Marsi van de Heuvel’s art has always instilled a sense of wonder, the only difference now being a gigantic shift in proportions. For her current solo show at Cape Town’s Smith Studio art gallery, her subject matter exchanges the galactic for the botanical. Instead of drawing meticulous spacey tableaux, Marsi has used fineliner pens to depict things closer to home. In her new body of work, we see detailed drawings of delicate flowers and open fields that “explore our inner, intimate landscape and the beauty and warmth of human connection”. Here we chat with Marsi about her labour-intensive process, art as a form of therapy and what she’s got her sights set on for 2017.
Your previous exhibition, Dark Matter, explored outer space but for Ceremony, your gaze returns to Earth. What brought this about?
I wanted to delve into the warmth of humanity and celebrate how welcoming and ideal this planet is in comparison to the incredibly mysterious yet hostile expanse of space. I wanted to bring the focus back home, to look inward.
Your new works are lighter and more playful, and you’ve likened them to “vibrant moments of connection”. Tell us more
I was looking for a symbol for compassion because it felt like the most important aspect of humanity for me at the time. Connection seems like the one thing that really makes life worth it, particularly in times of struggle. We inherently look for patterns and symbols to give meaning to our lives, and making those links and sharing those moments with others feels like the point of our existence for me. When we connect with others, it’s a radiant experience.
You’ve used fineliner pens to achieve a painterly effect. What influenced your choice of medium?
The marks of the pen show time and labour, and I like that you can clearly see the deliberate effort that goes into each work. I began drawing mountains with fineliner years ago, and when I drew outer space, I started using one-directional lines because I wanted to be transient. As soon as you put lines in different directions it depicts form, but I wanted it to convey feeling and movement. When I changed from space to water and then to flowers, the technique and medium still felt relevant.
In what ways do the botanical drawings interact with the abstract colourscapes?
The botanical drawings are detailed celebrations of the blossoming radiance and vulnerability of flowers. I wanted the abstracts to have the feeling of standing in an open field that complements and holds space for the flowers. They have been drawn with complementary colour palettes.
Do you find the process of making art therapeutic?
It is incredibly therapeutic. I begin by exploring, investigating and reflecting – really trying to find something that resonates with me and feels relevant to my community and environment. With regards to the actual process of creating artwork, once I have found the right subject and flow, it is so meditative.
What are your plans and hopes for the rest of the year?
I plan to try some new things; I’m working on a textile design at the moment and am planning a collaborative dance film and an installation piece. I hope to travel and play more this year, and hopefully paint and make bigger things. I’ve become quite interested in the idea of belonging, so I think I’ll explore that for a while.
Ceremony is on show until 21 January 2017. All images courtesy of Smith Studio.