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Hattingh is mainly a self-taught South African artist with formal training gained from attending workshops presented by established artists.
Hattingh’s love for Africa, its subject matter and nature became a fascination and passion for the artist in her early 1920s while experiencing the wonders of safari. She worked for the Department of Nature Conservation in South West Africa, now Nambia during the 1970s, and for a period of 12 years, Hattingh lived and worked in Southern Africa.
Hattingh engaged with the 'Africaness' more by photographing and writing articles on wildlife in her spare time. In 1981 this resulted in a published book, "Etosha - Life and Death on an African Plain" by Struik in South Africa, and Collins in England and Germany. "Zululand - A Wildlife Heritage" was next and was published once again by Struik and Collins in 1984. In the 1990s Hattingh returned to city life, exchanging the calm of the wildness for the vibrant and ‘unfamiliar’ after years in Africa. She claims that motherhood and a move to the Cape expanded and deepened her perception and understanding of the underlying, mostly sub-conscious connection between humans and what we like to think of as ‘our’ world.
Hattingh believes that “in the same way that there is a heartbeat space between action and reaction, there is a gap – sometimes a chasm – between us and everything in our environment”.
She believes that in that space people, animals, places and things are imbued by our “shadow selves” and it is this “embodied” space where her subject matter, style and focus of work is born. In Hattingh’s opinion the surface of her artworks may seem to range from realistic and figurative to abstract, but ultimately each piece concerns itself with the artists’ explorations and constant development of the perception of reality, related to the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and mythical. The subject matter will show African roots but are enhanced by overlaying European culture and history. This approach strives to develop a new reality where “supposedly’” opposing cultures come together.
The “beasts” as she likes to refer to the animals in her work, are obsessions that have remained with Hattingh through the years. Ultimately a work by Margot Hattingh will capture some physical likeness, a presence, but also materialise the invisible essence of the particular subject. Hattingh has technically mastered painting, printmaking, etching and monotype and a variety of mediums (pastels, both oil and chalk, watercolour, acrylic, oils, resin and wax encaustic).