It’s time for a new website!

I’ve decided to separate my current art work from my studies. This website was set up as a requirement for my art studies by correspondence in the UK. From now on, I will post my work on my new website at

Hope to see you there!

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My Sower Pots

I have made three sower pots so far, without any deep research into the symbolism of The Sower over the ages. In this post I want to go back to the beginning and find three paintings from different periods of time and see how my sower fits in when compared to history.


The Limbourg Brothers, October, from Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, 1413-16, Chantilly, France

Near the late phase of the Middle Ages in 1413, the Limbourg brothers painted October – a ‘page’ from 12 ‘pages’ each representing a month of the year in a three dimensional – Luxurious Book of Hours. This format is in itself intriguing because it denotes space and time in such a physical way. The top third of the painting is a separate panel which extrapolates the heavenly skies onto the month of October. The remaining two thirds, is split into two further halves, as if to accentuate the huge class divide that existed because of feaudalism. Here the sower dressed in the colour of the heavens, not only stands as a metaphor for the class divide but also for his complete reliance on nature’s seasonal cycles. 1]

Jean-Francois Millet, The Sower, 1850, 1

Jean-Francois Millet, The Sower, 1850, 102 x 83 cm

Jean-Francois Millet’s sower probably influenced me most. It was painted at the onset of the Modern Age in 1850, when society was being redefined in a new sense – by the machine, scientific and material progress, reason and freedom – and no longer by space and time. This painting was painted in France, two years after the socio political revolt against its monarchy which ended in failure for the peasantry, who had hoped to be rid of feudalism and be in a position to own land, but that was not to be. Deceived by their leader, their rural way of life soon became more unsustainable and they had no choice but to move to urban areas where industrialization was setting the tone. That must be why Millet painted his peasant sower so darkly and faded against the landscape, as if to point to that betrayal – the silent victim of industrialization. 2]

I think Charles Baudelaire grasped the modern world so well when he wrote, ‘Modernity is the transitory, the fugitive, the contingent, the half of art, of which the other half is the eternal and the immutable.’ He called on artists to assert their freedom to create in a new style and define the meaning of their times. 3]

True to himself, Vincent van Gogh, did exactly that with colour. He wrote to his brother Theo, in 1888, ‘I borrowed Millet’s sower…the sowing man that stands for the longing of the infinite’. 4] And then he expresses himself so vigorously through colour, letting it do all the work, and paints infinity in the landscape and transforms the golden yellow sun into the sower’s halo.


Van Gogh, The Sower, 1888

Since the Vincent years, we are still changed by ongoing revolutions that continues to hit our half-train of modernity, like waves of progress and cross waves of destruction. Such a  cross wave hit the Middle East in August 2014, when ISIL killed 5000 Christian men in Sinjar city and forced 50 000 Yazidis Christians, mostly women and children, to flee to Sinjar mountain, where they were trapped without water and food from 9 to 13 August.

It was shortly thereafter that I made my first Sower pot and like Van Gogh, I borrowed Millet’s sower, with his outstretched arm and placed him on my circular canvas, abstract and unrecognizable to the modern world.

The Sower Aug 2014

The Sower 1, August 2014, Porcelain vase 19 x 14 cm

The migrant crises intensified after that and during 2015, we watched as millions of people fled from war torn counties like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, and from poverty stricken areas like Kosovo, Albania, Eritrea, Somalia, Gambia and Senegal over the Mediterranean sea flooding Europe, Jordan and Turkey with the hope of settling and finding new jobs.

My sower stands here, as abandoned houses are scattered like chaff, while 7 birds fly past that look like stars, waiting, hoping, but still unrecognizable by the half-train of progress.

By 2017, as the validity of Einstein’s theory of relativity is questioned and mitochondrial Eve sheds new light on evolution, the compassion of the West has grown cold. Liberalism is giving way to a new kind of populist-conservatism and the refugee and migrant flood keeps on escalating. Only, last week, Syria’s Assad threw sarin gas onto his own people – the ones too proud or too poor to leave. In my own country, thousands of people took to the streets to protest against our corrupt president, while Trump was bombing an airfield in Holms, impulsively, without having a long term strategy, but hopefully to slow down Assad’s frenzy. Then, on Saturday two Christian churches were bombed in Egypt by ISIL

I had no choice, but to also escalate the size of my third sower pot, while the poor and meek are still trampled underfoot and we are all moved by the present cry of suffering, as it is being measured against the past.

My sower stands prominently, like the Limbourg brother’s sower, but as the sower has today disappeared from our landscapes, so has he from our modern day life, and the longing that Vincent wrote of is ironically, replaced by a not knowing at the onset of the Age of Knowledge.


  1. Janson, H.W., 1998. History of Art. 5th ed. Japan: Thames and Hudson., p379
  2. Encyclopedia Britannica. 2010. Revolutions of 1848. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 5 April 2017].
  3. Janson, H.W., 1998. History of Art. 5th ed. Japan: Thames and Hudson., p937
  4. Charles, V., 1997. Vincent van Gogh. 1st ed. England: Parkstone Press p 73
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Finding my potter’s feet

It was last spring that I decided to make my own glazes and before spring arrives again, I want to reflect on what I have found in the invisible cosmos of glaze chemistry, where surface is perfectly synchronized with what is underneath it. I will also share my journey with colour and briefly explore the uncertain place that drawings occupy on my pots.


It simply amazes me that everything in glaze-making turns around neutralizing the melt of silica, the main glassformer.  This challenged me to find and understand the ingredients that make up glazes of various textures.

My experiments started out with the simplest of glazes, a mixture of feldspar and whiting. The result was a satin smooth surface with fine cracks. By adding calcium borate frit, the fine cracks disappeared and more gloss came out. Talc made it fat and buttery and by playing with the clay content and increasing the level of zinc oxide even crystals formed. These adjustments snow balled into a continuous balancing of cause and effect between that which is below and that which is above, between the unseen and seen.

Crystalline Matte tests

Crystalline Matte tests


The relationship that exists between visible light and transition metals drew me into the deep world of small scale nano particles, where I believe all colour is born.

It surprised me that the electrons of transition metals behaved unlike that of any other elements, because of their unique ability to absorb certain wavelengths of the visible light. This absorption manifests as energy which then propel electrons to higher energy d-orbitals. Unnecessary energy is at the same time reflected and it is this very act that makes colour visible to the human eye. It means that visible red is not red absorbed. I find it fascinating that we can’t see absorbed colours and wonder whether it is because our minds simply can’t bear the complexity of seeing an infinite number of individual colours all at the same time?

Always weighing the seen with the unseen, the glazemaker is very familiar with the workings of red iron oxide, a transition metal oxide, which turns umber brown if fired to 1260 degrees Celsius. (When a painter mixes all the colours on the colour wheel together and excludes red – you get umber brown.) Isn’t it a tragedy that excruciating fire is needed to reveal the true colours of red?

My favourite potter, Edmund de Waal said, ‘it’s about subjecting yourself to this refining fire, this process of change, this alchemical thing. It’s about being in the fire and something different is happening.’


Different happenings based on your choice of glaze ingredients have so much metaphorical content that I often feel drawings are superfluous, but one more time, I want to put it all together. I love the ancient buncheong pottery of the 15th and 16th century in Korea. These potters incised designs on relatively coarse gray clay bodies, which they then painted with white slip and covered in a green-tinted semi-translucent glaze. 5] They freely pushed the limits of form by occasionally joining together the forms of animals, like the dragon and the fish on ordinary household wares.

I challenged myself to make a  dassie-bear teapot, I wanted to see whether an ancient form could carry the weight of a post modern re-interpretation of Millet’s sower and Soutine’s town landscapes. By also juxtaposing glossy, satin matte and stony glazes in my drawings, it resulted in a multitude of influences synchronized in the present. It has an unsettling feel about it as you try and scratch for meaning and as soon as you find some, you seem to loose it again under the many influences. It feels like the twist of Africa.


But still, I wonder did my drawings deliver anything? Could a multitude of glaze layers have produced the same effect? I just don’t know. I’ll have to try and see.


  1. Bloomfield,L 2014. The handbook of glaze recipes. 1st ed. London: Bloomsbury Publishing plc
  2. Taylor, B.,Doody, K 2014. Glaze. first edition. London: Quarto Publishing plc.
  3. Transition metal complexes and colour. 2000. Western Oregon University. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2016].
  4. Edmund de Waal’s muse music – Handel – Messiah – But Who May Abide The Day Of His Coming. 2011. Phaidon. [ONLINE] available at
  5. Joseon Buncheong Ware: Between Celadon and Porcelain. 2016. The Metmuseum. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 30 June 2016]
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Where am I and what is my name?

Our family moved 5 times in recent years, mainly because of our decision to move to the UK in 2007 and to return back home 4 years later. Two weeks ago, I unpacked our 109 boxes, again, (down from 233) and it dawned on me, that –  yes, I must be a pilgrim in the making. I don’t belong anywhere, I’m just traveling through. I have no time or reason to get puffed up over earthly treasures. So, keeping my eye on heaven, I want to fly a little, play on the mountain tops and soar above the mundane, tilt my head and look down at my pots and enjoy their fine forms, colours and subtleties, but also challenge those qualities to see what they could become.

I call them pots, but one day, maybe I would be able to call them chapters, because together they will tell my story. Below, without too much of a todo, I will evaluate them, as they are on the 21st of October 2015, then give myself some homework and make the rest of them.

The pots living on my shelves at home are:

Lara pot 11cm - stoneware

Lara pot 11cm – stoneware

Lara pot – What I like most about this pot, is how spontaneous the drawing is. Thereafter, I like the colours and the fact that the pot reflects the imperfections of being made by hand. But, all and all, it looks like an unfinished impression, it is not the haphazardness that bothers me, but rather the lack of technical skill to make appropriate haphazard glazes.

Three pots: 2014

L: Woman with myrr M: Daisies R: Fynbos

L: Woman with myrrh 18cm
M: Daisies 20cm
R: Fynbos 19cm

The 2 pots on the right, leave me a bit cold. The one on the left, woman with myrrh, is the one I like more. Perhaps because it is the only one that has meaningful content, to me.

My wild flower pot:

Wild flowers 2015 13cm - Porcelain

Wild flowers 2015 13cm – Porcelain

This is one of my favourites. These strange wild flowers are full of symbolism. The glossy glaze inside the pot contrasts well with the courser slips and unpainted surface on the outside of the pot. The form is also a bit unusual.

My daughter pot:

My daughter pot - Stoneware 14cm

Daughter pot – Stoneware 14cm

The daughter pot is done on stoneware and I like the contrast of white picket fence against the unglazed rough creamy surface of the stoneware clay. I was looking back when she 11 years old, now that she has left for varsity in the Cape.

A revisit of Millet’s sower:

Porcelain vase 14 x 18cm, June 2015

Porcelain vase 14 x 18cm, June 2015

Here the hand of the sower is seen against a landscape with people walking in the background, as if to give support or offer mercy. So yes, I like the content. But, the glazes are not so good. The colours work but they are not well made. More research into glazes etc. are needed here.

Experimental cylinder thown on the wheel:

Abstract lines 17cm

This was one of my first cylinders thrown on the wheel. I like the decoration of layered slips, but greater depth and variety needs to be explored. My wheel skills also need to be improved because I want to be able to throw large ones.

To summarize, I value the following attributes:

  1. Spontaneity
  2. Hand built imperfections – as if to give the pot a voice.
  3. Meaningful content – perhaps only to myself
  4. Unusual forms
  5. Layered slips
  6. Contrasting subtleties

Things to avoid:

  1. Lack of technical knowledge to express the outcome adequately. (Shabbiness only works if it what was required for the outcome.)
  2. Simply representing a theme, without interpreting it.
  3. Neglect to plan glaze outcomes
  4. Neglect to plan the inside of the pot

Todo list:

  1. Draw unusual forms that will provide me with a canvas
  2. Draw abstractly as well as what I would call interpretive drawings – like the mercy of Millet’s sower.
  3. Research glazes. Configure high fire base for glazes, crackle glazes, celadon, opaque glazes, satin matt and glossy glazes, etc.
  4. Explore layered slips and glazes.
  5. Contrast textures
  6. Contrast the inside and outside
  7. Contrast forms made from porcelain, stoneware and dark clays
  8. Contrast hand built and wheel thrown work
  9. Contrast toxic versus non toxic glazes
  10. Contrast toxic colours versus ‘friendly’ colours

In many ways the items on my todo list run concurrently, but at least it will provide me with some sense of structure and a check list.


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Recently, my thinking around my OCA studies changed substantially. It dawned on me that I can tailor-make my own learning experience to suit my love for ceramics, which I have not been able to do while studying for a degree at OCA.

I have one of the best ceramic teachers, John Shirley. He is not only a great ceramicist, but also a gifted teacher. His workshops are packed with technical knowledge, valuable practical advise and he has a keen interest in his students to help them on their journey to become ceramicists. It was at one of these workshops that he challenged us to find three qualities that make our work unique to ourselves. I have never really given this much thought, but being able to verbalize these qualities have increased my awareness and simplified my process a great deal, even though many other qualities continuously jostle for a place in the top three.

At the time (July 2015), I felt that the expression of an ethereal quality is what I aspire to in my pots. For me, this translates into ethereal colour, the most difficult part of ceramics. Something that I have not managed to achieve myself, nor seen in the work of other artists, even though I am looking for it all the time. It is like seeking the face of God, you know how it feels but you can’t visualize it. My second quality that I long for, is simplicity of form. In the same sense that Diebenkorn described it as ‘complexity resolved’. For me, it is a metaphor for the complexities of life stripped away and is expressed for the time being in cylindrical shapes. Thirdly, I look for tension. It could be in the slightest curve of an otherwise straight cylinder or it could simply be in the paradoxical narrative that a line conveys.

I am still a long way from reaching these qualities and my thoughts are only just beginning to take shape, but I see many glaze tests and experiments ahead of me, which I would like to write down, here, on these virtual pages.

My thoughts are always a little bit ahead of my most recent pots, but here they are:

I made this hand build pot after a visit to the Kalahari, remembering the colours of sunrise – pink, blue and dry grasslands. The drawing is my interpretation of a Jean Francois Millet’s The Sower.

Porcelain vase 14 x 18cm, June 2015

Porcelain vase 14 x 18cm, June 2015

After  many years of hand build work, I returned to working on the wheel, with John Shirley, and I’m becoming intrigued with the simplicity of cylinders.

Stoneware cylinder, 10 x 12 cm

Stoneware cylinder, 10 x 12 cm, July 2015

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Formal Assessment Result

July 2015

Dear Charleen Brunke,

We are pleased to advise the confirmed pass result for the formal assessment of your course: Painting 2: Exploring Concepts Formal Assessment – PASS

Pathway Guidance The credits attached to this assessed course will be registered with UCA. To date this will mean you have the following credits:
Level 1 (HE4) – 120 credits Level 2 (HE5) – 60 credits Level 3 (HE6) – 0 credits

You are enrolled on the BA Hons Painting so your remaining 60 credits required at Level 2 (HE5) must be obtained from either Painting 2: Mixed Media or Drawing 2 as outlined on the BA Hons Painting degree pathway. This can be viewed at: uk/asset/document/painting-pathway-1.pdf

If you would like advice regarding your degree pathway please contact the Registrar at

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Submission for July 2015 assessment

CONTENT LIST: Painting 2-Exploring Concepts

Sent per courier to OCA:

  1. PORTFOLIO OF 12 PAINTINGS : Listed below
  2. CRITICAL REVIEW:  Printout and word doc on memory stick. It can also be read on my blog at the following address:

Online Submissions:

  2. TUTOR FEEDBACK ON ASSIGNMENTS : All assignments submitted during the course, can be found under the category : assignments on my blog. My tutor’s feedback was copied at the end of each posted assignment.
  3. SELECTED PREPERATION WORK: Can be found on my blog at the URLs listed below under my Portfolio of 12 paintings –  Painting 4 of 12 (Little Hope), Paintings 5 & 6 of 12 (Skye Lake after Frost and Skye Lake after Cotman, Painting 9 of 12 (Abstract based on Woman Playing the Lute) Painting 10 of 12 (Nineveh/Oscar Pistorius), Paintings 11 & 12 of 12 (Portrait of a Young Woman)


Painting 1 of 12:

Submitted for Assignment 2

Project Looking – Prep work was posted on 20 November 2013 on


Round baintbrush on 1m stick, 60 x 78cm

Round baintbrush on 1m stick, 60 x 78cm


Painting 2 of 12:

Submitted for Assignment 2

Project Self Portrait – Prep work was posted on 28 January 2014 on


Are you brave enough?

Are you brave enough?

Painting 3 of 12:

Submitted for Assignment 3

Project using acrylics and oils together – Prep work was posted on 6 March 2014 on


A Forest landscape, 30 x 36cm, acrylic and oil on canvas.

A Forest landscape, 30 x 36cm, acrylic and oil on canvas.


Painting 4 of 12:

Sketchbook – Little hope

Opening up my process – Prep work was posted on 15 June 2014 on


Hope, oil on canvas, 45 x 62cm

Little Hope, oil on canvas, 45 x 62cm

Painting 5 of 12:

Revised Assignment 3 – Exploring abstract landscape composition

Prep work was posted on 15 June 2014 on


Skye Lake falling after Frost, 30 x 40cm, oil on canvas

Skye Lake falling after Frost, 30 x 40cm, oil on canvas

Painting 6 of 12:

Revised Assignment 3 – Exploring abstract landscape composition

Prep work was posted on 15 June 2014 on



Skye Lake

Painting 7 of 12:

Submitted for Assignment 4

Abstracting a Seascape – Prep work was posted on June 2014 on


Stage 5

Abstract Seascape


Painting 8 of 12:

Submitted for Assignment 5

Project experimenting with texture – Prep work was posted on 10 July 2014 on


Texture, taking out, scraping, gesture drawing, 40 x 50cm

Texture, taking out, scraping, gesture drawing, 40 x 50cm

Painting 9 of 12:

Submitted for Assignment 5

Project abstract gestural painting- Prep work was posted on 7 August 2014 on


Abstract based on Woman playing the lute

Abstract based on Woman playing the lute


Painting 10 of 12:

Submitted for Assignment 5

Combining gestural painting with image transfers- Prep work was posted on 22 August 2014 on


August 2014, Oil, ink, encaustic transfer on paper, 57 x 76 cm

August 2014, Oil, ink, encaustic transfer on paper, 57 x 76 cm

Painting 11 of 12

Sketchbook – Portrait of a Young Woman

Assignment 6 posted on 14 May 2015 on


Significant form 1

Finding abstract forms for Portrait of a Young Woman

Painting 12 of 12:

Submitted for Assignment 6

Exploring gestural painting further – Prep work was posted on 14 May 2015 on


Young Girl, 57 x 77cm, oil on paper

Young Girl, 57 x 77cm, oil on paper


By Charleen Brunke 490988



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