right. The seat of insanity was the stomach. When I got those mad feelings coming over me, at night, when I was locked up in my cage, and I could see those grotesque figures etched in black against the blackness of the steel walls, then I knew that my insanity wasn’t coming out of my brain at all. Because my brain was working reasonably and logically , and I could think clearly. But that purple lunacy, that was like a handful of some slippery substance, was coming out of my stomach. That was where I was going mad: not in my head but in my stomach.
I began to conceive of an awful “life” existing in the penal section, and afterwards in every section of the prison. I imagined this “life” as a vast, fat, black serpent trailing through all the corridors of the prison, through the walls and everything; filling the whole space between walls and roof, and the entire hall, and the whole prison; and this gigantic snake was alive and breathing, and it couldn’t draw breath properly because it was so closely confined between walls and roof; and this was “die lewe” in the prison. The prison itself was a live thing, sweating and suffocating in its own immurement.

 

ew_mabalel-web

 

Mâbalel
2011
Softground and aquatint on Zerkall
Intaglio 250gsm
Edition of 10
Paper dimension: 47.5 x 38 cm
Image dimension: 24.7 x 22.4 cm

 


This image is in a sense a parody of a poem by Eugene Marais. In his poem the girl does not heed the ominous warning signs all around her, and is overcome by her own shadow in the form of a crocodile: Lalele. I would like to think that it should be possible for a girl to conquer her own shadow, and this is portrayed in the image… the crocodile is small and she has him by the tail…


 

ew_ontvlugting-web

Ontvlugting
2011
Softground and aquatint on Zerkall
Intaglio 250gsm
Edition of 10
Paper dimension: 47.5 x 38 cm
Image dimension: 24.7 x 22.4 cm

 


Uit hierdie Valkenburg het ek ontvlug
en dink my nou in Gordonsbaai terug:
Ek speel met paddavisse in ‘n stroom
en kerf swastikas in ‘n rooikransboom

Ek is die hond wat op die strande draf
en dom-allenig teen die aandwind blaf

Ek is die seevoël wat verhongerd daal
en dooie nagte opdis as ‘n maal

Die god wat jou geskep het uit die wind
sodat my smart in jou volmaaktheid vind:

My lyk lê uitgespoel in wier en gras
op al die plekke waar ons eenmaal was.


 

ew_the-dark-stream-web

The Dark Stream
2011
Softground and aquatint on Zerkall
Intaglio 250gsm
Edition of 10
Paper dimension: 47.5 x 38 cm
Image dimension: 24.7 x 22.4 cm

 

A portrait of Eugene Marais

O, Diep Rivier, O Donker Stroom,
Hoe lank het ek gewag, hoe lank gedroom,
Die lem van liefde wroegend in my hart?
– In jou omhelsing eindig al my smart;
Blus uit, O Diep Rivier, die vlam van haat;
–
Die groot verlange wat my nooit verlaat.
Ek sien van ver die glans van staal en goud,
Ek hoor die sag gedruis van waters diep en koud;
Ek hoor jou stem as fluistering in ’n droom,
Kom snel, O Diep Rivier, O Donker Stroom.


 

ew_wolves-in-mind-web

Wolves in Mind
2011
Softground and aquatint on Zerkall
Intaglio 250gsm
Edition of 10
Paper dimension: 47.5 x 38 cm
Image dimension: 24.7 x 22.4 cm

 


This piece was inspired by the following scene from Cold Stone Jug, by Herman Charles Bosman:

And then a most awful thing occurred, too, a couple of nights after Krouse had been removed to the solitary cell. Some convict in one of the sections suddenly climbed up on to his stool and put his mouth as near to the bars as he could, and he started howling like a dog. Or a wolf. Or a hyena. But mostly, I think, it was like a dog. That was the first time something of that description had happened during the years I was in prison. So I got terrified: not at the man’s doglike howling, but at what followed. Because, almost immediately afterwards, a convict in another cell took up that howl. Then another convict joined in. Before long there were several scores of convicts, standing on their stools and getting their mouth as near the bars as possible, emitting the weirdest of sounds into the night.

More and more convicts joined in. And yet more and more. It was a most contagious kind of thing. The noise each convict made, while it was different from the sounds emitted by his neighbour, nevertheless had one thing in common with this general howling, and that was that it had a warm animal ring: but it wasn’t so much like an animal on heat as like an animal dying – or an animal smelling the stink of death. I know I didn’t join in with this general howling. I pulled the blankets over my head and lay on the concrete floor of my cage and shivered. I was very frightened that night.

Hours later, when the howling was still going on, spasmodically, throughout the prison, I noticed a pale refulgence at the barred cell-window which served three of the cages. I recognised that gleam. I had worked it out month after month. So I knew what that pale light was, now. I a few day’s time it wouldn’t show itself at all. Not through that barred aperture, anyway.

It was the full moon…

The six etchings by Elise Wessels are part of a body of work Beast in Mind, which is an intuitive visual interpretation of the Shadow archetype, as defined by C.G. Jung. Jung proposed that the ‘Shadow’ may partially be linked to primordial and irrational animal instincts, and it is also seen to be the seat of creativity, which becomes my point of departure. This series is inspired by South African writers in whose lives and work it seems the Shadow played a significant role. I use hybrid forms as a means to simulate a visual – or actual – conversation between the psyche and animal archetypes. With Beast in Mind I hope to offer to the viewer a key to the intuitive language of the Shadow.

Elise Wessels works as an Illustrator in Cape Town. After spending two and a half years at the Am I Collective studio she now works independently. She completed her Bachelors in Fine Art through the University of South Africa.