Tracy Payne   (b. 1965)
Crying Monk

Japanese ink and watercolour on 300g Canson Montval paper
100 x 76cm

Over the past five years, Eastern spirituality has been a consistent thread through Payne’s work. After visiting Tokyo in 2002, her imagery mused on the Buddhist concept of samsara or conditioned existence. In her paintings of this time, images of kinbaku, erotic rope bondage, were entwined with the cherry blossom as reminder of the hope that lies in the cyclical nature of life, death and rebirth. In her kaleidoscopic paintings exhibited at Michael Stevenson in September and December 2005, her women were freed from their bonds and were overlaid with the forms of first spring and then summer flowers.

These seven portraits are part of Payne’s work-in-progress for her next solo show, scheduled for mid-2007. Her current paintings are inspired by the Shaolin monks of China. The artist recalls watching the video Shaolin Wheel of Life for the first time, before seeing the monks live in performance: ‘I was transfixed. Here were men so strong, yet their bodies looked soft and their faces serene … It is as if I had found a new beginning, a place of forgiveness and sacred appreciation of “man”.’

It is the interplay of masculine and feminine principles fundamental to the martial arts tradition that Payne has sought to convey in the responsive and sensitive medium of watercolour. In these portraits, the dualities inherent in sexuality, emotion and states of consciousness linger, as they do in the dictums of martial arts:

Have no stance but every stance
Exist like the wind and be unpredictable
In defence be like the virgin, in attack be fierce like the tiger
The outside is fierce, the inside is calm
Make noise in the east and attack from the west
Show up and hit down
Be as hard as iron yet soft as silk
Be heavy like iron and light as a leaf

In 2006 Payne’s work was included on the travelling exhibition New Painting (which showed at the KZNSA Gallery, Durban; Unisa Art Gallery, Pretoria; and Johannesburg Art Gallery) and on Second to None at the Iziko South African National Gallery.

© 2006 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.