Thelmi Bekker was born in Colesberg in the barren Cape thirstland of the Karoo, and educated in the nearby town of Philippolis, birthplace of Sir Laurens van der Post.
Without any formal training, she began painting as a teenager, but it wasn’t until 2002, and the discovery by The Crake Gallery in Johannesburg, that her work, which is notable for its spirituality, and her naive interpretation of the subject matter, was shown to the public for the first time.
Inspired by the style of the British artist, Anora Spence, she uses very simplistic symbolism in her paintings, which depict life in rural South Africa. The distinctive church steeples were inspired by the statues of Helen Martins of Nieu Bethesda and the churches that have always been the focal point in Karoo towns and villages.
A graduate in Library Science of the University of the Free State, she now lives in Harrismith in the Free State with her quantity surveyor husband, and paints full time.
When one looks at Thelmi’s paintings one is immediately confronted by the spontaneity of her work. There is also a childlike honesty in the manner that her images especially, are portrayed. The works are spiritual in a sense and narrative in that they tell a story. One can say that the paintings fit comfortably within Post Modernism as they depict her own particular style and there is definitely dialogue between the artwork and the viewer.
Her style has naïve elements such as lack of perspective as laid down by Renaissance, realistic bodily proportion to the rest of the body etc. These naïve elements add to the appeal of her work. This could be intentionally, to draw one’s attention to the figures. Other naïve elements are the lack of shadows, and no recession into space
Thelmi has been influenced by the German Expressionists as can be seen in her emotional use of colour and linear quality about the works.
Thelmi has no formal training, but utilize her own individualistic “poems” in her work, which appear as a collage.
Her work has a special quality that should be appreciated for its inner beauty.