Judith Mason

judith mason south african artist

Judith Mason is a painter and graphic artist of symbolic and mythological landscapes, figures and portraits. Mason works primarily in oils and pencil but has also incorporated various graphic media and found objects in her work as well as making a number of artists' books.

Judith Mason's work is drawn or painted in reaction to her world: political events, books that she has read, snippets of history or poetry which have caught her eye, or the experience of particular people or animals.

She has taught art at Scoula Lorenzo de Medici in Florence Italy, Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town, at the University of the Witwatersrand and privately. Her work is represented in South African national art collections and museums and internationally in private and public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Yale University, The Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington DC.

Major public commissions include:The Man Who Sang, and the Woman Who Kept Silent aka The Blue Dress at The Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, South Africa. Justice Albie Sachs considers Judith Mason's The Man Who Sang and the Woman Who Kept Silent (1998) to be “one of the great pieces of art in the world of the late 20th century”.

Judith Mason's characteristic of heightening the emotional impact in her work leads to images, which move the spectator, often in a powerful way.

Artists Statement:
" I paint in order to make sense of my life, to manipulate various chaotic fragments of information and impulse into some sort of order, through which I can glimpse a hint of meaning. I am an agnostic humanist possessed of religious curiosity who regards making artworks as akin to alchemy. To use inert matter on an inert surface to convey real energy and presence seems to me a magical and privileged way of living out my days"
Judith Mason 2004

Judith Mason archive

The artist's website.

To read Judith Mason's blog click here.

Artists A to L

Artists M to X

Lithographs 2015

Title: Oracle
Medium: Four colour lithograph
Size: 60.5 x 48cm
Edition size: 35
Price: R 7 000 (excl.VAT)

ORACLE. This uses the mythological snake haired figure as an oracle, merging the Oracle of Delphi, (the Pythoness), with the form of a Medusa or a Fury. The snake heads become the heads of pliers which are capable of resolving the problematic 'wiring' in the lower part of the image. I like the idea of updating the forms of classical mythology by introducing mundane contemporary objects which pun on the original forms. Judith Mason 2015


Title: Clinging to the edge of the page.
Medium: Four colour lithograph
Size: 60.5 x 48cm
Edition size: 35
Price: R 7 000 (excl.VAT)

CLINGING TO THE EDGE OF THE PAGE. This  was a chance to play with monkey forms and to use two languages, that of scrawled line and that of  conventional drawing. I also wanted to tease the viewer's suspension of belief by reminding him/her that, however lively, the image is just crayon on paper after all. Hence the title. Judith Mason 2015


Title: Tisssssiphone
Medium: Thee colour lithograph
Size: 48 x 60.5cm
Edition size: 35
Price: R 7 000 (excl.VAT)

TISIPHONE. She  is one of the mythological Greek Furies, and known as the Avenger of Murder. A story has it that, in spite of her appellation, she killed a lover who spurned her by throwing a snake from her coiffure at him, and he died from the venom. I enjoy using the Furies as subject matter because of their female power and the opportunity to combine classically drawn features with serpentine forms. In this work I wanted to use the language of pure drawing in a visual dialogue with the idiomatic, sgraffiti -like snake head.  Judith Mason 2015


Title: Nail Fetish
Medium: Six colour lithograph
Size: 76.5 x 60cm
Edition size: 35
Price: R 8 500 (excl.VAT)

NAIL FETISH (Nkisi). Found commonly in the Congo, nail fetishes are objects of redemptive and punitive significance. Nails and blades etc are hammered into wooden images in order to confound enemies or to seek assistance in times of illness etc.The images become sites of power and spiritual energy. Here I have conflated the fetish with the idea of the crucifix , and our hunger to cling to votive objects. I have used a Nkisi in my collection as basis for the figure in this graphic. Judith Mason 2015


Lithograph 2014

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Title: Singer
Medium: Five colour lithograph
Size: 70 x 51cm
Edition size: 25
Price: R 7 975 (excl.VAT)

Mothmask Lithographs


Artists Statement:
"Moths are my favourite insects and summer becomes a real burden because I am always rescuing them from bathwater or guiding them away from bright and harmful lights. I keep dead moths so as to enjoy their beauty for as long as possible, and find the complex beauty of the patterns and textures irresistible. The 'eyes', which are a feature of some species' markings, remind me of Venetian Carnival masks. The three Mothmasks shown here are a playful way of commemorating specimens I have collected in combination with the notions of disguise and disclosure. Two of them hide the face, and in the third, a face is revealed in close up, as he scrutinises wings through a magnifying glass."
Judith Mason 2011

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Medium: Seven colour lithograph
Paper size: Size: 70 x 51cm
Edition size: 25
Price: R 6 500 (excl.VAT)

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Title: Mothmask II
Medium: Four colour lithograph
Size: 70 x 51cm
Edition size: 25
Price: R 6 500 (excl.VAT)

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Title: Mothmask III
Medium: Five colour lithograph
Paper size: Size: 70 x 51cm
Edition size: 25
Price: R 6 500 (excl.VAT)

Lithographs (Goya and Pomegranates)

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Artists Statement:
"Pomegranates have always been my favourite fruit because of their beautiful caskets of jewel-like seeds within, and the hard, almost pot-like exterior. It is an ancient fruit, celebrated in the Song of Solomon and regarded by the Early Church as a symbol of the Resurrection. In these prints I have tried to celebrate the fruit's sensual qualities, and its oozing ruby juice , and have juxtaposed it with a hammer to remind one of its skull-like vulnerability."
Judith Mason 2010

Mark Attwood has worked out a new technique to meet the needs of artists who are primarily painters. He explains ” This method was born out of the frustration of trying to find painterly ways for artists to work with, that would allow them to get the sort of marks that they achieve when they paint”. Judith Mason has recently spent a few weeks in the studio, and now has a printing technique that she can really extend herself in. Judith says that the process is “ Much more satisfactory for painters because you don’t fill in colours or have to anticipate how colours will work in the ”abstract”. You are able to see instantly how the colours will interact and the gesture making typical of most painters is allowed to develop in ways that even experienced painters find exciting.”

Mason recently completed a suite of prints using this technique. Bits of fabric and tissue are used to apply the ink, which allows for beautiful and subtle mark making. Combined with the translucency of the ink the images of pomegranates that she has used seem to glow from the paper surface. On can almost touch the “wet translucency” of the juice from the smashed fruit in the one print.

The artist worked onto a sheet of clear plastic with coloured inks with the image reading the same way it will be in the final print. She worked with the actual ink colour that was used the final print (as opposed to working in black pencil or tusche). Mark adds,” this allows the artist to see what they have and what the print will look like as they build it up”. When the artist is satisfied, the image is transferred onto the printing plate, the plate is processed, and the proofs are pulled. The results speak for themselves.

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Title: Pomegranate I
Medium: Eleven colour lithograph
Size: 51 x 70cm
Edition size: 40
Price: R 7 850 (excl.VAT)

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Title: Pomegranate II
Medium: Seven colour lithograph
Size: 51 x 70cm
Edition size: 40
Price: R 7 850 (excl.VAT)

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Title: Pomegranate III
Medium: Seven colour lithograph
Size: 51 x 70cm
Edition size:40
Price: R 7 850 (excl.VAT)

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Title: Goya's Hat
Medium: Nine colour lithograph
Size: 70 x 51cm
Edition size: 35
Price: R 7 850 (excl.VAT)

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Title: Goya's Hat and Cat
Medium: Eight colour lithograph
Size: 70 x 51cm
Edition size:35
Price: R 7 850 (excl.VAT)

Lithographs celebrating 70

Judith mason at work

Judith Mason applying 22k gold leaf to "Unshackled"


These prints celebrate the career of Judith Mason and coincide not only with her seventieth birthday but also with her retrospective exhibitions at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg and at the Sasol Gallery, University of Stellenbosch. In these lithographs Judith Mason proves that she is a fine graphic artist. Her total control of line, shading and form delights the eye.

Artists Statement:

"As I am about to enter my eighth decade, I decided to create a portfolio of eight prints to celebrate(!) the occasion. A portfolio, which would explore some of the themes that have tantalised me all my life. Then followed a few happy weeks of collaboration with the printers who patiently proofed my work and its numerous corrections, and made me feel that I knew what I was doing". Judith Mason, September 2008

Please note that as the prints in this series are sold out they are placed into Mason's archive and can be seen there.

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Title: Wardrobe
Medium: Two colour lithograph
Size: 66.5 x 50.5cm
Edition size: 35
Price: R 6 100 (excl.VAT)

'Wardrobe" is the most light hearted of the prints. I love snakes, although I fear some of them, and enjoy having them as neighbours. A boomslang lived in the roof of my house for a while, scandalising the local sparrows. Every now and then I find sloughed skins, and the two which I drew for this print were still damp and beautifully supple when I found them. Making a serpentine pun of an ordinary wire coat hanger, and draping the skins like clothing, amused me. Judith Mason, 2008.

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Title: Searching for the Soul
Medium: Three colour lithograph
Size: 66.5 x 50.5cm
Edition size: 35
Price: R 6 100 (excl.VAT)

"Searching for the Soul" addresses my fondness for primates and the certainty that I am closely related to them. It also expresses my belief that we cannot ever possess religious certainty, and that debates about the soul's location are both a waste of time and enormously enjoyable. The grubby pragmatism of the monkeys is in deliberate contrast to the rather facile classical head that splits apart like a pomegranate. Judith Mason, 2008.

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Title: Adam
Medium: Five colour lithograph
Size: 66.5 x 50.5cm
Edition size: 35
Price: R 6 100 (excl.VAT)

"Adam" stands like a candlestick with the torso as a flame surrounded by a deliberately demanding after-image of light, as if the viewer is blinking against the light he sees. The legs of Adam are woven together in a vein-like plait behind his knees, to suggest that his handicaps are intrinsic to his being. Judith Mason, 2008.

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Title: Descent from the Cross
Medium: Four colour lithograph
Size: 66.5 x 50.5cm
Edition size: 35
Price: R 6 100 (excl.VAT)

"Descent from the Cross" is one of my favourite subjects and I have painted several versions. This lithograph is a variant on the image I used in the Purgatorio panel of "Walking with and away from Dante". The panel describes Purgatory as a temporal condition, and is an attempt to mend the wrongs wrought by us. A self-sufficient victim of crucifixion is an element in its rather complicated visual argument. Judith Mason, 2008.

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Title: Man at Battle Grinning
Medium: Four colour lithograph
Size: 66.5 x 50.5cm
Edition size: 35
Price: R 6 100 (excl.VAT)

"Man at Battle Grinning" gets its title from a line in Patrick Cullinan's poem, "For Rebecca, born at Midwinter", and also refers to the suicide bomber depicted in one of the Inferno panels in "Walking with and away from Dante". The mouth is reprised as an open shout on the forehead - a wound, and a war-cry. I used drawings of augers to create a sense of weaponry and armour.
Judith Mason, 2008.

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Title: Unshackled
Medium: Single colour lithograph with hand-applied 22k gold leaf
Size: 66.5 x 50.5cm
Edition size: 35
Price: R 6 100 (excl.VAT)

"Unshackled" derives from an image I used at the bottom of Paradise in "Walking with and away from Dante". The chain-ladder was found on a Cape farm, and the feet were derived from an x-ray plate, and my memory of the gold-plated toes of the Pharaoh in Tutankhamun's tomb. I wanted to incorporate several ideas about shuffling off one's mortal coil, not just a Christian concept of the soul's liberation. Judith Mason, 2008.

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