Thelma van Rensburg: I Exist in Multiples – A Journey into the Shadow Self

Thelma van Rensburg: I Exist in Multiples - A Journey into the Shadow Self-Omenka Online

Childhood trauma caused by emotional and psychological abuse by a caregiver causes severe long term mental distress. Psychologists argue that severe emotional abuse or neglect in childhood causes a fragmentation of the self where certain parts of the victim’s self become disassociated or split off as a maladaptive protective response to the trauma. The person disassociates the trauma and parts of him/herself to survive the trauma. The traumatised parts, therefore, become part of the person’s shadow self.

“The artworks I created is an attempt to address this phenomenon from the point of view of my own personal experience with childhood trauma and my ongoing struggle to find a stable sense of self.”

Running from 9 May 2021 – 1 June 2021 at Lizamore & Associates Johannesburg, Thelma van Rensburg’s I Exist in Multiples – A Journey into the Shadow Self features figurative work created from original ink paintings in multiple layers to create distortion and chaotic line work. The outlines of the figures become distorted and create a sense of instability and also violence. In addition, a single identifiable face was layered onto each figure giving the impression that these are not multiple individuals but rather multiple fragments of the same person. The identity of the subject is confused which expresses the psychological confusion and distress the trauma victim suffers.

“Beneath the social mask we wear every day, we have a hidden shadow side: an impulsive, wounded, sad, or isolated part that we generally try to ignore (or hide). The Shadow can be a source of emotional richness and vitality, and acknowledging it can be a pathway to healing and an authentic life.”

– C. Zweig & S. Wolf

Thelma van Rensburg was born in Pretoria, South Africa in 1969. She has a B. A Honours degree in physical education from the University of Pretoria and a B.A Honours degree in psychology from Unisa. In 2004 she decided to study art full time and received her B.Tech degree in Fine Arts at the Tshwane University of Technology in 2007. She completed a further Honours degree in Fine arts at the University of Pretoria in 2013 and completed a Masters of Arts degree in Fine Arts at the University of Pretoria in 2016. She completed three artist residencies through Transart Institute for creative practice in Berlin and Mexico between 2015 and 2018. She has participated in nine solo exhibitions and numerous group exhibitions throughout South Africa. Her work has featured in prestigious competitions such as Sasol New Signatures, Thami Mnyele Fine Arts Awards and the Sanlam Vuleka Arts competition.

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