Arts·Art Minute

Eve Leader's paintings reflect growing up with white privilege during South African apartheid

The abstract figures in her ghostly paintings explore far more than the human condition.

The abstract figures in her ghostly paintings explore far more than the human condition

(CBC Arts)

"I'm not working from a place of ideas, really. I'm just working from more of an intuitive place."

That intuitive place for Eve Leader means exploring what it means to be human and the mystery of life through graphite and oil paintings of abstract humanoid figures. Instead of painting the body in a defined and recognizable way, she depicts it so that it can be freely interpreted by the viewer.

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Art Minute: Eve Leader

4 years ago
Duration 1:05
Eve Leader's ghostly paintings explore far more than the human condition.

"I never title anything, so people can come to and bring anything to it that they wish."

Leader's canvases frequently reflect on her childhood in apartheid South Africa — she immigrated to Canada 40 years ago. "You saw a lot of things you'd prefer not to have seen," she says.

(CBC Arts)

When Leader arrived in Canada, she noticed a stark difference from the environment that she was used to living in. "When I came to Canada, what I had to get used to was the lack of tension in the air."

The horror of apartheid can be felt in Leader's ghostly paintings. "I was a social worker there for a while, and [Black people] were incredibly persecuted and had no rights," she recalls. "It was a brutal, brutal regime."

(CBC Arts)

For her, accessing that part of her past is expressed in her work. "If you look at my paintings it's kind of a dark age happening there," she says. "I think part of that is maybe my South African years, because it was a very dark place to grow up."

Art Minute is a CBC Arts series taking you inside the minds of Canadian artists to hear what makes them tick and the ideas behind their work.

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