WELL-KNOWN Durban wildlife artist, Barbara Siedle brings her exhibition and the launch of her book, Breathe The Dust, to the Elizabeth Gordon Gallery until August 9. Known as one of KZN’s foremost wildlife artists, Siedle’s book centres on her personal journey of travels in South Africa.
From as long as Siedle can remember, being an artist is all she wanted to do. “I always enjoyed drawing. In matric I got the art prize. I wanted to go to Art School in Germany but my father insisted I do a shorthand typing course first which I did in London.
“I spent three years at the Academy of Fine Art in Munich before returning to Durban to settle down. Marriage and children became my life for a few years. During that time, the family went to the Kruger National Park.
“During that trip I developed an interest in birds. The Kruger has a special atmosphere… dry, dusty and natural. The feeling from being there in the bush was just so invigorating that I pursued the wild places with a passion.
“It was only natural that this translated into wanting to paint these wonderful places and animals. Maybe my love of the bush was always there but I had not had the opportunity to experience the bush like that.”
After much consideration, Siedle decided to write an illustrated memoir/travel/art book, Breathe The Dust. She shares: “It is always best to write what you know, so I’ve written about our various journeys to some of the more remote regions of our land – an amazing one up to northern Namibia to see the Himba people and desert elephants was one such trip.
“We had many adventures on that long drive. The book symbolises a personal and physical journey, starting with a time when my career as an artist got off to a very shaky start, culminating with the present time of having achieved some success in that world. It was also a time of tremendous growth for me.”
As for her ambition as an artist and what she’d like to achieve through her art, Siedle reveals: “The conservation message is always very important to any wildlife artist because without it all the wild places would disappear under the weight of humanity’s needs and greed.
“I hope people will have great enjoyment from reading my book. If anyone has travelled those paths, it’ll no doubt bring back their own memories. If they haven’t, I hope it will put a sense of yearning into them to travel there. The exhibition is a visual journey of the places and people and the birds and animals we saw. Sometimes there are just simple illustrations and other times, a full watercolour painting. The artwork displayed is all featured in the book Breathe the Dust and available at the gallery for R390.”
• The exhibition runs at the Elizabeth Gordon Gallery on Florida Road until August 9. For info, call 031 303 8133.