Vivienne Koorland South African, b. 1957


Born in Cape Town, Vivienne Asya KOORLAND is one of the most important South African artists working today. Her monumental paintings are built of rough, raw materials, oil paint and pigment on stitched cloth, texts, painted and glued, ephemera –photographs, cigarette cards, newsprint and book spines - on linen canvas. Her detailed and often huge works are direct responses to war, migration and colonisation, both personal and addressing a global condition.


She is the daughter of a Polish mother who, at 7 years old, was smuggled out of the Warsaw ghetto when her parents were killed there in 1943. Koorland’s close connections to her Afrikaans paternal grandmother cultivated a deep ongoing connection to the South African terrain. This remains a central trope in her painting.


‘… the less rooted I feel in a place, the more I need the paintings to be heavy, both in content and as material objects’ (VAK).


Koorland began painting at an early age. She was educated in South Africa during the apartheid era. She studied Fine Art at the University of Cape Town where she was politically engaged, illustrating the Xhosa-language dockworkers’ newspaper ABASEBENZI (WORKER). After graduating in 1978, she was awarded grants to study at the Hochschule der Ku╠łnste Berlin (1981), the École des Beaux-Arts Paris (1982),Skowhegan School in Maine, USA (1983) and Columbia University New York (1984).


Exhibitions include Organised Killing, Richard Saltoun Gallery, London (2022); On Hannah Arendt: The  Modern Age, Richard Saltoun Gallery, London (2021); William Kentridge & Vivienne Koorland: Conversations in letters and lines, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (2016); Shifting the Gaze: Painting and Feminism, The Jewish Museum New York (2010); Home Lands/Land Marks: Contemporary Art from South Africa, Haunch of Venison, London (2008); Reisemalheurs (Travel Woes), Freud Museum London (2007); Trade Routes, curated by Okwui Enwezor, 2nd Johannesburg Biennial, Johannesburg (1997).


Her work is in the collections of Tate Modern, London; The South African National Gallery, Cape Town; Mint Museum, North Carolina; Boston Museum of Fine Art, Massachusetts and The Jewish Museum, New York.