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Notre Dame

Ernest Fiene, Notre Dame, 1929, lithograph on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Baum in memory of Edith Gregor Halpert, 1971.320

On April 15, 2019, the world watched as the Cathedral of Notre Dame caught fire, destroying much of one of the most important buildings in the world. Parisians came out in support of their beloved cathedral, while others began to reflect on the importance of the cathedral in their lives. At SAAM, we started looking at the works in our collection that depicted Notre Dame, and asked Senior Curator Eleanor Harvey, to give us some background on why the cathedral has been beloved by American artists for years.

The Fire Painter

by Mehluli Mzizi
(Bulawayo, Zimbabwe)

I use a tachnique called „Fire Painting“.

A:What is fire painting?

*Fire painting is a technique that incorporates drawing and painting images on paper using fire and other compatible tools. It is a technique that I have mastered over.

B:How did the idea first come up?

*I remember the day I discovered this new technique as if it was yesterday. I quickly named it, “Fire Painting”. I was seated at home one evening, and there was no electricity. I had a candle on and burning incense (mosquito repellent). Then, my artistic intuition told me I could do something with these two. I took the burning incense and a paper and started drawing on it using the incense. I kept on trying and eventually I realised this could work. I thought I knew exactly what to do, and to some degree I did, but I quickly realised it was going to take some trial and error to get to the process and finished product, just right. The first times I tried it, the paper would actually catch fire, along the way. I learnt many lessons, and each one brought me closer to my art. From there, I started developing the technique until today.
From the moment I started, I knew drawing and painting with fire on paper was going to work and I was determined to get it right. I had a great field of work to explore, and I was aware of all the potential and challenges ahead of me. I have spent four years perfecting this method and I cannot say it is an easy art form.

However, through some research, I have realised that there are a number of fire painters around the world. But we all use fire differently.

C:How is fire painting done?

*Nothing more than burning logs, Sugar solution and other compatible tools can be used to make some seriously awesome art! Instead of using traditional pencils, or paints, I use fire on paper in order to create incredible designs. I only use a pencil to sketch, then use a combination of burning logs and any other compatible tool that can be used to complete the art.
D: What kind of Paintings do I do?

* So far I have been creating images that incorporate wild life, landscapes and humans caught in a moment that explains so much more than what appears on the surface,as well as abstract paintings.

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