A need to communicate
South African artist Jill Trappler was born in 1957 in Benoni and studied at the Johannesburg Art Foundation. A weaver by profession, she is known for her vivid abstract paintings, strong commitment to artists’ development and socially engaged arts projects. She was involved in founding and running many influential contemporary art initiatives in South Africa including Thupelo Workshops, Greatmore Studios and Bag Factory Studios. She is currently on the Board of the National Arts Council.
Jill Trappler was born in Benoni, Gauteng in South Africa, in 1957 and studied art with Bill Ainslie at the Johannesburg Art Foundation and through UNISA. Trappler has an active and committed career with many different strands emerging over the past twenty-five years: as a painter, weaver, socially engaged artist-facilitator, art teacher and lecturer and as founder and trustee with many of the significant contemporary visual arts organisations in South Africa. She lives and works as a full-time professional artist in Cape Town.
Trained as a weaver, she has spent her adult life teaching drawing and painting in a range of settings. In the 1970s she taught at the Federated Union for Black Artists, the Johannesburg Art Foundation, The Autistic School and Baragwanath Hospital, Soweto. Since the 1980s she has taught from a studio at home, on a docked ship, in the Occupational Therapy department of a Cape Town hospital and most recently has lectured at the University of Cape Town Summer and Winter Schools.
A commitment to art in the wider social context led her to set up art and craft projects in different institutions in South Africa from 1981-96. She initiated the weaving employment project with women at Philani Nutrition Clinics, Crossroads and Khayelitsha and established the Intle weaving co-operative at Crossroads. She assisted in setting up the Wolani papier mache project for HIV-positive women, providing skills and organisational training. Again at Crossroads she helped establish the Flagship printmaking employment project.
Jill Trappler was on the working group of artists who started Thupelo Cape Town Workshops in 1990. Run on the Triangle Arts model, the two week artist-led workshops involve 25 artists from South Africa and other countries in Africa. Trappler worked as Administrator for Thupelo and was a participant and/or co-ordinator for many Thupelo workshops including South African National Gallery, Cape Town International Workshops and Robben Island. She also set up Dorman Street Studio, Valkenberg Studios and later the Greatmore Studios. Jill Trappler is currently a trustee of Thupelo, Greatmore Studios Trust and the Bag Factory Studios in Johannesburg. Since 1996 she has served on the committee of the Association for Visual Arts (AVA) in Cape Town and been the Chair since 2000. In 2003 she was appointed to the Board of the National Arts Council.
As an artist, Jill Trappler mostly makes non-figurative work on two-dimensional surfaces – canvas, cloth and paper. She prefers to work in oils but also uses mixed media and drawing. Her concern is with the exploration of pure colour, form, surface, texture and how these integrate. Everyday objects – washing on a line, books on a shelf – are transformed in her paintings into a harmonious abstraction using vivid colour, free forms and tactile surfaces. In other work, Trappler takes a larger sensual inspiration as in the series of paintings entitled ‘Breath’. Here Trappler was infused with the brilliant yellow colour, the vivid spring light and atmosphere of a journey through the Swiss countryside. ´It was the surprise or revelation of the colour that I wanted to paint, to copy the sense of marvel that I felt from that colour.´
Of her most recent solo exhibition at AVA in Cape Town in 2003, Trappler says:
´It is difficult to find a painting that has life, where light sits inside the paint. In these paintings, you either ‘get it’ or you don’t. This is how they were made. The viewer is a continuation of the experience – a place of engagement, creating an intimacy with a curious object.
Paintings need to be curious objects so that I am surprised by their newness and enjoy their humour, something complex, yet expressed simply and economically. Paint is intimate and familiar; it keeps changing, each colour demanding attention.´
Elsewhere Trappler has written about her relationship with painting:
´Paint is an adventure for me. Its value lies in the way it is related to my experiences in life and the necessity of living and being awake. With paint I find a place where thought and action seem inextricably and deeply linked. The work becomes a composition of many interacting processes and themes emerge like all the strains of sound coming together in music or streams of water adding to the confluence of a river. While embracing the uncertain and the desire to investigate my senses, I give in to the demands of painting as I do to life.´
Trappler began exhibiting in the late 1970s in group exhibitions in South Africa and abroad. Since 1990 she has participated in shows in Germany, France, Australia, Uganda, Switzerland and Wales. She has held seven solo exhibitions in South Africa. Her work is represented in numerous private collections around the world and in a variety of public and corporate art collections, including the South African National Gallery, Vodacom and Investec.
SOURCE: Partly based on text on the Association of Visual Artists website www.ava.co.za
Work in various private, corporate and public collections including South Africa National Gallery (SANG), Vodacom, SABC, Investec. Nandos UK. UCT
Exhibition / Installation
Johannesburg, Cape Town, Germany, New York, France, Australia, Luxenbourg, Switzerland, Uganda, Wales and Stellenbosch.
Fund raising auctions, Standard Bank (JHB)
Exhibition / Installation
1990, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006
2004 Chairman: AVA gallery, Cape Town
2003 Member: Board of National Arts Council, South Africa
1999 Trustee: Greatmore Street Studios
1999 Trustee: Thupelo, Cape Town
1999 Trustee: Bag Factory Studios, Johannesburg
1999 Chair: AVA, Association of Visual Artists, Cape Town
1996, 1995 & 1990 Thupelo International Art Workshops