Mary Wafer was born and grew up in Durban. After three years of study at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, she relocated to Johannesburg and completed her advanced diploma in fine art at Wits University. Wafer’s father Jeremy Wafer is a practicing South African artist which most certainly contributed to Wafer’s choice to pursue a career in the arts. She travelled to London and Copenhagen where she worked as a gallery administrator and artist. By 2005, Wafer had returned to South Africa to embark on her Masters of Art in fine art.
When looking at the corridors and lighting tracks, often seen on basement parking ceilings, there is a strong sense of height and space created by the effect of how light and shadow influences the overall effect of the space. She is concerned with creating a sense of that space. The works become a representation; a social and psychological space that does not necessarily occupy a physical space.
Wafer’s earlier works draw on images related to movement and transport; she explored issues of exclusion and marginality in relation to the notion of space. Through paintings of alienating peripheral structures, such as freeways and bridges, focusing on the architectures of transport and mobility, Wafer explores ideas of structural marginality and exclusion in a contemporary South African context.
Wafer first came to DKW to work on some monotypes and the etching Berea Road, in 2005. She returned in early 2011 to complete a series of intaglio prints, with the DKW printers at Arts on Main. In April 2011, Wafer visited New York City where, among other things, she worked on 20 monotype prints at Robert Blackburn Print Studio with master printer, Phil Sanders. Since Sanders’ first visit to DKW Johannesburg in 2008, he has worked collaboratively with various DKW artists, including Deborah Bell, Colbert Mashile and Maja Maljević.