Tracy Payne - MUSE



Ever since I was very young I loved drawing and enjoyed making things. Exploring a wide range of different media during my student years gave me the opportunity to find my voice and as I matured, painting became my language, my chosen investigative and expressive tool, allowing me to delve into the unconscious and explore the human condition. 

I paint the current question or yearning of my soul and am constantly seeking out a visual vocabulary that best expresses this quest. My creative life has been a journey from the deep unconscious of my being, a slow awakening of my consciousness to the potential of my soul. 

I am a figurative painter, mostly looking to the human form and to flowers for inspiration. Some would say I’m a photo-realist; I like to believe that I am pushing the boundaries of realism into the more spiritual, mystical and magical realms. Working mostly from photographs I take myself as well as images from books, magazines and video I create paintings that best express my concerns of our times. 

Eastern spirituality and the dual nature of our selves is a consistent thread running through my work. In its broadest sense, I am exploring the interrelationship of feminine and masculine energy. Taoism abstracts this principle with the yin-yang symbol. Hinduism and tantric Buddhism use symbols of the union of cosmic lovers: Shiva and Shakti or Samantabhadra and Samantabhadri. 

From as far back as 1989 my paintings revealed the dominance of yang over yin; the feminine yin was being controlled, oppressed, silenced and violated. This was no sacred union of Shiva and Shakti, neither was it the naked embracing peaceful Buddhas. 

From around 1993 I sought to address this imbalance by focusing on healing the feminine principle through my art. Initially she came in the form of a vengeful Kali inspired contemporary Amazon thundering through the twilight, axe in one hand and a severed mans head in the other. Over a long period I worked with this ‘wounded woman’ and by the time I made the Sacred Yin paintings (2005) she had burst her bubble of isolation, shed most of the pain and bonds of her past, and though still fragile, had gained some liberation.

Around 2006 I shifted my attention to the masculine as my muse. I remember watching ‘Shaolin Wheel of Life’ for the first time on video, before seeing the Shaolin monks live in performance. I was transfixed. Here were spiritual men, Zen Buddhists, and at the same time masters in the martial art of kung fu, a seeming paradox. Men so strong yet their bodies looked soft and their faces serene. They seem to embody the masculine principle, sacred yang, a perfect marriage of spiritual and physical. It was as if I´d found through these monks a new beginning with ´man´, a place of forgiveness and sacred appreciation." The Sacred Yang (2006-2007) paintings represented an aspirational ideal. Their dominant mood one of inner peace. Most of the portraits exist in the space of meditation prior to action, ‘the quiet before the storm’ so to speak.

It is in this mood that I approached my most recent body of work, Muse (2010-2011). Feeling the need to ground myself and return ‘home’ for inspiration, it was by no coincidence that I met Djamal, a beautiful young Angolan man, whom offered to pose for me. Djamal in Arabic means beauty. I integrate what I gained from the Shaolin monks; their strength, beauty and serenity; and attempt, through the stillness, meditation and the quiet contemplation of nature to express something about the possible healing of the human spirit.

Around the same time I was reading Germaine Greer’s ‘The Boy’ and I found her typically candid writing an affirmation of my creative process. “The feminist campaign against the phallocracy to appreciate woman for anything else has rendered even more difficult the acknowledgement that many males are beautiful, at least for a part of their lives, and that they are staggeringly, even supernaturally beautiful.”

It is through these paintings that I offer a glimpse into the relationship of the artist and her muse, and, to echo Germaine Greer’s sentiments, “I’d like to reclaim for women the right to appreciate the short lived beauty of boys.”


Currently on exhibition until 31 August 2011 at

The Barnard Gallery

55 Main Street Newlands

Cape Town, South Africa


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