Any parent worth their salt would not be keen to have a struggling artist in the family. That’s what happened with Marie-Louise Koen. Read on to find out if it stopped her.
Returning to Cape Town three months ago, she set her mind to launching her first solo exhibition, Faces of a Woman. The idea was to get her name out there.
“It’s been a hobby. I never expected to sell anything. Like most artists we don’t like to sell our work, to see it go, it’s personal to me,” she said last week, on the final day of the exhibition.
“I’ve had an awesome response from people I know and people I didn’t know. And it’s a great location,” she said of the pop-up gallery above Latitude restaurant in Bree Street. When Marie-Louise was at Bergvliet High School (BHS) she excelled in sport and maths and yet yearned to paint.
Her parents, Josette and Stephen, encouraged her to become a quantity surveyor. She studied structural design at UCT, all part of her long-term plan, and presently works as consulting interior designer for an architecture company in New York.
With no formal training, she works with acrylics and oil – and she says she doesn’t sketch because she is “really bad” at drawing. In fact, she doesn’t put a lot of thought process into it, sometimes surprising herself, she said.
Sometimes it takes two hours to complete a painting, sometimes two weeks, and often she does not know when it’s finished. This seems to be a thread, one of not letting going of her art, some paintings she finishes and then later, sometimes years later, paints over them, re-using the canvas. This is what happened with Amelia, a painting that started life as a saxophone in BHS exhibition.
Marie-Louise says Faces of a Woman depicts a face and each face depicts an emotion, a spectrum of emotions, responses, reactions and reflections. The initial work is, Jocelyn, a portrait of one of her best friends. It’s the first painting she ever sold, to her friends’ parents, Albert and Karen van Eeden. Marie-Louise borrowed it as it is an important part of the Faces of a Woman collection.
As for the future, Marie-Louise returned to New York earlier this week for a few weeks before moving to the UK.
But she dreams of putting together another show and to build on her art, working it into fun and fashion prints, textiles, cushions, ceramics, making it accessible to everyone.
“And to do this I needed to know structure, design, how things work and how to build things,” she said.
Her parents are very supportive, her mum gets sad when Marie-Louise sells a piece, while her brother brother Matthew, 19, offers feedback and advice.