Earth Works 2008

EARTH WORKS: Archiving the Present

Drawings by Carl Jeppe

Absa Gallery Johannesburg

Carl Jeppe has been drawing for as long as he can remember. Growing up in a creative family allowed for a great deal of artistic freedom and encouragement. His mother Barbara was a celebrated botanical artist, writing and illustrating numerous books on the flora of South Africa. Carl's father was a psychiatrist who was passionate about everything from archaeology to astronomy to geology and oceanography. Carl's present family shares both this love of nature and of the Arts: he met his wife Lynn at art school and their children, Carl and Jessica, a motion design director and a film editor respectively are extremely creative.

It seems natural that Carl should find his way to Art school in Pretoria and after a period working as a prop-maker at P.A.C.T. he started teaching. As a lecturer in drawing and painting at Tshwane University of Technology, where he has been teaching for 30 years, (26 of them full time) one is thrown into the tank with a new crop of students every year. Some of them are exceptionally talented; others not. Some are diligent; others not. Some are incredibly creative; others must be shown every step of the way! But they are ALL wonderful! It is a huge privilege, to be involved so intensely with these amazing people and to be able to take part in helping their lives take shape!

Carl has wandered through several Genres of art: from figure drawing and painting to portraiture, both drawing and painting, and landscapes, both drawing and painting. The works that are going to be shown at the ABSA Gallery in November are all drawings, most of them large, and they are all based on an involvement with landscape. Not, however in the usual terms of a "picturesque" scene of a bend in the river, or a dramatic sunset, but rather of the little things: things that we walk past every day: the scuffmarks and scratches, those footprints that mankind inflicts upon the surface of the planet. There are questions asked about scale: is that an enormous canyon or is it a crevice in the surface of a small stone? These questions deal in a way with mankind's impact on his surroundings and on the planet as a whole. We can't avoid making footprints, so we should at least pay attention to them.

There is a series of drawings of "Stumps". These stumps are all that is left of a warehouse in Mitchell Street, Pretoria West. They seem to symbolize some grand structure that was the pride of its owners. Since the fire devastated the building, it takes on the appearance of a ghost-town. We can only speculate as to what happened, and sooner or later there will be another structure built to take its place.

Carl is intrigued by the history of things: both the long-term history of say, erosion, and the short-term history of a tyre track in the sand. There is a series of drawings depicting an "X", as in "X marks the spot". The X is a familiar mark: some sign their name with it; some make a mark on a ballot paper. The X could signify a crossroad, a meeting place; a place of danger, despair, or simply a destination.

Another series featuring graves are drawings of actual graves discovered along a back road in Mpumalanga. These graves are varied in their scale and their intentions: some are elegant structures with careful and painstaking details, while others are mere piles of stones. Whether they are grand or simple doesn't take away from the fact that here lie the remains of somebody's loved one: somebody’s ancestor and that we should equally respect all mankind, Lord of the Manor, or lowly servant; alive or dead.

What Carl hopes to achieve through this exhibition is to throw some light upon the idea that we should all take note of our surroundings and if we are to contribute at all, then do so positively, rather than negatively. Notice the beauty in that river, that hillside, that person, building, street or park, and help steer society towards a place of dignity, and peace.