A unique, joint exhibition by mother-son duo Pascale and Claude Chandler recently delighted Cape Town Central City gallery-goers. We spoke to the pair about their creative collaboration.
She'd been working with both artists for a long time, says Jennifer Reynolds, gallery director and owner of StateoftheART of artists Pascale and Claude Chandler, when suddenly the idea came to her. “I had hung their work separately, but never together,” she says, adding “to have one artist in one family is special; having two is quite rare and to have an opportunity to showcase their work together is phenomenal.”
The joint mother-son exhibition, Liminal Timeline, which concluded in February 2020, which all but sold out, exploring as it did the idea that “we live in a world of unpredictability and change, in a liminal timeline which sits between the ‘what was’ and the ‘what next’, a place of transition.”
In this body of work, Pascale reflected on the fragility of our humanity and the transitory nature of life. Claude, on the other hand, reflected on the digital transformation he experienced while growing up and "how we now see the world and ourselves”.
Above: Works by Claude Chandler from the exhibition, Liminal Timeline.
BRINGING THE EXHIBITION TO LIFE
The exhibition enabled Claude, who is based in Cape Town, to strengthen his bond with Pascale, who lives and works in Durban. It was also a learning curve, says Claude. “It was great working with my mom. Generally, when we paint, we communicate a lot, send each other images and critique each other’s work. It’s nice having that connection, and it allows us to keep in touch a lot.”
Pascale describes working with Claude, her only child, as a “powerful synergy of evolution”. “It was a collaboration of epic proportion and a platform of mutual respect and a love of the creative process,” says Pascale, who believes art is “the only language that makes sense in the world”.
While Pascale is no stranger to working on paper, it was Claude’s first time using this medium, an opportunity he relished. “It was interesting navigating working on paper together and meeting in the middle with the work. It all kind of happened organically. In terms of structure, we just knew the medium we wanted to use, the sensitivity of the work and from there, we turned up to the show and worked so well together.”
Above: The horse features prominently in the work of Pascale Chandler.
Pascale’s career as an artist spans over 30 years. According to StateoftheART’s website, in addition to being one of Durban’s key artists, “she is regarded as an exceptional teacher”. She views her art as "delicate and ambiguous” and an attempt to transform and translate experience and identity. Says Pascale: “I developed a love of drawing from a very early age. I would draw endless portraits of imaginary faces. My parents knew I was destined to become an artist.”
Claude’s trajectory was much the same as his late father, Jeff, who was also an artist. Having grown up in a household with artistic parents, it was perhaps inevitable that he would follow suit. “My father passed away when I was 11,” Claude recalls, “but I remember him saying ‘no son of mine will be an artist’ as he knew the mental and financial hardships of taking that path. However, when I was in high school, I decided that this was the career and the life I wanted.”
With Pascale as his teacher and mentor, he had a head start, says Claude, who holds a National Diploma in Fine Art from the Durban University of Technology. He adds that attending art exhibitions from a young age and being surrounded by art and artists also helped him better understand the art world and how to navigate it.
While paintings by Claude’s mom are characterised by a horse, Claude says his signature style is portraiture.“Portraiture has been a common theme throughout my work. When I was in Grade 10 and had decided I wanted to be an artist, the first thing I did was start painting my teachers and that’s where my love of portraiture came from and it also established my identity as an artist. Slowly expanding the idea of what a portrait is and what it isn’t and abstracting into something a bit more contemporary has allowed me to explore themes and how we see things. I’ve touched a lot on the digital self and how we kind of see things through a digital lens,” he says.
When it comes to their favourite artists, Claude mentions Mustafa Maluka, Johannes Phokela and Emilio Villalba. Pascale, on the other hand, cites Luc Tuymans, William Kentridge and Christian Hook as her top three.
FINDING A BALANCE
As with anything, balance is important, and Pascale says she likes to grow things when she’s not working on her paintings. “My garden is my place of safety,” says Pascale. In a previous interview when asked about his habits when working, Claude said he barks or howls like a wolf when he gets excited or frustrated with the painting he’s working on.
It seems he has now found a balance. “The barking and screaming have calmed down,” he says with a smile. “I think maybe that’s being managed through golf and gym, which are new things in my life. I only barked once with this show, out of excitement.”
IMAGES: StateoftheART, Claude Chandler Art, CCID