by Tracy Payne


Mandy’s relationship with the sea feels timeless…as though it always was and ever will be.

This is no fleeting infatuation but rather a long, deep and meaningful love affair.

The sea is her muse.


I remember clearly the day Mandy entered my studio early last year. I had just put out notice to the art community that I was looking to rent a space and she was the first to respond. The studio we share is the upper floor of a beautiful old Victorian building on Victoria Road in the heart of Woodstock.


Mandy arrived with her paints, brushes, blank canvasses and two paintings. One was complete and the other a work in progress. My first response to her work was relief…relief because they were works made from the heart and a celebration of and reverence for our most precious resource…..the sea.


Mandy was on a mission. She would arrive early in the morning and paint all day breaking only for a cup of tea and lunch. Her focus was total and unwavering. I envied her for this since my time was being taken up by the logistics of running the studio, which was in a process of transformation. Mandy and her paintings helped with that process. Her paintings brought with them a cleansing of the space, fresh energy, clarity and light.


Mandy’s early paintings give us views of the beach and sea as seen from afar.

Sometimes looking through fynbos or over wildflowers, her gaze is directed outward, towards the crashing waves and distant horizon where sea meets sky. With time, her gaze dropped down and she gave us much closer views of where the sea meets the shore

These early works are tactile and multi-sensorial. With wet feet, sand between our toes and pebbles underfoot, with the smell of fynbos and salty sea air and the sound of crashing waves and wind in our hair, we are able to marvel at the foamy waters edge of Mandy’s world.


In Sheer Water, her second solo exhibition held at The Cape Gallery, Mandy continues her explorations giving us different moods and levels of intimacy with the ocean she so loves.


There are the crystal clear views from above where the movement of the water distorts and rearranges the rocks and life that lie beneath, and disrupts the play of light as it dances over the surface. There are the close-up views, which focus on the translucence and foamy spray of breaking waves. This is where the medium of photography plays an important preliminary role in the creation of her final paintings, allowing her to zoom in on her subject, thereby moving her gaze ever closer.


And here I am compelled to read a quote by Rudolf Steiner that appears on Mandy’s website

"We must find time to observe things ... as though with our thinking we were in the things themselves. We must dive down into things, into their inner thought-activity. If we do so, we shall gradually perceive how we are entering the very life of things. We no longer have the feeling that the things are outside, and we are here in our shell, thinking about them; but we begin to feel how our thought is living and moving in the things themselves. To a man who has attained this in a high degree, a new world opens up.”


It is as though Mandy becomes that which she paints: she is the ocean; she is the wave, the water, the splash, the foam, the spray, and the light.


When Mandy speaks about her work and technical process she gets a sparkle in her eye much like a woman talking about her lover. There is passion in her process and she loves what she creates. I enjoyed sharing her enthusiasm and excitement as she discovered new colours and the beauty oils have in their translucency to allow light to shine from within. Her palette moves gracefully from opaque whites and the softest yellows, through gem-like emerald greens, turquoise and cerulean blue, all the way into the deep ultramarine blue, dusky ultramarine violet, raw umber and greys.

But painting is a strange beast … and not always easy. Speaking from my own experience and witnessing Mandy’s process …there is the initial stage where you stand alone in front of the empty canvas and it’s entirely up to you, the painter, how you wish to start the dialogue. And so you give. After a while the painting starts to dialogue with you and guide you, it asks for what it needs and because you love it you listen and you follow.


And at what point is the painting finished?


I believe, when it asks no more.


And finally as an end note….

Water is a natural resource, which many of us have taken for granted until recently.

That Mandy has brought the ocean in all its splendor to us during this stressful time of drought is no coincidence.

So let us try and learn from her.

Let us revere, conserve and protect our oceans and let us use our fresh water sparingly and with awareness as it makes its way back to the sea.


 Studio address: Victoria Art Studio, 194 Victoria Road, Woodstock