Louise Ross

Artist Statement

I have been fascinated with Johannesburg for many years and began painting my experience of the city while studying Fine Art at The University of the Witwatersrand. Johannesburg is a complex place that takes hold of you and draws you in. Sometimes it’s suffocating. While at Wits I had a studio that was located on the edge of campus overlooking the busy city streets. I travelled daily on the Jo’burg Metro bus both to- and from campus and I found my experience of the city to be overpowering. I began to paint about it. I painted my journey through the city. I painted my experience of the bus. I painted the view out my window. I painted events happening around me.

I paint from photographs that I take as I move around the city. I don’t aim. I use a point-and-shoot camera and I literally do just that: point and shoot. I love digital cameras and the fact that they allow me to take hundreds of photos. Some of the photos are blurry, some are of rubbish bins or sign posts. This interests me. The camera picks up things we don’t notice, the things we ignore but see every day. It highlights the things we’ve never seen even though we pass them every single day. It unveils a new way of seeing the city.

I also paint from things I collect. I collect newspaper articles, postcards, found images and website links, amongst other resources. Popular media directs our gaze and this also interests me. What are we paying attention to and how do media-hyped events influence our perception of the world?

I look at maps to obtain different physical perspectives of the same thing. For a time I looked at my daily journey from as many different angles as I could: a street map, Google earth, photos of the route by bus, photos of the route by car and photos of the route on foot.

This leads me to make paintings that are maps. My paintings are a process of mapping; maps of my ideas; maps of the places I’ve visited and travelled through; maps that document what I see and what I experience; maps that tell a story.

My paintings are of Johannesburg. A subject that continues to fascinate me. My paintings tell a story of my experience of the city, of my experience of life and of the places and spaces that shape the existence of people living in Johannesburg.