Maryke Van Velden

Breathing Prayer, produced during the first part of 2021, is a meditative piece reflecting on individual and communal loss experienced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Moved by the poignant New York Times cover graphic on 21 February '21, just over a month after having lost a close friend to Covid-19, the artist decided to draw a meditation of her own in memory of all the South Africans who had lost their lives to Covid-19 during the one-year period since the first recorded death in South Africa. From March 28th 2020 to March 28th 2021 52 663 deaths to Covid-19 were recorded in South Africa. Each of these are represented by a single dot of blood, together forming the shape of two large lungs.

“It was my intention to create an intricate and beautiful piece through the use of a deeply personal medium, often considered to be impure.” The result is an imposing image of a vital organ of which the blood flow is absent. Reminiscent of a pressed leaf or a river delta, in both cases the life force has been removed; the metaphoric vines or waterways now indicated by negative space. Yet, this white space merges with the central void, the great unknown; “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Breathing Prayer is dedicated to Lauren Phillips, a friend of the artist, who had lost both parents to Covid-19 during the first week of 2021.

A limited edition of artist prints are available on request.

A sound piece is installed alongside the large drawing. This work, Nagmaalreën (2008), was created from recordings of communion glasses being put down on wooden pews during holy communion.