Vic Guhrs is an artist and writer who takes his inspiration from the natural world, the mysteries of wilderness, and the uncharted no-man’s land of the soul where man and animals meet.
‘I grew up in a big city but have always been drawn to the world outside – the forests and fields of my native Germany, and later the wilderness of Africa.’
As a result, his art doesn’t reflect the urban angst that informs much of contemporary art. Concerns with political or social issues take second place to more universal themes – the spirituality of landscape, mysteries of the animal kingdom, and our gradual estrangement from nature.
After completing his art studies in Johannesburg, Guhrs moved to a remote bush camp in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. Living in close proximity to his subjects resulted in paintings of unusual authenticity and insight that went beyond the accepted format of wildlife art and soon earned him a reputation as one of Africa’s premier animal artists.
Numerous awards followed, and his many commissions included a painting of a Black Rhino for Prince Phillip, at the time the head of the World Wildlife Fund.
‘If you live among wild animals, you can’t help being made aware of an ancient connection between us.
In our long history on this planet our paths converged in more ways than we care to admit. The biological kinship is obvious: they are made of the same cellular structures, with blood and bones and brains, and they breathe the same air and eat the same food. But there’s a spiritual connection, too; a common soul that binds us together on a profound and fundamental level; the animal spirit still lives in all of us.’
Burnt Earth – Oil on Canvas
It seems obvious to me that, quite separate from our homocentric, material world, there exists a parallel reality, more ancient, more in synch with the core of our humanity, and perhaps ultimately more essential to our survival.
In many African belief systems, hyenas provide a direct link to the ancestors, occupying the spiritual border country between the living and the dead. Hearing the wail of a lone hyena on a moonlit night as it pads along a river bank, it doesn’t take much imagination to see the connection.
Dogs spend an extraordinary amount of time waiting for us. Although this is a painting of a particular dog, it’s not meant to be about the dog but about the emotional space between our dogs and us. About issues like friendship, trust, service, responsibility, neglect and abuse; and about the bigger subject of our relationship to all our pets, and by extension all animals, wild and domesticated.
Matriarch – Oil on Canvas
When I walk in the African bush (unarmed but on high alert) I feel closer to God than in any man-made cathedral. And more alive than on any city street.
It seems to me that wild animals have a better idea who God is than we do, an intuitive understanding of the Divine. I am reminded of the novels of Jim Harrison, where the ponds and rivers, the ravens and bears and wolves, the dogs and horses carry as much emotional weight as the human protagonists.
Lost Goat – Oil on Canvas
Abandoned Goat – Oil on Canvas
Since ancient times, goats have represented wilderness and our connection to nature. Gods of Greek and Roman mythology roamed the forests accompanied by goats, some of them part goats themselves. They were also among our first domesticated animals. They seem an apt metaphor to illustrate our current human predicament, when climate change, overpopulation, deforestation and habitat destruction threaten our continued existence.
I strive for the spiritual or emotional content in a painting. I want the work to resonate with untold stories hiding below the surface. The less detail is provided, the freer the viewer is to fill in the blank spaces, to react to what is shown on an emotional rather than a cerebral level.
Beach Study (Misty Day)
Last Summer – Oil on Canvas
To a painter, the human figure is an ever-inviting subject. I see this painting as a meditation about memory. The fleeting moment, the unreliability of recollection.
Nude Study – Oil on Paper