Simon Back


Simon’s paintings are not preconceived and the final outcome is unknown. Primary influences of Simon’s work have been drawn from his childhood environment. The use and necessity for space, an element born from the clean, open expansiveness of the Zimbabwean countryside.

His landscapes will often take on the abstracted aspect of an aerial view. Recent droughts in Europe have revealed imprints of ancient pathways and structures from bygone ages. A landscape will ultimately reveal clues to its past, its old pathways, settlements and even crimes.

Over the years certain images have continued to reappear in his work. One has been the vessel, the idea of which was born from an interest in the earth and objects formed out of clay. The earthen vessel has for millennia been integral to our society. The form of the clay pot echoes that of an upside down human head or a marble bust; the connection to the death mask set in plaster or the proud profile stamped onto a coin. Imagery evoking the relationship between life and death, pride and conquest, potter and clay.

An important theme running through Simon’s work has been the exploration of sacrifice; a concept incorporated and explored as both imagery, and as a working process. Key elements or images which start to become essential or pivotal to a work, may need to be removed. In this vulnerable state, when the whole direction of a painting suddenly changes direction, one is forced to examine what is left, to build on what remains and discover the value of every remaining piece of space. It is an act of building out of ruins, layer upon layer, like an archeological tell. It can be a long process, building up to what may only be the back drop to an action which takes place very quickly, signaling the final resolution; or just another happening which leaves it’s mark on the course of the painting. The painting is in fact never finished.

More of Simon’s work can be seen at The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa. ‘Five Bhobh – Painting at the End of an Era’ runs until 31.3.2019.