Gail
Behrmann

Gail Behrmann lives in Johannesburg and studied fine art under Bill Ainslieat the Johannesburg Art Foundation. 

She combines painting with a career as a film maker, concentrating on research forfeature films and documentaries and in recent years, film installations for museums, comfortably moving between both worlds. Behrmann was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in 1988 and due to serious medical complications between 1994 and 1997 did little painting and concentrated on film making.  However, stabilized and replaced with good spare parts, Behrmann energetically participates in group exhibitions and private commissions. 

In recent years she has been involved in theatre productions for the Handspring Puppet Company and William Kentridge’s video installations.  Additional projects include assisting Angus Gibson on video installations for the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, the Hector Pieterson Museum in Soweto and installations she has directed for the Apartheid Museum and projects for corporate installations. 

Collections   

Anglo American Corp., The World Bank, Sasol,  Telkom, Combined Artistes (pty) ltd., The Premier  Group, Nandos UK, Sasani Ltd, Raphaely Weiner &  Partners. Private Collections in South Africa, USA, Australia, UK & Israel.  

Curatorial        

- Co-coordinated the DPSC exhibition 100 Artists Protest in 1988 at the Market Theatre Gallery

- Conceived and co-curated Malibongwe – In Praise of Women. A selection of Gisele Wulfsohn’s photographs of women for the Apartheid Museum in 2007.  The exhibition has since been to the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Parliament in Cape Town and  The Slave Lodge in Cape Town.

Artist Statement:

In 1973 I found myself at Bill Ainslie where I met amongst others, Jill Trappler, Bongiwe Dlhomo, William Kentridge, Ricky Burnett, David Koloane and Mary-Anne Mackness (now Botha).  We forged friendships and learned about art in an environment which encouraged and allowed a mixed culture in a South Africa whose laws did not. 

Bill based a lot of his teachings on that of Hans Hoffman and the push pull theory is still very much alive in my studio.  At that time, unlike Bill’s later theories on teaching, his students were not allowed to abstract until we had learned to see, drawing therefore was an important discipline.                                               

I began painting after I left Bill, I was deeply affected by his Namib series and in factquite intimidated by those paintings.  Contemporary artists whose work influenced me early on, were Monet, Hoffman, Hoyland, Caro and so many others. 

In the early 80s the need to earn a living led me to the advertising and feature film industry.  This added dimension to my work, and my existing love of collage extended itself to using my photographs as collage material which also contributed to the form of paintings. 

I also found myself to be more and more politically involved, working for both the DPSC (Detainee Parents Support Committee) and the alternative press and later as a documentary researcher.  My paintings, however leaned more and more towards the abstract. 

In 1988 I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and subsequently I developed Epilepsy.  Whilst I generally make light of the afflictions, both diseases had a serious impact on my life and changed my rhythm and my painting. 

As a film maker I concentrate on research for both documentaries and feature filmsand collaborated with Angus Gibson for the installations in the Apartheid Museum, (where I continue to be involved, the Hector Pieterson Museum, the Cato Manor Museum and Liliesleaf Museum.  Of recent years I have made films for various museum installations myself.  Through William Kentridge and the Handspring Puppet Company I have been involved in their theatre productions, providing William with the archive he uses in his films. 

A mild obsession with white led to a series Reflections on White .  Thirteen years later, the obsession still exists. Another series, largely influenced by Wenda Gu’s installation The Forest of Stones filled with the poetry from ancient Chinese, translated into English, describes time and the colours of time.  A shoulder replacement left me unable to paint for a few years and that led to more drawing and tiny paintings. 

Hoffman once said In nature light creates the colour, in a painting colour creates the light.  I hope I succeed.

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