As French artist Edgar Degas has said, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” This is what describes the University of Johannesburg (UJ) cum laude student, Chelsea Rowley’s philosophy on creating her art. The FADA students graduated with a Fine Arts diploma in April 2014.
Rowley sees herself as an artist and a creator, with an inquisitive spirit. Born in George in the Western Cape Province, the 21-year-old Rowley says her passion for art started when she was in primary school.
“I believe that art possesses a wonderful power that enables people of any society to express themselves, to comment on their situations and their opinions. A democratic and free society such as South Africa embraces art and utilises it in many different ways – from educating the youth, to showcasing the country on the international stage,” says Rowley.
While she may have succeeded in accomplishing her study goals, the journey to her cum laude was not an easy one. Throughout her three years of studies, Rowley experienced financial difficulties. As a Fine Arts students, the practical requirements for her course needed additional funds along with the University’s tuition. It was because of this that her parents could not afford to pay for her tuition as well as the costly study materials.
She nevertheless overcame the challenges when she received financial assistance from Gauteng City Region Academy (GCRA), who awarded her a R50 000 bursary which enabled her to complete the Fine Art diploma.
According to Rowley, committing to studies from the beginning and being enthusiastic about her academic work also contributed to her passing with flying colours. “The academic journey at UJ was exciting, challenging and rewarding. The quality of education at UJ is impeccable. The lecturers are nurturing, encouraging and passionate and these factors create an environment wherein students are able to feel free and comfortable to learn, criticise and flourish. I believe the Fine Art department at UJ is one of the best in the country and I am honoured to be associated with it,” reflects Rowley.
Now, doing her B-Tech in Fine Arts, Rowley began research into “Liminality”, a concept that looks into the viewing and transgression of the human skin as a liminal membrane between consciousness and the physical world. Rowley says that this research will explore and expose the notion of the skin as a liminal threshold.
The young Rowley hopes to complete her Master’s degree in Fine Art in 2016, and thereafter use her knowledge to lecture within the fine art sector, while establishing herself as a reputable fine artist in South Africa.
“Through my studies at UJ I have learned self-discipline and build my confidence in expressing the complex ideas I have not had confidence in talking about. I have always been passionate about art and I want to absorb and learn as much as I can so that I may one day pass this knowledge and inspire other young people about art,” sha says.
Rowley is currently working part-time as an assistant to the first-year Drawing lecturer at UJ. She went to Blairgowrie Primary School in Randburg and later matriculated at Redhill High in Morningside.