Extracts from Roger Lipsey's book: An Art of Our Own - the Spiritual in 20th Century Art', Shambhala, 1988.
'I am always, above all, curious. Saying - ' What would happen if I put this colour next to that one; remove this form and substitute another; enlarge this area, and diminish its neighbour', and so on. I am always expectant of a miracle.
'The change from the old to the new.
The worthless to the valued. The lost to the found'.
The Magic Studio
'When entering my workroom, I am unusually expectant and a bit fearful. It would not surprise me if, on opening the door, the work of the day before started to hum, sing or give off light.'
'A pot is spinning on the wheel, perfectly centred, its clay walls brought to the form desired by the potter. The wheel gradually begins to turn more slowly, until it comes to a stop. The pot is complete.'
'Just so, in my work, there comes a moment when time seems to slow down, the work and I seem to blend together, until everything, including time, stops. There is stillness, and the work is finished.'
Born in Beaufort West, Cape, South Africa, Cynthia Villet has resided and worked not only in South Africa, Canada, England and Israel, but - for many years - in Barbados in the West Indies with her architect husband, Kenneth Gardner.
During the 70s and 80s, this veteran artist was described by Princeton academic, Roger Lipsey, as 'one of the foremost artists of her day, a brilliantly creative, poetic spirit in the tradition of Paul Klee, Ben Nicholson and Jules Bissier'.
Villet has had many exhibitions over the years, notably the Kouros Gallery on Madison in New York, the Debel Gallery in Jerusalem, the O.A.S. Gallery in Washington and several showings at Die Kunskamer in Cape Town.
Villet has many achievements behind her. Besides being represented in many important private collections, both in South Africa and abroad, museum purchases include the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York, the Baltimore Museum of Art, U.S.A., the Jerusalem Museum of Modern Art, the OAS Museum of Modern Art of Latin America in Washington, U.S.A, and the South African National Gallery in Cape Town.
It was only after her husband's premature and devastating death in the early 90's that she returned to her birthplace and family in Cape Town, where she still lives and works. Her most recent work is in oils, watercolour and mixed-media on paper, together with monotypes and collages of a basically lyrical, abstractionist nature. Now, as always, her colours, textures and calligraphic markings hark back to the Karroo of her childhood, although the soft colours of Vancouver, the tropical brilliance of Barbados, and the desert colours and infinite patterning of the Jordan Valley - not so different in essential quality from the Karroo, really - have all played their part and left their mark.
A critic, writing in Artlook (a South African art journal, now defunct), described her paintings as 'powerful, completely different to anything we have seen here before, and a breath of something genuinely new... it presupposes an intelligently aware spectator, who realises that one gets out of a work of art only as much as one is prepared to give in understanding it..... these works will represent some of the most rewarding, and also the most frankly beautiful, paintings being made in South Africa today'.
1) Noted Cape Town art critic, Lloyd Pollack, looks at the art of Villet in the essay "Mirrors of creation". Click here to view the full text.
2) An article in "The Arts" by Howard Kany entitled "Villet in New York". Click here to view the original article.
3) The full catalogue from Cynthia Villet's exhibition in April - May 1985 at the Kouros Gallery, Madison Ave, New York. Click here to view the catalogue.
4) A wonderful selection of reviews and images - click here to view the full document.