JONATHAN FREEMANTLE: DER HEILIGE BERG II

Freemantle’s passion for mountains has made him into somewhat of an alchemist and geologist mixed into one. Through much experimentation and analysis he started to make paintings of mountains using the very substance of the mountains themselves.

During Freemantle’s 6-year apprenticeship in London he learnt the ancient techniques of fresco, oil and tempera painting, which included instruction in making the paint itself. This experience allowed him to convey the necessary skills he uses now to make paint from the rocks, ochres and slates he gathers on two particular mountains. He has painstakingly ground the rocks down into a powder format and mixed these powders with beeswax, turpentine, linseed oil and Damar resin from the Damar tree. This is a dedicated process of taking the raw material and conjuring up an essence.

Freemantle has spent large periods of time in two specific mountain ranges: the mountains surrounding Rannoch Moor in Scotland and the foothills of the Magaliesberg in South Africa. Both ranges are ancient, amongst the earth’s very first. The mountains we see today are the eroded remains of behemoths of past millennia. Last year Freemantle carried out a 2-month residency at the Nirox Foundation, in the Cradle of Humankind. During his time there he was able to engross himself into these surroundings and make pigments from these ancient rocks. These are added to the rock samples he has brought with him from Scotland.

Freemantle will be exhibiting paintings of these mountains from both Scotland and South Africa. There are fascinating abstract capabilities eminent in these works. When discussing his formative influences one of the first artists that Freemantle mentions is German artist Joseph Beuys. He is regarded as one of the biggest influences on Twentieth Century modern art. Freemantle is particularly intrigued by Beuys’ shamanistic abilities. One can argue that Beuys’ linkages to the spiritual world overlaps with that of the Khoisan rock art history. Four small photographs taken of Joseph Beuys at Rannoch Moor by one of Freemantle’s mentors in Scotland, Richard Demarco are included in the exhibition.

Beuys declared Rannoch Moor “the last remaining wilderness in northern Europe”, a statement that led Freemantle to begin his search for the ‘perfect mountain’ in the first place. Another role model to Freemantle is his great great aunt, Cythna Letty, who was a botanical artist. She spent 40 years at the Pretoria Botanical Gardens studying and painting various plants. For Freemantle, her daily interactions with the plants granted her ‘an almost magical quality’. It is this magic or essence that Freemantle is constantly pursuing through his practice.

Thu 3 March – Mon 18 April Gallery MOMO, Johannesburg