Tracy Payne
Sacred Yang

12 July - 11 August 2007

'Open your eyes and you are in paradise.'

Michael Stevenson is pleased to present new work by Tracy Payne in her third exhibition at the gallery. In Payne's early work she expressed the domination of yang over yin, and subsequent bodies of work have been concerned with bringing these energies into balance. Following on from her previous exhibition, Sacred Yin (2005), Payne's mind turned to the notion of sacred yang after encountering the actions of China's Shaolin monks.

As she recalls, "I was transfixed. These are spiritual men, Zen Buddhists, and at the same time masters in the martial art of kung fu - a seeming paradox. They are so strong yet their bodies looked soft and their faces serene. They seem to embody the masculine principle, sacred yang, a perfect marriage of spiritual and physical. They are essentially men of peace, for to initiate an attack is an aggressive act and an aggressive act is contrary not just to the spirit of kung fu, but also to life itself. They set out not to conquer others but rather to use their physical strength in self-defense to protect that which is sacred. It was as if I'd found through these monks a new beginning with 'man', a place of forgiveness and sacred appreciation."

Payne began the process of painting her portraits of monks with the simple act of grinding Japanese ink stone to make ink. Initially the portraits were very small, but over time their scale changed and she introduced touches of watercolour and blusher to the otherwise monochromatic paintings. The portraits grew larger than life, and she started using oil on canvas to express a spiritual dimension of the physical realm. Most of the portraits exist in the space of meditation just prior to action, yet others explore a whole range of emotions from inward serenity through to an outward expression of power - "like a lion lying quietly and then throwing his head back in a magnificent roar - pure yang energy".

For Payne painting is an act of meditation. She says, "The act of painting calms me; it lowers my heartbeat and slows my breath. My focus is total and at best my thoughts cease. This is when I enter the present moment and am at one. On a number of levels, then, these paintings embody the awakening of the personality to the potential of the soul; an awakening to 'heaven' on earth here, now."

Payne was born in Cape Town in 1965 and graduated from the Michaelis School of Fine Art in 1987. In 2006 her work was included on the travelling exhibition New Painting and on Second to None at the Iziko South African National Gallery.

Tracy Payne will conduct a walkabout of her exhibition on Thursday 19 July at 11am. Cost is R30 and proceeds will go to the Friends of the South African National Gallery. Book with Donne at (021) 421 2575.

Awakening I

Awakening II

Beautiful Monk

Starburst Monk

Golden Boy

Emerald Monk

Sacred Yang

Altered States I - X

Grinderman II

Grinderman I

Rain of Blessings

Into My Arms
Not available

Crying Monk

Plum Rain

For more information contact +27 (0)21 421 2575 or fax +27 (0)21 421 2578 or email

2007 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.