The title is old Latin and encapsulates both artists’ works’ mysticism. Arbor means tree. Additionally forests and plant life have held an integral role with humanity where dendrology has featured in myths dating back civilizations and recurring in various liturgical legends and myths. Contemporary epistemology of trees manifested in Jungian psychoanalytical practice. Furthermore anthropological discourse of trees and their mysticism have been a symbol for wellbeing which is the playground for artists Griessel and Steyn. Oneiric means dreams. Although not physical particles, dreams of parallel universes have had enormous effects on physical realities. Dreams of saints and martyrs have transformed the world positively. Adversely darker dreams of dictators have had negative effects for countless souls.
The Red Tree. 2019. Ink and Guache on Paper. 42X29cm
Griessel, a full time artist and book illustrator, draws whimsical looking fantasy scenes. Themes he visualizes are often serious and personal. The travelling nomad, displacement, alienation, destruction and melancholia are recurring themes through metaphors. Arbitrary references from literature from Franz Kafka, Nietzsche, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and T.S Elliot inspire Griessel where prominent and ambiguous narratives influence his drawings.
Griessel’s art walks the tightrope between playfulness, solemnity and whimsical pensiveness. He uses picture book illustrations as an idiom to express his ideas. Griessel says that
“Illustration is not seen as forming part of the ‘Fine Arts’ family, but more as a bastard child spawned in a scandalous union between word and image. ‘His’ pictures are ‘his’ own restless bastard children: They are not completely at home in fine art galleries but also not comfortable enough to be safely encased between the boundaries of book covers”.
They are somewhere in their own created abyss.
Soul Tree. 2019. Ink on Paper. 29X42cm
For Griessel trees are a visual presentation of a lifelong obsession. A recurring theme in the body of his work is ‘tree portals’ which act as a gateway into an alternate ‘dreamscape’ that he hopes viewers get lost in. He states that “he has been captivated by the labyrinthine constellations of tree canopies around him since childhood”. His fascination has never led to a scientific study of trees and plant life but rather an aesthetic and spiritual appreciation. As an artist who works within the realm of the fantastical he has taken imaginary liberties with his depiction of the natural world. Griessel has blurred lines between iconographical South African botanical species like fynbos and aloes with humanity, spirituality and the secret life of trees. Griessel’s art is an act of building a parallel universe one drawing at a time.
Whisperer. 2019. Ink and Guache on Paper. 29X42cm
Talita Steyn is a full time artist who comes from a nursing background.Up until recently her medium of choice has been oil painting. Sculpture is new to her and she wishes to explore this medium in order to access childhood freedom where creation is limitless. Steyn makes art to express things that are hard to put into words and often feels shouldn’t be put into words. She feels the need to capture moments or thoughts that fill her with spontaneous beauty and nostalgia. The need to preserve sacred moments and dreams from being lost and understanding the existential dichotomy of spirituality versus human experience puzzles, mystifies and awes Talita Steyn.
Animals influence her art as they were a big part of growing up. Animals were more intriguing than people as they represented a type of purity that resonated with her. Monkeys were a frequent sight in her childhood garden in Kwazulu Natal. She was fascinated by their mischievous play and cheeky curiosity. She also saw cats as a companion and type of household essential.
The Seekers. 2016. Material One & Mixed Media.
Steyn draws influence and inspiration from magical realism, films, popular culture and confronts remnants of vivid childhood memories which she desires to recapture as she gets older. She feels that adults have lost childhood wonder and are blind to beauty which surrounds them by controlling the world with boundaries. Talita’s work explores the consequences of this with sad looking monkeys, as creatures, having experienced a life something other than what was intended. Some monkeys even contemplating over 43 quintillion possibilities of a Rubik’s cube as metaphor for evolving and that we create our reality. Like the monkeys are a certain metaphor for Steyn, similarly the cats portray a general disregard for rules and expectations. Each of her animals she creates have their own character and uniquely painted remnants which she attempts to preserve.
Talita wishes to create a forest of dream and ‘otherly’ dimension where sacredness is held and rites of passage beyond our understanding are undisrupted. Her creatures allow us a glimpse into their world and reflect on various expressions of our human experience.
Gently Profane. 2019. Material One & Mixed Media. Edition 2 of 10
Griessel and Steyn, although not saints or martyrs, are two South African artists creating fantastical worlds in a forest of dream-like narratives which Arbor Oneirica, through the analysis of the words meanings, taps into a life-source of creation, dreams, mysticism, and freedom.