“I hear the pictures before I see them, then I smell them. I hear them in a continuous time loop”, says Sharmaine Thérèsa Pretorius, a South African artist based in Oman.
For Sharmaine, also known by her pen name Ilza, art is a representation of holographic memories downloaded from the spiritual realm into a tapestry of multi-layered drawings containing puzzles, musical composition and maps. Her first debut exhibition of high-end art ‘Enclosure Fathom-Part I’ is set to be held in Oman from February 23 to 28 and is followed by a private offshore auction.
Synaesthetic by nature, Sharmaine possesses an uncanny ability to “smell” words and sometimes hear people’s thoughts loudly like sound. “At night, I dream their holographic memories. I pick up on the downloadable memories or thoughts of people by just being there.”
The distinct patterns and tessellations in her work repeat with an alternative rhythm of highly contrasting colours and dense work as a kind of horror vacui.
Characterised by extreme details and a hint of Vanitas, they speak of the travails of an intellectual mind torn between revelation and creation. The artist depicts frequencies and sound waves in a visual form, which can be interpreted according to their colour wavelengths.
“My pictures can be decoded according to the Ernst Chladni’s vibrating plate and the colour spectrum graph. I visualise the effect of vibrations that create lovely figures of resonance. It is musical composition in a very different style. I see music in colours and maths and in acoustic sound wave form as in Hans Jenny’s ‘cymatics’,” she says.
Her drawings are kinetic with optical illusions, and ranges from surrealism to metaphysical shades inspired by her inexplicable dreams. But her quest to document her dreams and what she perceives comes at a price.
“When I was young, I had frequent migraines. It took me long to figure out, that it usually happens when I had exposure to a lot of people within a short period of time. I download too much of their collective holographic memories, therefore the terrible headaches.”
Sharmaine also suffers from an auto-immune condition Secondary Sjögren Syndrome with mixed tissue disorder, which spurred her on to complete some work as her personal battle against “not giving up” and also made her determined to excel academically.
She accidentally discovered that as she cuts out pictures or draws randomly, her headaches vanish. “In the beginning, I thought I was drawing randomly. But then I did realise that I was actually copying dreams.”
One can observe a supernatural presence in her drawings, which lies hidden beneath the carefully structured juxtaposing mirror images. Most of her works had taken years to complete. “I would see something and then years later: again. The airwaves are not static. The pictures usually move, I try to incorporate that into my work. My ability started fading as I got older, but it is still very present.”
Her work ‘UVEA’, a combination of a bunch of grapes, eyes, planets, directions and a bigger map, took her eight years to complete.
“It was phenomenal seeing it framed at last, as the mirrors in the frame form the compass rose, which one day would enable someone to read the map correctly. I think it may even be my best work ever. It also includes a hidden Chladni musical composition.”
A closer glance also reveals incorporation of wool in her drawings. In some, this is in part a reference to her matrilineal surname ‘Webb’, which means ‘those who weave’, and also to the way ancient ‘Irish weavers’ used to stitch secret messages into fabric.
Her work ‘Mars Trojan–ELON–The Shroud’ is relevant today as it addresses our concepts about Mars (war), rockets and recent ‘rocket man’ media comments. It has been visualised by the artist long before Elon Musk sent his red Tesla sports car with its dummy called ‘Spaceman’ into orbit on the Falcon Heavy satellite. The drawing features a rocket behind one figure, ‘Rocket man’ and the ‘dummy’ or ‘mask’ of the man on his way towards outer orbit. The viewer is actually observing the artwork through the windscreen of ‘whatever vehicle’ they are travelling in.
What is even more interesting is that both this painting and ‘Change Ygdrasil’, a paper and digital composition of different drawings, had been uploaded to Asgardia –Nanosite Satellite1 and have been orbiting in low-space orbit since November 2017 already, as part of her involvement with the ‘Asgardia Space Nation’.
Maretha Maartens, a well-known South African author and also her spiritual mentor, notes about her: “The essence of this extraordinary mind, I think, is profound integrity. It is joy, spirituality and being in contact with God, man and her own soul. When she paints, knits, sews and creates, her brush or needle is dipped into her own nature.”
The copyright of all photos belong to SHARM.T.P. (also known as Sharmaine Thérèsa Pretorius)
Guest Author Bio
Mary Philip is a freelance writer who dreams in words and writes in dreams. She loves art and artists alike. She has worked previously as a journalist and copyeditor. Mary holds a Master of Arts degree in English.