Artists We Love: Alice Toich

INTERVIEWED BY Ashraf Booley IMAGES courtesy of Alich Toich and 99 Loop

After a brief stint working in advertising, Pretoria-born artist Alice Toich pursued a postgraduate diploma in painting at Michaelis. And she never looked back.

We chat to her about her work, what inspires her, and her upcoming solo exhibition, The Icing Pink Ether, which reveals another delicious hidden talent of hers that we’re eager to get a taste of (true story).

How would you describe your work?

I think I’m a real ‘painter-painter’ and I love mark-making. I like to think my paintings and drawings are pieces in process. The kind of painting I love lives between the worlds of contemporary realism and conceptual work. There is a sweet spot in between work being visually representative and also thoughtful and meaningful. That is the place I like to aim for when deciding upon calling a work ‘finished’.

Who/what inspires your work? 

A plethora of things. My personal experiences as a woman living in South Africa. My family. Discomfort. The internet. Being white. Anger. Patriotism. Positivity. ‘Rules’. Quantum mechanics. Options. The power of the human mind. Laws of the so-called natural world. A lot of late nights and early mornings staring at the ceiling in my bedroom.

What do you love most about painting?

I love that painting gives me a place to understand the intricacies of living. The beautiful moments, but also, the complex, less understood moments. I go into the studio and paint everyday. I also like that painting ‘removes’ me from the pace of daily existence, which I often find chaotic and overwhelmingly fast.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Making the cut in the top 100 for South Africa’s first-ever portrait awards, the Sanlam Portrait Awards. Also, my first artist residency in Istanbul last year.

You also bake? Tell us about that.

I love baking! I am discovering more and more that, like creating art, baking is a ‘practice’ in its own right. I started baking when I moved into a flat while studying. I think it was an exploration of sorts – looking for a safe space in the big city and I feel I found it. I think baking is magic. How random measured-out ingredients can go together and, with added elements of acidity, heat or whipping, can essentially become sculptures: edible ones that bring people together!

Any correlation between your paintings and baking?

Yes! For a long while I thought I couldn’t be taken seriously as an artist (or as a feminist for that matter) if I was also a baker. But I have come to reject that notion and I am reclaiming it fully. This is reflected in my upcoming solo exhibition, The Icing Pink Ether, in which I have allowed myself to go full tilt with the influence that my baking has on my art-making and I have loved every moment of it.

Tell us about your upcoming solo exhibition, The Icing Pink Ether. What can we expect? 

The Icing Pink Ether is my first official solo exhibition. I prepared for it by asking myself a number of questions. What does it mean to be female? Feminine? A South African? An artist? Free? I have explored the nuances of being young in our current socio-political landscape and asked myself, as a South African female, how I respond to the notions of ‘freedom’.

While preparing for this show, it felt like my mind was constantly moving from my personal space to the situation of the world at large. To my history, to our country, to the future. There is so much thinking that has gone into each piece; there are layers (even if they may just be seen pictorially). I have used a lot of baking techniques in The Icing Pink Ether both as a metaphor and also as a component to aid my exploration of the ideas I have encountered while researching. I have been reading a lot about quantum physics and that is evident in my work.

I think it’s funny how when life and humanity at large appear to have such macro issues, we turn to the micro, to understanding the ‘tiny’ in the hopes that it will have some clues to help us understand the ‘larger-than-others’. I think I have found some wonderful clues so far.

Exciting plans in the pipeline?

Many. Firstly, the aforementioned exhibition opening at 99 Loop on the 28 September 2016, including a bunch of interesting little projects that will be exhibited in The Castle of Good Hope, in a group show of artist exchanges between disciplines (more on this in months to come), as well as all the baking! I am also moving to Florence, Italy towards the end of the year to pursue a full year of technical training at the Florence Academy of Fine Art. It has been a long held dream of mine to attend the academy and the time has finally come!

The Icing Pink Ether runs from 28 September – 21 October at 99 Loop gallery at 99 Loop Street (Corner of Church Street), Cape Town. The gallery is open Monday to Friday from 9am – 5pm and on Saturdays from 9am until 1pm. Visit or for more information.