Published author, renowned artist, jeweller, teacher and violinist – this Italian-South African is a modern day renaissance woman.
After moving to South Africa in 1954, Severa Rech Cassarino commenced her journey and development in the art of self-expression by telling stories and drawing at a very early age. During her years at the St. Rose’s convent, she excelled in ballet and playing the violin, yet it was only when she studied Fine Arts at Wits University that she fully explored her talents as an artist.
Severa Rech Cassarino uses watercolour, oil, acrylics, pencils and mosaics or in combination. She often adds layers of oil over acrylic underpainting. She describes this process as being ‘a kind of ceremonial final kiss of love’ as oil has a translucency which is hard to surpass and leaves a sensuous surface that speaks of durability without intransigence.
She challenges her medium, predominantly evident in her watercolour collection. In these pieces, such as A Rose for Africa, it is evident that she moved away from the traditional application of the medium and explored a more detailed, translucent intensity.
Her work is melancholic, yet powerful; metaphoric but open to interpretation. She invites the viewer to explore themes within themselves, rather than forcing the viewer to analyse each piece in hope of retrieving the viewpoint of the artist.
Rech Cassarino says ‘The viewer – who at some point is also the artist – in presuming to ‘interpret’ the image is, on the surface, operating subjectively, but of course it is not without the effects of variables such as culture, sex, age, generation, religion and accumulated experiences; this is about the viewer’
In 2011, Rech Cassarino was invited to represent South Africa at the 54th International Venice Biennale, titled Stato Del Arte along with two other Italian-South African artists. This represented a massive achievement and a career highlight.
Her work can be found in many private collections, including that of Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, former president of Italy as well as corporate collections such as Anglo American, Renault South Africa, FNB as well as the Council Collection in Lake Como, Italy.
To Rech Cassarino, art is an integral part of life: ‘I address this not only through my creative endeavours but through the medium of teaching, watching with vicarious pleasure the first spark of creative joy even in the eyes of the very youngest acolytes,’ she says.
‘These pursuits have lead me towards the publication of four art books showcasing the creativity of children,’ she continues.
Mammals to Move You and Flight to Freedom (with the foreword written by the late Nelson Mandela), for example, were created in association with the South African youth. The artist’s involvement in Art Education is evident in the beautiful illustrations by the children she collaborated with and directed. These titles hold strong messages of empowering the youth and women, as well as confronting ecological issues.
Izzey and the Monster was written and illustrated by Severa Rech Cassarino, showcasing a new dimension to her art – she as an illustrator. This tale takes the reader, regardless of age, on a fantastical journey touching on ecology and wildlife conservation.
Her book titled Forget-Me-Nots is a celebration of her childhood, heritage and the whimsy of growing up in old Johannesburg. Those who experienced this particular era in the city, and the generations that hold a severe misconception of the era, can relish and appreciate her stories equally. Her vivacity is evident in each chapter.
Her storytelling ability is a defining trait and her mischievous style and colourful wordplay can leave one with vivid memories of a life not lead and an intimate fondness for people never met.
Although she teasingly describes herself as ‘the author as fraud’, her publications are cheerful combinations of visual art, illustrations and the written word in prose, poem and journal-style.
Her passion for creation has also lead to a career in art jewellery design. She describes her pieces as ‘small design adventures’ and their purpose is to bring their owner pure joy. Her necklaces and bracelets are a consolidation of unique beads sourced globally – from Venice to South Asia to West Africa. Each piece includes a statement bead; such as Venetian glass, Ethiopian silver, semi-precious stones, coral, animal bone, crystal or ceramic, to name but a few.
Severa Rech Cassarino’s artwork, publications and jewellery will be exhibited and sold at The Alliance Française in Johannesburg from Wednesday 6 June to Saturday 9 June.
Gallery Gerard Sekoto at the Alliance Française of Johannesburg
17 Lower Park Drive, Corner Kerry Road, Parkview, Jhb
Wednesday, 6 June 2018 from 18:00 – 20:30
The exhibition will run from:
7 – 8 June from 18:00 – 20:30;
Saturday, 9 June from 10:30 – 13:00
For enquiries or a preview: Contact Isa on [email protected]ry.org | 083 600 4030
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