Nichola Leigh

21 October - 8 November 2008

UCT, Irma Stern Museum, Cape Town
Cecil road.Rosebank 7700, Cape Town, South Africa, Tel: 021 685 5686

Curated by Julia Meintjes, this exhibition features works completed by Nichola following her recent travels exploring the landscapes of the

Cape Peninsula, Swaziland and Kwazulu/ Natal.


'Umgeni bushveld'

56x77cm, oil on canvas, 2008




Nicky Leigh writings about works:

'The works on this exhibition are a celebration of the African landscape in all its diversity and richness. I am passionate about the landscape and my heart will always be in Africa. The light is vibrant and bold, the heat unrelenting and overpowering at times and the contrasts of light and dark violent. There is nothing wishy- washy about Africa or its people. Africa can be both ruthless and tender – the landscape harsh, barren and dry or green, lush and humid.

'I am captivated by the bushveld in particular. I love Winter in the bush– the dryness of it with long golden grass, the flowering aloes like flames of fire in the bleakness, black fire burns, the smell of veld fires, cattle browsing and then the start of Spring with green shoots appearing out the burn. It reflects the hope of Resurrection – all things becoming new and transformed.

'All very romantic, I know, considering the overwhelming troubles of Africa but I find solace in the beauty and my heart always yearns for the open spaces, clouds, mountains, water and yellow grass, dry red earth and wind and there is always hope.

'I love the Cape too – with its windblown rugged mountains, Mediterranean light and climate, the variety of fynbos and crystal azure sea. I took a trip to the Cape this year for inspiration and found plenty of it. I took some beautiful drives around the Cape peninsula and especially loved the view from Boyes drive with windblown stone pines and the azure water behind. I also wanted to capture the clarity and freshness of the air.

'Kirstenbosch gardens are an artist’s paradise and I love the cycad gardens in particular. These ancient prehistoric plants intrigue me with their sculptural shapes and the variety of greens in their leaves. I want to capture the feeling one gets when exploring this amazing garden- the secret paths winding through foliage, different textures and colours of plants and the magnificent but treacherous mountain background.'





Cape Peninsula


'Kirstenbosch Gardens'

77x102cm.oiloncanavs 2008




'Kirstenbosch gardens'

50x65cm, Pastel, 2008



'Boyes drive, Cape Town'

76x101.5cm, oil on canavs, 2008




'Sentinel Hout Bay I'

65x80cm, Oil on canvas, 1992






'Nguni cattle in bushveld II'

76x101.5cm, oil on canvas, 2008




'Sunset through bare trees'

.56x77cm, oil on canvas, 2008



'Umgeni bushveld'

56x77cm, oil on canvas, 2008





Painting expedition 7 – 13 November 2006.


'Malolotja rocks 2'

77x103cm, oil on canvas, 2006





Nicky Leigh writings on the Swaziland Series:

'We spent our childhood holidays with our grandparents on their farm, Riverlands, near Carolina in the then Eastern Transvaal. We became familiar with the countryside and often went for picnics at nearby Skurwekop or Badplaas. Swaziland was often spoken about as a place to go and visit but we never got there.

'In 2005 my mother and I, always on the look out for new subject matter, decided to explore Swaziland. My mother had been to Swaziland and liked the mountains around Piggs Peak and had heard about Malolotja Nature Reserve. Malolotja is situated in the highveld and offers impressive sights, flora and fauna. It was everything we had hoped for. I had been looking for monolithic rocks and here they were in all their glory.
Huge monoliths – ironstones, quartzites and conglomerates – as old as 3600 million years containing single cell fossils representing the earliest forms of life on earth. These rocks stand up as high ridges because of their resistance to erosion.

I loved exploring around them, climbing them or observing them. They became like a city of stones – immovable, ancient and full of mystery. Mist crept up from the valley and shrouded the rocks giving an eerie atmosphere to the place. I loved the rocks when the sun illuminated the colours – soft greys, bright oranges, browns, soft creams and pinks set against emerald greens of grass and foliage. I am interested in the way the colours of the rocks change according to the time of day and weather. In overcast or misty weather the rocks were steely greys of varying tones and when the mist was thick they would disappear altogether. At sunset the rocks glow warm oranges and the greys.

The different shapes and topography of the rocks fascinate me. They seem to have a secret order as if placed randomly but to perfection - thrusting themselves heavenwards. As I drew them I tried to express a sense of their structure and solidity, their three dimensionality, the spatial relationships of the ones in the foreground to the ones in the distance, to each other and the whole and the shape of the spaces around them. I have constructed a pictorial space that invites the viewer to stroll amongst the rocks or along suggested pathways. I want the viewer to get a sense of space not just a flat two dimensional depiction. I also loved the long-stemmed cabbage trees growing amongst the rocks which gives the composition a strong vertical emphasis to counteract the diagonal and horizontal. My eye picks up on the strongest compositional thrusts and I manipulate the arrangement to emphasize these. Some of the works have a strong serpentine line flowing through the arrangement which encourages the eye through the space.

This felt like a magical place to me and the air seemed pregnant with possibility. What I want to captivate in these works is a sense of Africa’s bright uncompromising light and the strong contrasts of light and dark. I also want to captivate a sense of it’s space and colour. I have not put any people in the landscape as I saw it as a virgin place created before mankind – a place full of the whispers of eternity. The timeless rocks are surrounded by air, plants and trees alive with transformation. I want the viewer to get a sense of the magic of Africa as I have transformed it through my eyes.'




'Malolotja rocks 1'

77x103.5cm, oil on canvas, 2006






'Malolotja rocks II'

48x62cm, Pastel, 2006





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