The Quadrille of Torture, Pain, Steel and Paint

Ilandi Barkhuizen


The preoccupation with the surface area in art making is an integral part of art practice as much as the development of new media is. It is an area that we often don’t give attention to when we look at works of art, yet it is there. It is a pedestal unto which ideas are communicated to us. The ancient artists, the San Hunter Gatherers, understood this; for instance they would use the bulge of the inside of the cave’s surface to express the bump of an antelope in an attempt to mimic form

The new body of work produced by the artist Ilandi Barkhuizen, in its exploration of the metal as a surface and re-entry into steel as a canvas acknowledges the ancient knowledge of the surface as an integral part of visual artistic expression. It may not move us into new uncharted territory by way of what we have seen, but it reminds us of the paramount nature of the surface in the art of visual representation.

The delicate Barkhuizen’s art making process in terms of media and surface treatment take precedence over the subject matter. Although the subject matter is relegated to the backseat, it is still considered important. In the interview that I recently conducted with the artist she acknowledges that the subject matter is a significant part of visual art production in her work; but not quite the focal point. Presently her aim is to bring the current subject matter that her work deals with closer to the surface she has opted to interrogate that subject matter unto. Ironically the chosen surface is metal itself.

She has decided to move away from canvas and instead opted to use metal as a surface. The interaction between paint and metal accentuates the subject matter of Barkhuizen which is the ‘devices of torture’ made of steel and leather. The scraping off of steel either following the painting process or prior serves as a way of exploring tonal values and textures that can be achieved either on treated steel surface or in its virgin form. Additionally the deliberate rusting of the steel surface gives the artist the opportunity to paint and work on a surface that has been prematurely modified towards decay resulting in thought provoking textures. The finish feel of the work gives off startling results. (Please see figure 1. Crusher, 2015)

Illustration 1. Ilandi Barkhuizen. Crusher, 2015. Oil on steel Canvas 29.7 x 42.0cm
Barkhuizen, Ilandi. Crusher, 2015. Oil on steel Canvas. 29.7 x 42.0cm

In Crusher, 2015 the rusted metallic surface which serves simultaneously as a background to the subject matter, the crushing device, complements the rust of the device of torture itself. The earthy tonal values of the painting underplays the violence inherent in the device such that attention is focus on form and the exposition of representation itself. This complementary gesture seen here is offered again in works such as Untitled ii, 2015 (see figure 2) and Pear iii, 2015 (see figure 3)

Ilandi Barkhuizen, Pear III, Oil on canvas, 29.7 x 42 cm
Barkhuizen, Ilandi. Pear, 2015. Oil on steel Canvas. 29.7 x 42.0cm


Pear iii (2015) itself is a tour de force in terms of the aura it elicit. It is finished and the interpretation that plays out in this work for us of the interplay between the steely peels of a flowery bud and the near marble surface area unto which it lays demonstrates that the artist is conversant with her media in terms of its possibilities. The corrosive look of the steel in the area representing the surface unto which the pear rests and the peels can also be been seen as an interplay between old corroded steel and new steel that has been fashioned into a sculptural form to mimic a living plant life.

Ilandi Barkhuizen, Mask I, Oil on canvas steel, 29,7 x 42 cm
Barkhuizen, Ilandi. Mask, 2015, Oil on steel Canvas. 29.7 x 42.0cm

To the observant and informed viewer armed with what the artist has set out to do here they will be in a fortunate position to witness the erection of a conversation between steel and paint in an attempt to animate these two materials towards mimicry.  In the work Mask (2015) see figure 3 the artist’s proficiency with  her media ‘paint on steel’ is evident in terms of the handling of form towards the modeling up of the mask, her expression of tones and understanding of the effects of light on metal is undeniable. The complimentary background surface witnessed in Crusher (2015) is brought back here to create depth. We see this performance once more on the work Untitled ii (2015) (see figure 4).

Illustration 2. Ilandi Barkhuizen. Untitled, 2015. Oil on steel Canvas 29.7 x 42.0cm
Figure 2. Barkhuizen, Ilandi. Untitled ii, 2015. Oil on steel Canvas 29.7 x 42.0cm

This performance of balancing the subject matter with the background rounds of the discourse between the painting of subject matter made out of steel and steel as a surface, a vehicle, for presenting this discourse itself. It is in a way self referential wherein the media emerges as taking center stage in terms of how it complements the surface and the surface in turn complements the subject matter to reinforce theme or content.

The exhibition Humanity Inhumanity sees Ilandi Barkhuizen making an inroad in the contemporary landscape of Tshwane Art Scene from a different perspective. Here a new language has been forged visually by adopting new media in the context of the surface area. Cloth canvas has been swapped for a steel canvas. Through oil paint, Barkhuizen, has opted to converse with steel as a surface area unto which a painting can be executed. It is charming

The Humanity Inhmanity Exhibition in which Barkhuizen’s work is on show together with the work of sculptors Andre Prinsloo and Sybrand Wiechers at the St. Lorient Fashion and Art Gallery until 4 June 2016. For more information call the gallery on Tel: 012 460 0284 and Email: or visit their website at

To read my interview with the artist please link up here


  1. Barkhuizen, Ilandi. Crusher, 2015. Oil on steel canvas. 29.7 X 42.0cm. artist’s collection.
  1. Barkhuizen, Ilandi. Untitled, 2015. Oil on steel canvas. 29.7 X 42.0cm. artist’s collection.
  1. Barkhuizen, Ilandi. Pear iii, 2015. Oil on steel canvas. 29.7 X 42.0cm. artist’s collection.
  1. Barkhuizen, Ilandi. Mask, 2015. Oil on steel canvas. 29.7 X 42.0cm. artist’s collection.


*This work together with the upcoming intraparadox edition wherein i interview Ilandi Barkhuizen was written in honor and memory of the late artist Dots Vermeulen.



21 May

© Mmutle Arthur Kgokong 2016