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Meet the artists

Ilse Pahl

ilse pahl photo head and shoulders (1).J
Artist Bio

Ilse Pahl was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1972.  She majored at the University of Johannesburg in sculpture, printmaking and drawing, completing her Master’s degree in 2005.


Pahl lectured part time at the University of Johannesburg in the Multimedia Department until 2016. She has exhibited both locally and internationally in Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, New York, Australia, and Nairobi.


In 1997 she won the Absa L’Atelier Award, spending one year in Paris at the Cite des Arts Internationale. She was granted a residency in 2001 at the Thami Mnyele Foundation in Amsterdam.


In 2003 she won the SASOL Wax in Art award. Her works are both in private and public collections, locally & internationally, including the Smithsonian and The Victoria & Albert Museum in London.


Public commissions include the David Webster memorial mosaic in Troyville, the BRT bus station and Hillbrow Orientation sculpture. Pahl currently teaches at the Artist Proof Studio in Johannesburg, and is studying to obtain her post graduate certificate in education.

ilse pahl video

ilse pahl video

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Artist Statement

Ilse Pahl is presently exploring how to represent the female figure in her work by looking at her collection of objects that represent the female form in various narratives. The pose, physical features, material and colour of the objects have influenced the works. Ilse has developed a female character that has evolved from being passive and submissive into an aggressive nightmarish or monstrous woman. Her physical features resemble a combination of the objects in her collection which are African fetish figures, curios and ceramic ornaments or images of woman represented in various poses over different periods. Often the features are distorted not in proportion and alien like, because they are bad reproductions.


Ilse often wears make-up that is painterly and heavily applied on her lashes, eyes and lips. The medium of paint for Ilse has similar material qualities to make up and flesh. Sometimes, the fluidity of the paint and the materiality of the paint takes over her paintings and subject resulting in an abstract, undefined   form. The feminine colours – pink – are intense in tone and scale magnifying the smears and smudges in paint. Thinking about lipstick and eye shadow, Ilse is interested in how she can use feminine elements to make work that reflects the violent and chaotic world she lives in.

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