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The fire that birthed an artist, fleeting art

I published two articles relating to Shany Van Den Berg's exhibition (In)filtration of Time, showing at Circa Cape Town. One a review (in Business Day), the other an interview (in the Cape Times), feature.

Below is an unedited version of the feature:

On the upper reaches of Shany van der Berg’s kitchen wall hangs a small painting of red flames. It is kind of out of sync with the slick monochrome décor of her stylish pad. Yet it is probably the most important feature of her home as it marks the end of a life she once led as well as heralding a new beginning, leading to the one she lives now. This seemingly arbitrary painting is also pivotal to understanding her new solo exhibition opening at the Circa Cape Town this week (October 4). Titled (in) filteration of time it consists of a diverse mix of works ranging from portraits, hanging installation pieces, a few sculptures and books. The latter consists of drawings, artworks she committed to making every day for a year in the run-up to the exhibition.

“It was hectic at first,” she recalls standing in her modest studio at the back of her small Stellenbosch home.

“It would be 11.30pm at night and I would realise I only had half an hour left to do it. Now I don’t have to make the time, it chooses me.”

Over time as the drawings accumulated and the monthly ‘books’ or journals emerged and started to take on a uniform look, she felt more confident about the undertaking, which echoed her commitment to being an artist. They function as documents of her creative thoughts, her life and the events that stood out each day. There is a drawing of Zuma, her grandchild and a snapshot a friend sent via Whatsapp. I suspect there are images somewhere in it of flames too, for however much Van den Berg’s art appears to deal with the fleetingness of life, its ebb and flow, she returns to that day, 24 years ago when she arrived to her home in Paarl to find it burning to the ground.

She wasn’t sure if her three children were trapped inside and having lost both her parents months previously, she sharply felt in that moment that she stared at the flames licking at the walls of her home she had lost everything. Later, recalling that day, circling the trauma of it, she would paint the flames.

“They were red, like