‘These grew out of an ash pit’: landscape painting and environmental consciousness in twentieth-century South Africa
Kathy Rawlings is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History of Art and Centre for Visual Studies. Her doctoral thesis focuses on images of nature from twentieth-century South Africa made by artists who have gone unacklowledged in received histories of modern South African art. Looking beyond settler colonial and white nationalist representations of land (which dominate scholarship on landscape art in Africa) the project asks what other artistic engagements with the environment occurred throughout the twentieth century, and how we might interpret these in the context of late colonialism and then apartheid. The project will focus on works by Gladys Mgudlandlu, John Mohl, and Moses Tladi, among others.
Situated in the burgeoning field of ecological humanities, the project aims to open African art history up to a more experimental and interdisciplinary engagement with environment. Some of the bigger art historical questions that the project will ask include: How can we construct histories of art without an archive? How useful is the concept of modernism to African art history? What new methods can art historians use (or construct) to decolonise the discipline?
Kathy holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology, Art History, and English literature from the University of the Witwatersrand (2016), a Master’s degree in Anthropology from the University of the Witwatersrand (2018), and a Master’s degree in Art History from the University of Oxford (2019). Her research has been published in 'Confinement, Punishment and Prisons in Africa' (Routledge, 2021) and 'L'Afrique en prisons' (ENS Éditions, 2022) and she co-wrote a chapter about South African artists in postwar Paris for Wiley’s ‘Companion to French Art’ (forthcoming).
Her research is funded by the Clarendon Fund Scholarship and the Merton College Greendale Scholarship.