Dr Kim Berman is a lecturer at in the Fine Arts Department of The University of Johannesburg and is the Director of The Artist Proof Studio in Newtown, Johannesburg.
Berman is committed to political and social transformation in South Africa. She uses printmaking as a vehicle to reflect on the social and political processes that are encompassed in her daily life. Berman works with various neglected and peripheral landscape images. Through her process she transforms the landscapes into images that not only comment on society but are also transformed into something poignant.
The Plantation Lithographs are inspired by seemingly unrelated landscape images that I photographed around the time of the xenophobic violence in 2008. In June of the same year, rural areas close to the town of White River in Mpumalanga province were consumed by vast forest fires. It was necessary for farmers to revive their badly damaged exotic fruit orchards by drastically pruning down the trees and painting them white with lime in order to protect the exposed bark from the sun and possible disease. For me the fields of white amputated trees in regimented rows visually enacted the predicament of the alien; the shameful, drastic marking and control of the other. Exploring this imagery through a range of visual art techniques offered me a way of processing and exploring both the fragility of South Africa’s democracy, and of integrating and accommodating radical dislocation into a deceptively ordinary landscape.
In my work, landscapes have always provided a metaphor for South Africa’s transitions as a country: even in a poisoned, burnt, or smoke-filled landscape, the light on the horizon sparks the energy and hope for the cycle of change and imperative of renewal. Both of these series are set in the winter of 2008: they speak of a stark, sterile, dry, cold, empty, white, regimented aftermath of earlier fire, violence and chaos. But winter is part of a cycle, and its moment does pass.
Image: Courtesy of the artist