HOLD by Liesl Duthie



Before you were born
A thought, a whisper

Entering the world
You filled your space

To be held, to be wanted
Your deepest longing

We all need to belong
We all need to be



Human connection, belonging and closeness – these ideas are fundamental to this body of work. These themes are explored within the context of birth, adoption, and family security. A feeling of nurture in the portrait work is juxtaposed with a sense of isolation or abandonment in the cold mechanical forms of the paediatric ward cot. The vintage pram and weathered rocking chair heighten the nostalgic element. The atmosphere and interaction of light and shadow on these objects in the studio led to some interesting experimental work, resulting in a combination of abstraction and realism.

The idea of an exhibition entitled “Hold” developed as I spent time drawing at Isithembiso Babies’ Home, and through close contact with adoptive families. In 2018 I felt the need to explore artmaking at a deeper level and to create a cohesive body of work. This theme provided the platform for the ensuing exploratory work. The exhibition is comprised of a combination of large and small oil paintings and charcoal drawings alongside selected installation items, set to music written by Robert Duthie for this purpose.


My artwork is born out of a passion for observing people and exploring human experience and emotion, particularly in the nuclear family. A need for connection, empathic responses, value and purpose are underlying themes. The internal and external forces which shape us find their way onto the canvas. Often described as calming and contemplative, the work embodies a search for peace and beauty in an often-turbulent world.

My work is representational. Once a strong composition has been established, I work in layers to complete both drawings and paintings. Although I have developed standard ways of approaching artmaking, each work is carefully considered to find its unique path to completion. I love the process of developing and revealing three-dimensional form, playing with colour temperature as well as the opaque/transparent qualities of paint. Oil painting and charcoal drawing have become my media of choice, both for their forgiving nature, fluidity and depth.



Born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, in 1966, my childhood interest in drawing faces was an early indicator of my love for art. Engaging with art in meaningful way as an adult gained momentum in my late thirties to mid-forties. Joining the Portrait Society of America in 2012 was most significant. This is where I found the inspiration I was looking for, and exposure to modern day masters. I have been influenced by the work of David Kassan, Mary White, Rose Frantzen, Michael Shane Neal, Daniel Sprick, Aaron Westerberg, and David Leffel, to name a few.

  • 2021 Portrait Award: Fifth Place: Painting “I am.” Top 40 Exhibition, Rust en Vrede Gallery, Durbanville
  • 2021 Portrait Award Top 40 Exhibition: Painting “Madonna.” Rust en Vrede Gallery, Durbanville
  • 2021 Portrait 100 Exhibition, Rupert Museum, Stellenbosch
  • 2021 Changing the Narrative Exhibition, GFI Art Gallery, Port Elizabeth
  • 2019, 2018, 2014 Artwork selected for Bouchard-Finlayson Tondo Competition, Hermanus Fynarts Festival
  • 2017 Sanlam Portrait Award Top 100 Exhibition, Michaelis School of Art, Cape Town