|RAY BERMAN – A BRIEF HISTORY
Ray Berman was born & raised in Johannesburg South Africa. After studying graphic art, he worked in advertising for a number of years, painting in his spare time. Encouraged by an award for 'Most promising artist' (Artists of fame & promise exhibition – Johannesburg 1961) he spent a year in Paris, studying at the Academie de la Grande Chaumier.
On returning to South Africa from Europe, he was dismayed at the oppression and inhumanity surrounding him as the Apartheid regime wielded the full weight of it's power. (Nelson Mandela had just been arrested and most of Ray's friends – artists and musicians, many of them black, were either in prison or had left the country.) Feeling he had no choice, as an artist and human being, he left South Africa in 1966 to go into voluntary exile in Swaziland. Unable to sustain himself as a painter in this new, albeit freer environment, Ray took work as an architectural draughtsman. This experience gave him a life long interest in building design & led him to eventually running his own architectural practise. He designed and built several unique houses. ('A House in Swaziland' – ADA magazine 1990. 'World's Most Extreme Houses' series Pioneer television 2005 )
While living at the Royal Village in Lobamba and working with local craftsmen, Ray immersed himself in Swazi tradition and culture, gaining the central insight to 'art' in Africa i.e. that no one creates anything by themselves, but can only submit to 'the voices of the ancestors' – listen to the spirits and allow them to work through us. This is a belief that still informs his work.
He has also been influenced by a deep love and appreciation of African music – especially the unique urban jazz he was exposed to growing up in South Africa.
After the Democratic election in South Africa, and Mandela becoming the president in 1994, Ray returned to South Africa to work in film, as a storyboard artist, Art director and Production designer, enjoying for a while the new wave of optimism and creativity that infused 'the New South Africa' at that time.
Somewhat disillusioned by the superficiality and commercialism of the 'world of film', Ray has recently returned to his home in Swaziland, painting full time.
These images are mainly examples of his most recent work.
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