Diane Victor is a South African artist and renowned printmaker, known for her satirical and social commentary of contemporary South African politics. Made using of charcoal and candle smoke, her portraits of missing children are among Victor’s most esteemed works.
Her work uses the figure to create complex narratives relating to contemporary South Africa and to the more global crisis of war, corruption and violence in both the public, political and in private life.
Victor's smoke portraits explore subjects often overlooked, like South African prisoners awaiting trial and missing children.
These portraits capture individuals stuck in a vulnerable moment, reinforced through the impermanent nature of the medium used. That somehow in-between presence and absence.
Her attraction is to the direct relation between the fragility of human life and the susceptibility of the physical image.
For Victor, "the portraits are made with the deposits of carbon from candle smoke on white paper. They are exceedingly fragile and can be easily damaged, disintegrating with physical contact as the carbon soot is dislodged from the paper. I was interested in the extremely fragile nature of these human lives and of all human life, attempting to translate this fragility into portraits made from a medium as impermanent as smoke itself".
The texture of smoke on paper is very different to charcoal and pen or ink. The manipulation of flame is very difficult to control. An aspect of Victor’s is how seemingly effortless the final pieces look and that betrays how dedicated and hardworking the artist is. To be able to manipulate such a fragile medium requires great concentration and practice.
The word ‘ephemeral’ is often used to describe these works. The word can bring thoughts of momentary, impermanence, fleeting and those are hard words to place with faces of real people.
Diane’s clever use of her medium of smoke itself as a way of capturing those we let drift away creates a deeper impression. Her work speaks of a critical view of how South Africa handles these cases