Carolyn Morrison is both artist and art teacher. She is extraordinary at both. I admired her painting entitled Joe’s Sheet for years, as various would be buyers laid claim to it. By some serendipity, none of these sales ever materialised, and I purchased the painting over a period of months until finally it was mine. It now has pride of place in the hallway of our home.
Apart from the colours and texture, Joe’s Sheet goes to the heart of the quandary that confronts one living and staying in South Africa – that of the painful economic and social repercussions of Apartheid that continue to haunt its populace, but also the expansive beauty and energy of South Africa’s people. This is epitomised in Carolyn’s story of Joe’s Sheet.
“Arriving home one day I was astonished and surprised by a large and unfamiliar sheet flapping on the washing line. It was made of mealie meal bags sewn together.
Eventually I discovered that it belonged to our gardener, old Joe Phoshoko who was a municipal street sweeper (who is No. 146 and lives in Antea Compound Industrial Johannesburg.) When next I saw him I asked if he would trade his sheet for a new one. He accepted and stared at me for a long time in disbelief. A little while later he came and asked me if I liked his old hat……now periodically I find other objects hanging on the washing line……for silent tradings.
As I started to paint the sheet it gradually took on the feeling of a flag reflecting all the vibrations and tremors that I feel are presently moving this country. Economically we may all soon be eating mealie meal. The segments of the bags seemed to reflect the political divisions in the country.
The designs started to whirl like wheels and symbolically the number five and the star have significance. Number five in numerology is the number for Mercury and signifies change, something highly strung, excitable and again this seemed to reflect the “now” in South Africa.
The five pointed star is one of the most ancient signs and depicted upwards symbolises separation, light, the spiritual and education, whereas down pointed is evil and black magic. On the sheet/flag some are upwards and others down and this again seemed an interesting coincidence and echoing of the situation. The five-pointed star has religious significance and in the figure of man with outstretched arms and legs forms a star that reflected concern with humanism during the Renaissance.
Joe’s sheet initially inspired me on a social level, and as a rather poignant object, and then developed from that point.”
I love this work as it draws from everyday staples that make up the diet of many South Africans. I love its texture that lends gravitas to the humble role it played in Joe’s life, and the sensitivity brought to it by Carolyn’s brush strokes.