Fiona Pole was born in 1974. She graduated from Rhodes University, Grahamstown with a Bachelor of Fine Art (honours), and worked and lived in France for many years before returning to Johannesburg where she has now opened her own studio the atelier. Fiona Pole adds: "The starting point - London - the base from where I traveled and worked for two and a half years. After several visits to France, I decided to move to Paris. Motivated to learn French and study further I enrolled at a language school and at an atelier for etching. A few months later the daunting task of entrance interviews for l'Ecole Nationale Supérieure Estienne - a school specialising in graphic arts and arts related to books, was undertaken. Accepted into the section of etching and engraving, the next two years were spent perfecting my French and working in the print workshops." Fiona Pole became the first South African artist to complete a printmaking diploma (with honours) at this prestigious institution.
Pole is fascinated by the urban structures that people live within. Living in Paris and having been raised in Johannesburg has led to her interest in the art deco buildings in both cities.
The images are a way for her to make sense of the cities, to familiarize herself with them and to help understand how they work. In both Johannesburg and Cape Town, the process started off with Fiona Pole sketching the buildings on site. In Johannesburg, she began with Ansteys and in Cape Town with the Old Mutual building. These buildings are the landmarks around which the other buildings are found. They are personal landmarks and the others were selected based on their beauty.
For Johannesburg, the colours are hot earth colours with a minimal use of black. She was interested in capturing the blinding sense of light that dominates this high altitude city. In the Cape "I wanted to attempt to portray the blue wet sky that seems to seep into everything. The grey of the mountain that shadows the city. And the amazing colours of the Bo-Kaap." In contrast to the Johannesburg images, the colours of the Cape Town series are more reticent, cooler and combine the elements of air and water. This was enhanced by Mark Attwood suggesting new ways of working and "by experimenting with painterly techniques we came up with some effects which work very well with the Cape sky," she says.
Fiona Pole works a lot with maps and places in her work. She adds, "The city images are a way of making a personal map of things. There is an element of nostalgia in doing this". Figures in her work become random "background" elements. Often in cityscape snapshots, people get "captured" in the image. These people are the people who never get noticed, the nobodies of city living. "I like to concentrate on these random figures, on the woman leaving the house and the man walking by." In this way, the artist reaches out and gives these people the same importance as what are often historically important buildings.