Koorland was born in Cape Town, South Africa and is known as one of the most important female artists working in South Africa during the times of the Apartheid, until the present day.
Her monumental paintings of rough, collaged material, layered textiles, built up texts and found objects which are glued, stitched and bound over linen, manifest as palimpsests of historical memory and trauma. Objects from the past such as black and white photographs, cigarette cards, newsprint and book spines are attached to linen and burlap on canvas, creating time capsules of history. The heavily detailed and often huge scale paintings channel a direct response to the memory of war, migration and colonisation; subjects both personal and widely relatable.
The daughter of a Polish migrant mother who lost her parents in Auschwitz during World War II, Koorland’s work reflects her own lived experience and embodies feelings of loss, not belonging, and lost memories, and in the 80s, she relinquished the human figure in her work. Traces of place-names, species, stylised figures and maps appear in her paintings, bearing the ethical resonance of a post-traumatic subjectivity, and showing an influence of German philosophers Theodor Adorno and the Frankfurt School.
‘It occurred to me a long time ago that the less rooted I felt in a place, the more I needed the paintings to be heavy, both content-wise and as objects’- VK
Important recent solo exhibitions include William Kentridge & Vivienne Koorland: Conversations in letters and lines, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland (2016) and Reisemalheurs (Travel Woes), Freud Museum, London, UK (2007).