Abstract artist Regi Bardavid’s work stood out at 1:54 | London with authentic magic, amongst work showcased from 40 exhibitors from the 54 countries that make up the African continent. We spoke to the artist about meditation, painting large and the peculiarity of chance. 

Why do you paint?

It’s a necessity. I have to be in my studio; I have to paint. I place a lot with chance, and I like to surprise myself, and I’m all the time looking for coincidence and a story that comes about in the painting just by mark-making and throwing the paint. The basis of my paintings is playfulness. I have to paint until I get a connection with the painting. Once it has a presence, a dialogue begins, and it starts talking to me. I have to be very careful not to instill my will on a painting. If I don’t show it respect, it shows me the zap sign. I have to surrender and trust. Like breathing, walking and love making, art making should be simple. I play with paint until I get a connection with the painting, then it paints and speaks for itself. Chance and the mystery of life take over as I get transported while making shapes.

Mutual Interactions, 2016. Oil and beeswax on canvas.
Mutual Interactions, 2016. Oil and beeswax on canvas.

You are fascinated by chance…

Chance is peculiar. It’s the mystery of life and going beyond the appearance of things – just going into the deep. I’m a Pisces, so maybe it’s going under water that attracts me. When I work, I need to be surprised, and I need to surprise myself as I work. I play a lot with chance, and I like to surprise myself. I’m looking for coincidence and a story that comes about in the painting just by mark making and throwing the paint. First thing in the morning I take paper and pencils and I do freestyle painting or drawing just to play around, not to make an image. It’s all about what appears by chance. I make at least three of them and very often I put them in my studio and often I’m surprised that there’s something else that’s there that I didn’t anticipate. Sometimes what I see is very positive, other times it’s very demonic. 

I drink Turkish coffee, and after drinking, I swirl the remnants in the cup, and I read the patterns. So, yes, I believe in chance. I’ve always been fascinated by sangomas. They throw the bones and get a message. I throw paint, and it opens up another world. I’m from Egypt, and I think that Egypt has a lot of that magic. I don’t think one should interfere with that. For me, the painting I want to do is not to interfere with the paint and the painting. The painting paints itself.

Visual Insight, 2016. Oil and beeswax on canvas.
Visual Insight, 2016. Oil and beeswax on canvas.

Why do you paint large?

I love large canvases because they become a playground. I often paint on the floor so I can pour paint and do what I want. When a work is large, you can transport yourself into it. It’s the same for the viewer. Small paintings are not something I’m good at. A painting should be something that you can travel into.

For you, art making is your meditation…

When I paint, I’m seeking a form of transcendence where the mind is held as still as possible. Why would I do such a process? For me, it’s like being a child playing with mud under a water faucet. You make shapes, and you get transported. One can see beyond appearances into everything. I’m fascinated by what is released. The images that are released by this kind of art-making ritual are indecipherable but recognisable to me as family images. I’ve had a life with many challenges, and have had to move many times. The painting is a portrait. It doesn’t have to reflect the physicality, but it is a portrait of my life.

Dynamic Unity, 2016. Oil and beeswax on canvas.
Dynamic Unity, 2016. Oil and beeswax on canvas.

Regi Bardavid exhibited at 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London in October 2016.

She has had eight solo exhibitions locally and internationally, and her work features in numerous prestigious collections.

Regi is an artist in the Nando’s Chicken Run programme and a large body of her work features in Nando’s Art Collection. Nando’s UK partnered with 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, the leading international art fair that’s dedicated to Contemporary African art, to tell the story of four talented artists who feature in the Nando’s Art Collection.

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