The Pandemic Project :: Ronél de Jager

Working from an image she had shot at the Bakoni Ruins in Mpumalanga in 2018, the work evokes both stillness and trepidation, a twist on the trope of idealised African landscape paintings. Limiting her palette to luminous tones of pinks and reds, reflect De Jager’s original photograph that was shot in infrared at the time, exploring the real versus the fictional. De Jager’s works at this time showed an anticipated future for either potential or regret.

Made especially for UJ’s ‘The Pandemic’ project, the imagery took on another dimension of meaning. De Jager says, “I had a cathartic experience when Lockdown was announced – I had a strange yet deep feeling of connectedness to the world, more than ever before. Perhaps one of empathy, as isolation is a state that the artist knows all too well. But there was more; I felt universal connectedness to other humans. I had a weird sensation of relief. Something was levelling about the experience – for once, the world was forced to come to a standstill.”

Undoubtedly, this relief tapped into a collective sense that COVID-19, for all the trauma and loss it brought to our species, also forced on us a moment of pause, of reflection. De Jager has said, “I’m drawn to these empty landscapes, filled as they are with latent energy, as they present to me, an idyllic space – devoid of human inhabitants.

People tend to ruin their environment. It often seems that things would be better off without us, and that nature’s potential and balance would be achieved in our absence.”

De Jager’s work often deals with a paradox: despite working from imagery that is culled from the fleeting pursuits of photography and videography, she is concerned with the notion of deep time. She examines our understanding of time, often by slowing down these snapshot in the medium of paint. ‘When the Earth Stands Still’, both in its title and in its imagery,