The graphic works catalog:
Mixed media works:
Focus Contemporary | Fine Young Art
Les Arcs Draguignan, French Riviera, France
Friday 19h00, 24 July 2009
Rust and Vrede Art Gallery
Belville, Cape Town
Durban, South Africa
14 September 2009 with Vulindlela Nyoni
Cultivaria Art Festival
UJ Art Gallery
In many ways I aim to ‘rewrite’ history in my work and the dominant sense of self-awareness that informs most Western art practices. I am trying to present contemporary issues such as Difference as timeless, by situating my vocabulary of images and themes in an organic flux of dreams, history, news, commercial detritus, hyperreality, and unvoiced feelings and forces of biological nature/desire.
In my exhibition Cold Sweat I aimed to reconcile two seemingly irreconcilable driving forces of postmodern consciousness – the desire for Otherness and the fear of losing autonomy. Herein lies the connection between my random imagery –borrowed images from contemporary culture, digital images, my own photographs and autobiographical imagery. I am always aiming to juggle these sometime disparate images to make them correspond without collapsing into one particular style, mode of thought, emotion, or art-historical reference. Through the juxtaposition of Self and human nature I am attempting to create a new language of images appropriate to the psychological realities of our age.
In the light of the above I am greatly inspired by ideas about Dystopia and especially how living in a malfunctioning society affects all human beings, irrespective of sex, gender, race, class or creed.
The first known use of the term Dystopia appeared in a speech before the British Parliament by Greg Webber and John Stuart Mill in 1868. In that speech, Mill said, "It is, perhaps, too complimentary to call them Utopians, they ought rather to be called dys-topians, or caco-topians. What is commonly called Utopian is something too good to be practicable; but what they appear to favor is too bad to be practicable". His knowledge of Greek suggests that he was referring to a bad place, rather than simply the opposite of Utopia. The Greek prefix "dys" signifies "ill", "bad" or "abnormal"; Greek "topos" meaning "place"; and Greek "ou-", meaning "not". Thus, dystopia refers to an imagined place where almost everything is bad, perhaps a play on the term utopia, coined by Thomas More.
( From Wikipedia, Accessed on 3 February 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dystopia)
I am aware that my current Distopian subject matter could evoke unexpected emotions, however, I value the way that I often don’t “fit in” and it is my own uneasiness with the mainstream patriarchal heterosexual world which mostly inspires me to make art. This is true of the context in which I work and live, and am aware that the situation elsewhere might be different. It is my goal to fundamentally challenge my viewers not only about art, but also their (dis) comfort about gender, sexuality, sexual orientation, body politics, desire, geography, place and memory.
My initial inspiration for Cold Sweat is to be found in the work of Robert Parke Harrison who cleverly manipulates his theatrical photographs. Compared to my own work, Parke Harrison’s concepts reveal a similar mood/feeling, but within a very different context. Another influence is the fantastical, almost photographic, digital prints, etchings and engravings by the American artist, Peter Milton.
My works for Cold Sweat are darker than ever before; quiet and unsettling, but without the sometimes-literal element in some of my earlier works. However, I have re-introduced a lyrical element into my latest work and am slowly moving away from the specific exploration of gender and sexuality.
Technically, many different techniques and media are explored in Cold Sweat. Like earlier in my career, I have re-discovered the power of drawing and is currently enjoying the many challenges posed by the medium. However, I am also drawing onto unusual surfaces such as ready-made Perspex domes. I have also again embraced our technological age and am also exploring laser engraving as a new medium for art making. I am continually fascinated with new media and new possibilities of making art.
I view Cold Sweat as an important mid-career exhibition, and am looking forward to the reception of this body of work from the public and new insights from art critics.
Art often serves an observational, analytical and interpretational purpose. Both art’s mimetic function, and its imaginative aspect provide powerful means by which any society can introspect, investigate and visualise itself as a capsule of the socio-cultural and political status quo.
Within the geographical boundaries of Southern Africa, Cold Sweat explores the relationship of contemporary art production to society and ideology, and aims to unmask articulations of dystopia within this cultural framework. In principle, dystopian texts express worldviews that postulate end-of-utopia, utopia-gone-wrong and even anti-utopia, and entail responses to and a critique of utopia.
In the dystopian genre the imagination is tweaked as a critical instrument set on deconstructing existing or potential ills, injustices and hypocrisies in society, mainly brought on by utopian ideologies and legacies. In dystopian texts, whether real or fictive, visual or literary stories are told about, for instance, societies and places where the impact of the ideological blueprint of globalisation has created diasporic cultures and nomad identities; about unjust utopian political ideas that create social restriction, impaired mobility, repression or oppression; or about post-utopian space and loss of religious belief and direction. It might recount post-human conditions as a result of the dominating influence of the technological utopianism, evident in dysfunctional cyberrelationships and telematic influences leading to rampant violence, threat to self, insensitivity and indifference to critical socio-cultural problems.
Broadly speaking, Cold Sweat deals with the following themes: political utopia-gone-wrong; teleology and apocalypse; dystopian contestations of gender, race and culture; spatiality and boundaries as postideological zones; and the postindustrial city; and technodystopia.
A significant metatext in the conceptual architecture of my work is the role and use of various kinds of technologies from low-tech to high-tech digital tools in the production of the artworks in order to come closer to an understanding of the way in which culture produces itself and attributes meaning to that self-production. The appropriated technologies reflect social processes, histories and conditions in South Africa and as such provide a kind barometer for socio-cultural conditions in, for instance, rural village settings, inner city diasporic communities and consumer environments.
- The above background was adapted from a press release for the exhibition Dystopia at the UNISA art gallery written by Prof. Elfriede Dreyer at the University of Pretoria.