From the first brushstrokes onto the canvas to the final reveal on the gallery wall, this video in my art studio shows the development of an oil portrait painting of an old woman with deep wrinkles.
The 1.4 x 1.4 metre painting entitled Sabire, Woman with Patience took me two months to apply five thin layers of oil paint with days of drying time in between each layer.
Inspiration for this work came from an old Turkish woman I met and photographed on my travels in 2008, who reminded me so much of the Maori kuia (elderly women) back home in New Zealand, including my own tipuna (ancestors). Much of my portraiture has been inspired by 19th century Western colonial artists Gottfried Lindauer and C.F. Goldie who depicted Maori elders in beautiful detail.
On a walk through the vast, rugged Kapadokyan landscape, I briefly encountered the woman waiting patiently with her collection of scarves to display and sell to passers-by.
The ancient history of the land and civilization of Asia Minor unconsciously weaved its way into this portrait.
As I painted, layer-by-layer, the woman’s wrinkles deepened and her character strengthened. Her immense whakapapa (genealogy) is suggested in her old yet glowing skin. The vastness of the region’s history shows in the seriousness and wisdom of her gaze.
The grooves of her face and the dark folds of her headscarf represent the weaving, bending and cyclical nature of life, and the flower-patterned scarf with its ornamental pearl edge brings an intricate, decorative quality to the painting.
On finishing the work I chose the name Sabire, which is a Turkish name meaning “woman with patience”. I felt that it encapsulated my own layered, lengthy painting process as well as the breadth of the old woman’s spirit, which had continued to reveal itself over the many weeks it took to create the portrait.
Thanks to Life TV for shooting the footage of my painting process on a sunny winter’s day in my studio and the reveal at Parnell Gallery. Episode 3 of Seed, Time, Harvest aired 21 June 2013 on New Zealand’s Prime and TV3 channels.
Written by artist Sofia Minson from NewZealandArtwork.com
New Zealand Maori portrait and landscape oil paintings