Artworks inspired by an epic journey

South African big wave surfing champion Chris Bertish recently completed the world’s first solo stand-up paddle (SUP) crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. This incredible achievement inspired my trilogy of oil paintings, which themselves seek to inspire South Africans to achieve their dreams, even when the odds seem unlikely or impossible.

In March last year, after 93 days at sea, the Cape Town-based Chris Bertish arrived at the Pillars of Hercules at the Caribbean island of Antigua. Beginning in Agadir, Morocco, it took Chris over 2.5 million paddle strokes to navigate the 7 500 kilometres of ocean. Now a motivational speaker, the winner of the world-renowned Mavericks invitational surfing championship in 2010 survived many dangers, including storms, shark attacks and a giant squid attempting to drag his vessel to the bottom of the ocean.

This was an exceptional feat of human endurance and courage by a fellow countryman. I wanted to capture the spirit of Chris’s journey in a series of paintings that would do justice to his historic achievement.

The paintings, each measuring 101cm x 75cm, are entitled “Atlantic Solo”, “Atlantic Soul” and “Atlantic Epic”. The first, mostly in monochrome, depicts Chris battling against a wild storm at night and alludes to Hokusai’s famous Japanese print, “The Great Wave”.

“Atlantic Soul” switches to full colour to show a tranquil scene of equilibrium between Chris, his vessel, an aquamarine ocean, and some of the aquatic wildlife that befriended him on his journey. The third in the trilogy, “Atlantic Epic”, shows Chris setting off a flare to celebrate his arrival in Antigua against the spectacular cliffs of the Pillars of Hercules.

“Atlantic Soul” has been set aside for auction to contribute to Chris’s work as a philanthropist for non-profit organisations like Operation Smile, which performs surgeries to repair cleft palates of children from poor backgrounds.

Another charity that benefitted by Chris’s trip is The Lunchbox Fund: for every stroke paddled in the transatlantic epic, a meal was bought for a school child in need.

“I’m honoured to be involved in the trilogy series of the SUP crossing which Michael has painted,” said Chris. “The trilogy is a true rendition of the story. It shows depth in character and colour, and is an admirable reflection of an epic journey that I’m hoping will continue to inspire millions of people to believe in themselves, give back and discover what’s truly possible for them.”

Click here to read the article that was published in Tygerburger on 12 December 2018.