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Tribute to Bill Ainslie

This exhibition of paintings and drawings is a tribute to Bill Ainslie as a vigorous artist, a gentle man who loved life and a charismatic cultural activist with a crucial legacy.

Bill Ainslie was a passionate artist and explorer who lived his art as a journey of self transformation and a deeply personal experience in relation with the other. Along the years, one can see a natural transition in his works from emphatic monumental African figures to abstract expressionism which he saw as the most rigorous and serious form of painting. His inner fervour nurtured triumphantly joyous yet intense and physical canvasses breathing a primal radiance.

Bill Ainslie touched the Life of many who came together with love and warmth. The house he shared with his inspiring wife Fieke was always opened to all despite the somber days of apartheid and it was an enclave of tranquility, irrespective of race, language or creed. Bill’s earthy passion for life, his care and concern for the entirety of human existence always made him love every life as his own. Bill and Fieke’s “extended family” linked Southern Africa with the world and South Africa within itself.

Bill Ainslie was a field of force and a natural teacher. He started his studio in 1964 and, by 1971, it had become a school with students and teachers until, in 1977, the Johannesburg Art Foundation settled at 6 Eastwold Way, Saxonwold, where artists, writers and benefactors found liberating exposure and a lively spirit. His idea of a school was of a network of people, not necessarily in one place, coming together around a purpose. In his drive for social equality, Bill Ainslie was at the core of art initiative such as the Cyrene Mission Station in Zimbabwe, FUBA, FUNDA, The Alexandra Art Centre, Katlehong Art centre and Thupelo Workshops.

He was constantly stretched between finding time for his own experimental abstracts which was starting to find an audience and a market internationally, and his vital vision of art as the means of consciousness and communication, ultimately reconciliation.

23 June – 22 July 2006

bill ainslie, matopos, acrylic on canvas, 140x320cm,1986