Martini Coetzee describes light painting photography as her kind of magic. She was a glass artist for a long time before concentrating mainly on photography. In her recent work, she used a Canon EOS 6D Mk II DSLR which she says brings out much more light. “In Macro photography using a Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro lens, I can capture details of a subject beautifully. Like an artist, I paint with my light painting brush (mounted on a strong torch Litra/Ledlenser) casting light into the photo and my colours are created using LEE/Rosco colour filters/gels.”

The Self - Martini Coetzee

The Self

Know Thyself - Martini Coetzee

Know Thyself

Universe Within - Martini Coetzee

Universe Within

Journey of the Self - Martini Coetzee

Journey of the Self

Where she gets her inspiration from

“When I studied Fine Arts I loved the work of Max Ernst. The Surrealists had this amazing way of putting things together and in that Freudian unconscious mind, that’s at play something wonderful was born. In Photoshop while building up layers I can also use this collage and frottage techniques. The recently released photos of the James Webb space telescope by NASA are astonishing. I just had to bring it into the series and it worked great with the journey of discovery concept. I travel a lot to Port-Alfred where I collect interesting materials along the seashore like shells, seagull feathers, chitons, remains of seaweeds etc. Here in Pretoria, I find items on my walks like lichens, egg shells, butterflies, bees etc. I was fortunate to borrow a cast of a skeleton. It brought out so many creative ideas.”

Her current exhibition and the prints displayed

The exhibition she’s currently a part of is called Blooming in the Dark: Stage 6 – a group exhibition curated by Sammy Muller where Art of Print printed 5 prints on True Fibre Matt paper for her. The exhibition opens on the 6th of August and ends on the 31st of August at The Viewing Room Art Gallery in Brooklyn Circle, Pretoria.

Objects that symbolise this journey

“The 5 works in the exhibition are part of a body of work I just completed. It consists of 20 light painting photography artworks. The series is entitled Light tracing Thyself. After I took the first photos I sent them to my dad for advice. This was a great idea especially when I got the message back “Look at the Oracle of Delphi and Know Thyself of Socrates.” It’s always helpful to ask a professor of Greek Philosophy for feedback! The series continued with the ideas of Socrates especially his theory that “True wisdom is knowing what you do not know. It can be confusing but it is simple – which I tried to capture in this journey. An endless search to gain knowledge of the Self in our universe while also connecting constantly with nature.”

Photographers trace or record objects, landscapes etc. but through light painting, there is also a trace of one’s self. I move with my light painting tool in the frame and space which the camera then captures. I leave a trace, an imprint of thyself as I continue my life cycle. In the series, I used objects that also symbolise this journey. 

Butterflies and moths symbolise change/transformation. The skull and skeleton (hand and foot) are death (our human mortal existence) but also the gateway/guidance to the immortality of the travelling soul. There’s also an environmental message in the lichens – they’re sensitive to air pollution. In our journey, we must take care of our planet earth. Turbo shells shelter the hermit crab. Crabs symbolise rebirth, evolving as they can change shells. Chitons represent the power of adapting as they have thousands of eyes to see the enemy and protect themselves. The feathers of a seagull symbolise boundless travelling from the sea to land to the sky. We search for the wisdom of the owl (represented with feathers) in our journey. The bee can travel between the natural and supernatural worlds in folklore and mythology. The moon symbolises the continued cycles, always bringing new hope even after complete darkness new light will come etc…”

The Oracle - Martini Coetzee

The Oracle

Endless Search - Martini Coetzee

Endless Search

The Oracle – Her favourite print at the exhibition

The Oracle was the start of this series. Martini found the oyster on the beach after a storm the previous night. It was a fortunate find because the two sides were still connected although the host already left. She could bring it home and create a light painting and in the editing process using Photoshop she accidentally made a gradient mistake but decided to keep it as is. This sparked the idea of the Oracle of Delphi. The green gradient resembles the fault in the floor (the temple of Apollo) from where gasses put The Oracle (the Pythia) in a trance state. Advice and guidance were given to people coming from all over the world. The oyster symbolises transformation (creating a shell), femininity and protection. “I did not find a pearl but this oyster set me on a new journey of discovery, a birth of new ideas… Light tracing thyself.”

Immortality - Martini Coetzee


Imprint - Martini Coetzee


Her advice for producing content that stands out

“Don’t be scared to play!! Yes, it is still working to set up for a shoot and sit for hours and hours at a computer. The result of your creation is worth the time and finally seeing it printed is just magical!! Being creative is a constantly evolving process. I try not to think whether other people will love my work. If I like it, it’s a good start. I love putting things/images together like a Surrealist collage. In my light painting, I have an abstract expressionism vibe like a Jackson Pollock painting. In light paintings, light drawings/doodles are the elements of chance happening in space. In this automatism (there’s no conscious thought) I can move freely around my subjects and be free to explore and create leaving light trails captured in long- exposures in-camera. Long exposures can be 30 seconds or 5 minutes… anything goes.”