Apart/ A Part
Group Exhibition curated by Laurette de Jager
ArtB, Bellville Art Association, Bellville, Cape Town : 11 November - 3 December 2020
Also exhibited at Gothic Romantic, at EDG2020
The five digital works, which I exhibited on Apart/A Part are images of witnessing transient life and speak of our incredible ability of finding beauty in the moment, even during profound trauma.
When completely at a loss for words, intense observation becomes a meditation.
I quietly started to document medical fluid containers and focussed on the way light transformed things into subliminal abstractions. On contemplating familiar drips and dialysis bags, three individual works, titled Reservoir I-III (2019-2020) crystallised. In the three artworks, the word 'reservoir' connected ideas of storage and of fluid being released; of containing a reserve for a time of dire need. The images contain references to measurement but the data visually dissolves through the liquid bodies and stacked cellulose acetate. These cropped images capture life-providing tools, not as medical objects but as lenses becoming agents of transformation. Both metaphorically and visually, reality is altered.
The abstraction within works became an attempt to think through gradually unfolding meaning of our finite existence in a time of trauma. I found gravity in the questions raised by the author Yuval Harari (2018) about the relationship between new technologies and the ailing body. Harari’s questioning of ethics in twenty-first century struck a chord when I grappled to find meaning in a time when personal loss and worldwide anxiety overlapped, when a reading from a monitor dictated the medical carer's decision and existence was concluded connected to plastic tubes.
The knot that cannot be untangled (2020) developed from an end-of-life experience. Moving between the edges of known and unknown, I explored the folds in a hospital bed sheet, and the sense of returning to a universe of energy. This work vitalised absence in the present moment, as quiet compassion in an act of release. In this image luminous tubes curve as if they have a life of their own, free from the body, contemplating peaceful renunciation. In the context of a group exhibition Apart/A Part that focussed on sublime aesthetics, the work links with a concept of a dimly revealed world of an unpresentable interface between life and death. The making of the work aimed at both spiritual reflection and reality of surrendering, losing connection. The perspective further finds an echo in Rosi Braidotti's (2019) writing of the "embrainment of the body” and "embodiment of the brain", acknowledging the entanglement of life and the systems we create. The nature of memories is enfolded into our being - in the minute complexity of our synapses. I drew a visual relationship between the tangle of tubes and the synapses of mind. According to Van der Kolk (1991), trauma engraves its own lexicon onto our cells, changing our bodies into unfamiliar entities.
In the work Black tears and the sea, a photograph of an unusually quiet sea on a hazy, grey day, was digitally overlaid with glass drops. The title recalls the idea of dark tears, a murky bodily fluid, as if quoting a line from a text of the theory of the abject. In the context of the landscape the drops references rain, possibly running down a window pane, and evoking a sense of cold air. Motion seems frozen and like a frame from a film, it captures seconds in silence - a world coming to a total stand-still at the moment when a tragic event takes place.