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|Merit Award (Painting) Unisa1983 (Local)
|Corel Draw Africa Contest1983 Third place: Specialist Category (National)
The Persian poet, Rumi (Jelaluddin Balkhi), wrote: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” Berna’s current research is intertwined with this concept of everything being connected, planetary issues like global warming and climate change which impacts the earth and our existence. She creates imaginary maps with mythical journeys of humankind’s search for a long-forgotten past. These journeys are linked to the laws of physics and Antarctica as the “root of the earth” with a philosophy that refers to the current debate on the so-called “shift of the poles”, and the earthquake in Chile in February 2010, which, according to NASA, impacted on the earth's rotation and has shortened the length of an earth day and shifted the earth's axis.
In this way, she creates her own ‘code’. It has a strong focus on the idea that every event has significance and the power to change everything.
The complex maps are created in two formats, digitally and as paintings. The colour palette she uses, with red and black taking preference, refers to the alchemical process as well as the colour of the root chakra and serves as a link to the spiritual element of the prayer flags.
She has always been interested in the human figure and focused on the enigma of the human shape. During her studies at UNISA she used a handheld Polaroid camera to take photos of herself in a mirror to capture the essence of movement. The camera was an extension of her body - a physical thing - leaving traces of it in the process. She reworked these images on large-scale oil canvasses which confronted the observer.
In her final year she changed the way she worked with the figure. She still used photography to obtain source material, but the work became more directed towards portraiture. While pursuing her Honours degree in History of Art, she studied Feminism and became interested in the way women were perceived and depicted in art and society.
She was invited to take part in a group exhibition with a shared feminist focus at the Karen McKerron Gallery in 1989. The figure as subject matter was often depicted in a decorative manner, surrounded by “women’s things” including ornaments, household objects, fabric and so forth.
After some time off, she decided to continue her art career and enrolled at UNISA in 2008 for the Advanced Diploma for Visual Arts. During these two years she researched concepts in alchemy and Tibetan prayer flags and a way this could comment on a rather turbulent contemporary society, where war and violence form part of the daily news. She created her own prayer flags using these concepts where alchemy could be regarded as a type of framework, or a vehicle for art to function within the mythical realm that “points beyond the chaotic flux of random events.” (Armstrong, Karen: A short history of Myth, 2005)
Berna qualified as a graphic designer from the Johannesburg College of Art (now University of Johannesburg). During the late 1970s she enrolled at the University of South Africa (UNISA) and received her Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts in the early 1980s.