Here we will look at the work of an artist and “recorder” of the urban and country landscape, Titus Matiyane.
Growing up in the township of Atteridgeville, near Pretoria, Titus Matiyane never received a formal art education, yet constantly drew the township around him. He taught himself how to draw in perspective by carefully observing and drawing the long rows of township houses in their grid-like blocks.
In 1990, using such media as ballpoint pen, watercolour, felt-tip pens and pastels, he began to depict huge, sweeping views of cities and towns, and the spaces between and around them. Depicted in great detail, they appear to show every house and tree. They are panoramas of extreme length too – from “shorter” works of six metres long by two metres wide, to works of 46 metres long or more!
But Matiyane shows us these scenes as if from a great height, as if he were flying above. What is astonishing is his understanding of space, and his extraordinary ability to imagine views that he could not possibly have seen. This is especially surprising given that that he had never been in an aeroplane before 1998.
Matiyane depicted cities and towns that he knew, constructing images of those spaces from his experience of them and of journeying between them. But he also depicts cities from other countries of the world, basing his images on maps, plans and photographs – putting together all of this seemingly overwhelming information in a coherent way.
His drawings express the order and coherence that the world appears to have when seen from high in the air – but which is in total contrast to our actual experience on the ground, of the jumble and chaos of both cities and nature.