Title: Man at Battle Grinning
Medium: Four colour lithograph
Size: 26" x 29.75"
Edition size: 35
"Man at Battle Grinning" gets its title from a line in Patrick Cullinan's poem, "For Rebecca, born at Midwinter", and also refers to the suicide bomber depicted in one of the Inferno panels in "Walking with and away from Dante". The mouth is reprised as an open shout on the forehead - a wound, and a war-cry. I used drawings of augers to create a sense of weaponry and armour.
Judith Mason, 2008.
Judith Mason - a giant in the South African art world
Judith Mason stands as one of South Africa’s foremost artists whose work is well represented in just about all national public, corporate and academic art collections, as well as collections abroad. Judith represented South Africa at a number of key international exhibitions, such as the Venice Biennale in 1966, the São Paulo Biennial in 1971, the Houston Art Festival in 1980 and Art Basel, Miami Beach in 2008. She completed her studies in fine art at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1961, and three years later held her first solo exhibition at Gallery 101 in Johannesburg.
Internationally she is also represented in both private and public collections in Europe, including at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, UK, the USA at institutions including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington DC; and Yale University in Providence.
Mason exhibited and worked with the Karen McKerron Gallery and Art On Paper in Johannesburg; the Chelsea Gallery in Cape Town; the Pretoria Arts Association; the East End Gallery, East Hampton, New York; and at Art Basel Miami Beach, Florida, USA.
Judith Mason / Man at Battle Grinning
Born Judith Seelander Menge on 10 October 1938 in Pretoria, Judith Mason is one of the most well known names in South African art. She matriculated from the Pretoria High School for Girls in 1956 and from 1957 - 1960 she attended the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and received a BA Degree in Fine Art. She married Professor Revil John Mason, former head of the Archaeology Department University of the Witwatersrand, and changed her name to Judith Mason. Together they had two daughters, Tamar Mason (1966) and Petra Mason (1970).
Throughout her career she had local and international success. Her first solo exhibition was at Gallery 101, Johannesburg, in 1964 after winning second prize in U.A.T competition (1963). For more than ten years during the 1970s and 80s she was represented by the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg. She was chosen to represent South Africa at the Venice Biennale in 1966 followed by the São Paulo Biennial in Brazil in 1971 and the Houston Art Festival in 1980.
She taught drawing and History of Art at Witwatersrand University from 1963 until 1978. From 1989–91 she taught painting at Scuola Lorenzo de' Medici in Florence, Italy. She came back to South Africa in the early 1990s and taught drawing and painting at Michaelis School of Art in Cape Town for a short time. Her work became part of the National South African School and University curricula.
Later on in her career Mason exhibited and worked with the Karen McKerron Gallery and Art On Paper in Johannesburg; the Chelsea Gallery in Cape Town; the Pretoria Arts Association; the East End Gallery, East Hampton, New York; and at Art Basel Miami Beach, Florida, USA. Her work is represented in all the major South African National art collections and museums. Internationally she is represented in both private and public collections in Europe, including at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, UK, the USA at institutions including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington DC; and Yale University in Providence.
Mason’s work as a visual artist incorporated several techniques and methods and she was technically disciplined. She used oil painting, pencil drawing, print-making and mixed media. Mythical creatures and hyenas dominate her canvasses, something the artist herself refers to as trying to make sense of the chaos around her. She has admitted to a particular fascination with hyenas. She was motivated politically and made works that dealt with the atrocities uncovered by South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which began in 1996 and ran for two years.
In an artist’s statement from 2004, Mason is quoted as saying, “I paint in order to make sense of my life, to manipulate various chaotic fragments of information and impulse into some sort of order, through which I can glimpse a hint of meaning. I am an agnostic humanist possessed of religious curiosity who regards making artworks as akin to alchemy. To use inert matter on an inert surface to convey real energy and presence seems to me a magical and privileged way of living out my day.”