WORDS Michaela Stehr
Self-taught Mpumalanga-born felt artist Ronel Jordaan turns merino wool fibres into beautiful felted forms. Her latest creations, which she made for a group exhibition at Southern Guild called Colour Field last year, were informed by the geology of rocks and crystals.
What is the inspiration behind your latest felt pieces?
I have been creating “rocks” for a long time. When scientists look for life, they look at rocks and their composition, by which they can tell what the conditions or situation was for the formation of these rocks. For crystals to form, certain conditions are required, with certain combinations of compounds. Crystals form when molecules gather in an attempt to become stable. For me, it resembles us: We thrive or struggle in certain conditions.
Describe the process to create your felt “Crystals”.
The concept has been brewing in my mind since 2007. First, the wool is carded (combed with an industrial carding machine) and felted into sheets. Then the sheets are dyed and steamed. In our felting process we use a biodegradable soap and we recycle our water. Patterns are designed and the foam is cut to the shapes required, and the felt panels are stitched together. The one panel has acoustic foam that has a special fire retardant applied to it. I then use other dyes to stain and paint on top of the already dyed panels.
What inspired your colour choices?
I am a great admirer of the artist Mark Rothko. While thinking about how I would approach the exhibition theme, I remembered the impact Rothko made on me when I first encountered his work at the Tate Modern in London. I became quite emotional being surrounded by his art. I then thought that this would be my entry point, and so I slowly became more confident on what I wanted to say about Colour Field, an abstract painting movement of the ’50s and ’60s. My choice of colours reflects my emotions on the day I viewed the Rothko room at the Tate.
See more of Ronel’s work at roneljordaan.com.