Visual artist Julia Skeen has proved her versatility and acute visual sensitivity in work covering a variety of subject matter in media ranging from oils and watercolours to digital animation.
Her first solo exhibition was held at the Grassroots Gallery in Westville in 1984. Entitled Portrait of a Community, it consisted of watercolour and pencil portraits of local characters living at Botha’s Hill.
The Horn of Plenty comprised 44 watercolour images, combined with the poetry and calligraphy of her husband, Chris Mann to create a unique series of ‘painting-poems’. Six of these were exhibited at the University of Oxford as part of Oxford Arts Week in 2009.
Further collaboration with Mann continued, including a succession of multimedia productions integrating computer-generated graphic images, Mann’s poetry and in many cases, music. The Crux of Being, Heartlands, In Praise of the Shades, Walking on Gravity and Beautiful Lofty Things all premiered at the National Arts Festival and have been performed at numerous high schools and universities across the country.
The latest collaboration with Chris Mann, the book Lifelines, led to an exhibition of the pen and ink drawings at the 2006 National Arts Festival. The book and related multimedia show were launched at the Cape Town International Book Fair.
In 2007, Skeen ventured further into digital media with a video installation based on her Lifelines work and Mann’s original songs. This featured as a Spiritfest production at the National Arts Festival 2007 and a DVD of the work has been well received.
At the 2009 National Arts Festival, Skeen exhibited Wilderness Encounters. This show comprised oil paintings and drawings of the Judean desert.
2010: Illustrated the book Home from Home.This book comprises new and selected poems by Chris Mann. A multi media show was also created to compliment this book.
At the National Arts Festival in July 2011 a series of 12 paintings entitled Cornucopia Biblica were exhibited. The paintings were not for sale as they will be placed in a chapel to be built in the Eastern Cape over looking the Swartkops River in due course.
In the meantime this series of paintings will be touring sacred buildings around South Africa. So far they have been in the Cathedral of St Michael and St George (Grahamstown) and The Community of the Resurrection (Grahamstown). They were used at St Martin’s In the Veld (Johannesburg) in June 2012 to celebrate their Environment Week. A series of Meditations on the theme of The Creation and The Environment accompanied the paintings. St Francis Church, Parkview (Johannesburg) then hosted the works in the second half of 2012 and during the first part of 2013 they will be in St Luke’s, (Johannesburg).
In October 2011 Julia participated in an exhibition with fellow Grahamstown artists in Grahamstown at The Eastern Star Gallery. Artgroup 5 consisted of two other painters and two ceramic artists. The exhibition was well received.
A note on Artgroup 5
Artgroup 5 was started three years ago (2009) by artists working independently in Grahamstown, and took the form of monthly informal get-togethers. These meetings have served as a means of sharing ideas, concerns, reading-matter and sometimes included discussion of work in progress. This has proved stimulating and encouraging to five very different, highly individual artists, who otherwise spend much of their time in the solitude of their own studios. The pooling of artistic views has prompted much lively discussion, while at the same time reflecting common ground in some fundamental areas. The result can be seen in the putting together of their exhibition, the first formal collaboration by Hilde Kretzmann, Jane James, Gill Maylam, Julia Skeen and Anne Collins. This exhibition took place in October 2011.
A series of four paintings entitled "I Am The Vine: meditations on the seasons of Jesus Christ", has been completed and were exhibited at the National Arts Festival, July 2013 in Grahamstown in the Cathedral of St Michael and St George. There are now accompanying meditations.
Work in progress at the moment is a series of paintings on: Aspects of Mary, the feminine in spirituality. Three of these oil paintings together with meditations will be exhibited under the auspices of Spiritfest during The National Arts Festival in Grahamstown this coming July, 2014.
Brochures of the Wilderness Encounters and Cornucopia Biblica paintings are available as free downloads on this website under Current Work.
Please refer to the heading: Art Meditations for more information on the various meditations based on Julia’s paintings.