British curator Emma Dexter’s comment that “since we are surrounded by drawing in our daily lives, this medium may reflect the human mark itself, offering a way to unshackle emotions and restore humankind’s broken state of being.” has significantly affected Sevenster’s approach to her artwork.
As a creative individual, the ability to unshackle from emotions and expose one’s own broken state requires the strength to self-liberate from both self-imposed restraints and the perceptions of society at large. As a woman living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Sevenster continually confronts the specific manifestations of her own OCD in her art making, as well as the shame she often feels in the face of society’s inherent prejudices around mental illness.
An important aspect of her work examines the need to behave ethically, a phenomenon referred to as Ethical Sensitivity that is exaggerated in people with OCD, and which is integral to the illness’s diagnostic criteria. Each person living with OCD will display this symptom to one degree or another by becoming caught up in irrational, precautious rituals with unique sets of rules to enable him or her to do the “right” thing.
In drawing, Sevenster has found a safe refuge from the constraints of the world at large, one that allows her to reveal her own obsessive rituals in tangible artworks. Her pen and pencil drawings here refer to her self-imposed method of “writing-based punishment” and represent a form of mental self-castigation. The images are derived from the formal shapes of certain Latin phrases: mea culpa (an exclamation of guilt and remorse), superbia (pride) and ratio (intelligence).
Through an ongoing visual exploration of her own seeming irrationalities, Sevenster’s art practice raises questions about this disorder.
Source: Dexter, E. 2005. Vitamin D: a new perspective in drawing. London. Phaidon Press Ltd.
Mem Sevenster is a fulltime artist based in Stellenbosh, Western Cape. She was born in Johannesburg in 1960. She received a BVA in 2016.
Sevenster builds mixed media installations and wall works using found objects as well as sculpture, collage, audio and video but drawing is her passion. She identifies with the Post-Conceptualism, New Romanticism notion in contemporary drawing. Integral to this is the expression of emotion is experience and feeling. Drawing in various forms surrounds us in our daily lives and for her it is an effective and immediate artistic expression because it is vibrant, experimental and dynamic.