myopia by ronél de jager and mandy coppes-martin

Myopia, a two-woman exhibition by Mandy Coppes-Martin and Ronél De Jager, queries our myopic lens and global mindsets on environmental issues through a series of mixed media works, examining beautiful and precarious seascapes and landscapes.

“In his book Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell describes a double-speak totalitarian state where most of the population accepts ‘the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them’……The world not imagined is the one that now exists” - Ian Dunlop, The Guardian (2017)



Mandy Coppes-Martin is known for her use of natural materials, specifically, her mastery with hand spun silk and hand-made paper and she is interested in redefining our relationship with nature and its economic function within society. In Myopia, Coppes-Martin explores a new series of works inspired by aerial photographs taken of the oil spill in the Gulf in 2010. This series depicts seascapes from around the world, frozen in a tree-based resin and Perspex that commemorates and encapsulates Man’s own creation: the oil spill. Through these works, she immortalizes man’s resourcefulness with seemingly abstract silk drawings made from hand spun coloured silk. Coppes-Martin's use of silk is ambiguous; on the one hand, it signifies the seductive beauty and appearance of the medium, whilst also acting as a reminder of silk's historical connections as a medium of trade that fuelled industrialisation. The artist encapsulates these silk drawings in tree-based resin to symbolise a form of self-protection as trees often emit resin as a reaction to injury. Coppes-Martin subverts this natural form of self-protection inherent within nature, using the resin to encapsulate the abstract oil slick in a static frame. This objectification of the oil spill symbolises mankind’s notion to attempt to contain and control of nature.

Furthermore, these replications of oil spills mimic the reality of their existence and the harsh impact and footprint oil spills have on the biodiversity. Through depicting a seemingly transitory interaction between oil and water, Coppes-Martin reflects on the imprint human existence may have on nature. Simultaneously, the artworks create a sense of disassociation with this reality and its aftermath. Coppes-Martin deliberately objectifies and beautifies the problem in order to lure the viewer into looking at the problem at hand and consider the effects of oil spillage on the environment. In doing so, she hopes to initiate resourceful conversations between nature and Man.

With the vastness of the ocean, we might consider the realities and imprints of oil spills as removed from our reality, Coppes-Martin brings the viewer into these realities: “The effects of this oil spill can be seen for many years after the fact and yet because of its transient nature and man’s ability to make things go away it would seem resolved, out of sight, out of mind…” This kind of short sightedness demonstrating mankind's inability to acknowledge the world as it exists. 



Ronél De Jager presents a new series of paintings to consider ways of looking. The artist experiments with the visual experiences of myopia in the close-up stills of a quiet, seemingly undisturbed undersea world and more abstract paintings of fossil-like forms and topological views.

De Jager exposes mankind myopia through these stills of a quiet, seemingly undisturbed undersea world and by placing that which we don’t often consider on her canvas. These images allude to an undersea world we don’t often have an association or connection with, except for perhaps on a seaside holiday, a visit to the Aquarium or an episode of David Attenborough’s The Blue Planet. In a comparable way, De Jager paints an intimate narration with specific decisions on the scale of canvas directing our view and varying painterly qualities and styles which switch our thinking strategies, engaging our ‘sympathetic curiosity’ with the undersea world.  


“This series continues my fascination with time on a grand scale, through ideas of evolution of the world around us, geological time and the antiquity of the earth, whether by the formation of an ocean and the movement of tectonic plates and its references to a time before human life. But I also wanted these histories to speak of a contemporary moment and show the response from the earth to our presence; I wanted to emote the earth, specifically the sea, with its unknown cavities and seascapes.”  - Ronél De Jager

De Jager's fossil-like ocean creatures, submarine volcanic mountains and topological imagery encapsulates the birth, death and energy potentials of these forms and creatures. Embedded with historical traces of earth’s evolution, she distils these thoughts into the paintings. The artist visually constructs imagery through photographic practices and techniques that she then masterfully replicates during a meditative painting process. De Jager's paintings ask the viewer to slow down and stare a little longer at the complexity and play of colour, shape and form. Her delicate attention to colour, paint and its transcendental qualities form an ethical attitude, showing her constant appreciation for our innate connectedness with the world around us.

“To sense this world of waters known to the creatures of the sea we must shed our human perceptions of length and breadth of time and place, and enter vicariously into a universe of all-pervading water” - Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us (1951)

These quiet moments of pervading water are then disrupted by the elements of her abstract, drip painting style experimenting with the impacts of gravity, velocity and consistency which repel and bind the paint on the canvas. Through an exploration of the tactility and movement of paint, De Jager reference’s aerial, infrared photography where ocean meets land and imagines a landscape where vegetation had been submerged on to the ocean’s floor.



Coppes-Martin and De Jager's paintings, sculptural forms and drawings capture a flitting movement and simultaneously, a stasis’, a preservation, a fossilization of the images themselves. While much of the world above sea level is prey to human impact and natural disasters, the world in and under the sea, specifically the deep-sea basin, seems untouched, existing for as long as the ocean itself, untouched by waves, water tides, without light or plant life. Myopia suggests this abstract notion of the earth untouched, with De Jager’s oceanic creatures and fossil-like underwater plant life and even Coppes-Martins use of the abstract beauty of the oil-spill and natural materials. Providing insight into worlds which exist and others not yet realized, Coppes-Martin and De Jager begin to consolidate ways of seeing the earth and our imposition on its future.


Looking back over the past ages of geologic time, we realize that mountains have been thrust up on the continents, to the accompaniment of volcanic outpourings and violent trembling’s of the earth, only to crumble and wear away under the attacks of rain and frost and flood.

What of the sea’s mountains? Were they formed in the same way and do they, too, begin

to die as soon as they are born?”  - Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us (1951)


** Myopia: experienced as an eye disorder where objects in the distance seem blurry, more commonly known as near-sightedness but also defined as a lack of intellectual foresight, is suggestively placed within the layers of this exhibition. Sourced from photographs of oil spills, underwater imagery and aerial and infrared photography, the works subvert its functionality, using evocative, sensorial materials to entice and destabilize the viewer’s expectations.

This exhibtion runs until from 2 November - 25 November 2017. Joiun the artists for a walkabout on 25 November at 11:00.