Candice Dawn Blignaut – South African Fine Artist
Born in Johannesburg, Candice lives and works
in Cape Town with her husband and son.
They were here before us—the animals—and we were once them. […]
They know we are different
and their eyes tell us to keep our promise.
For an artist whose work is concerned largely with the pursuit of definition, Candice sits
uncomfortably with easy classifications. Reluctant to ascribe unambiguous qualities to her work, she
considers it driven as much by passion and intuition as by insight and skill. Strikingly graphic, her
canvases are dark yet playful, intricate and unfussy, highly personal as well as satirical.
Animals occur frequently in Candice’s work, much more so than human figures. They serve, however,
as symbols of humans’ inner worlds. Animals, lacking egos, are the perfect carriers of projected
These animals are dark, unlovely creatures: crows, hyenas, mangy dogs – symbolic of vice rather than
virtue. For Candice, though, they are creatures that are misunderstood. To use them is to attempt to
define the darker aspects of our selves. As she explains: “Each of us battles inside every day with some
small thing…Like a dog, sometimes we find it difficult to let go of the battle. We all have our own dark
secret heart, the place we find solace, license, disguise and will.”
Her creatures are specimens of self to be examined, to see what lies beneath the fur and feathers. A
hound, for example, serves as a “symbol of our basic ability to trust implicitly, but fight for our own.”
Candice sees herself as a crow, a provocative bird seen as an outsider, a seer and messenger,
underlining Candice’s role as an artist.
Candice’s work can be darkly humorous at times. The wrinkled legs and ruffled feathers of storks are
the archaic priests of her convent school. A flock of puffy-chested pigeons is titled ‘Yes-Men’. Here she
is satirically examining how identity relates to social hierarchies and roles.
Uncertainty and duality are compelling aspects of Candice’s praxis, tying in thematically and formally
with the search for definition. They are most clearly seen in Candice’s panels where two mirrored
versions of an animal stand opposite each other. Paired animals classically symbolise opposing
qualities. Here the doubled animals, delineated in charcoal, rather signify that the whole is more than
the sum of its parts; we have to view the self from different sides to express it. This plurality is also
seen in works where numerous versions of the same creature move across the image. Often layered
over each other, these packs and flocks offer a multitude of definitions.
Multiplicity is also in the charcoal lines that Candice uses to define her subjects. The lines, while
confident, are loose; they multiply on themselves. The limited palette of her work – the dramatic
charcoal on pale oil and resin backgrounds – serves to accentuate these lines. A leg or snout are not
just shapes demarcated by a single stroke, but a series of shifting forms. The edge of the self not being
entirely definite means that it is opened up to what is ostensibly separate from itself.
Candice extends her subtly expressive depictions into the animals’ environments. Situating her
menagerie in an empty room or on a pedestal (created with the addition of just a few lines), she takes
them beyond their status as mere symbol. The fact that they are in a man-made place serves as a
reminder of what they represent. We are reminded both of the interiority of Candice’s explorations
and the fact that the birds and beasts are connected to an external world. We cannot hope to define
who we are in the absence of context.
The sense of connection and interrelation is seen also in the many lines that form neither part of the
animals nor their environment. These charcoal or painted marks don’t hint only at vitality. They
connect different parts of the canvas, guiding us to look beyond the beasts themselves to the
While her myriad drawn and painted lines add information to the surface, Candice also uses erasure to
remove lines, stripping the charcoal dust and unravelling the images. She strips what she creates to its
bare bones. By creating the skin of these creatures, then deconstructing it, Candice tests what lies
underneath the surface to see if it will hold. The simple eloquence of her mark-making and mark-
taking leaves us with what is essential.