MESH. the fabric of friends

Gallery RK Contemporary, Riebeek-Kasteel, Western Cape. 2022

In this group exhibition Colleen Alborough, Emma Willemse, Gwenneth Miller and Mandy Conidaris curated the concept around the relationships of friends. We were fellow-lecturers at Unisa between 2008 and 2012, forming bonds as art makers and supportive art friends. Our support grew to a rewarding experience of personal friendship, intellectual exchange still retaining a porous sieve for each to explore our own thinking and relationships to materials and places.

Mandy Conidaris wrote: “When we were offered this exhibition, the title MESH seemed appropriate to describe our work concepts as individual artists and honour our creative alliance. We all draw on the personal as triggers to resonate universally, and here we speak of our different understandings of mesh as related to our works” (Art Times, 2022, Aprril)

My work on the MESH exhibition includes work from Gills of other creatures (2021), and extends the theme of fungi as a metaphor for both tangible and intangible bonds. The new works and works exhibited for the first time as part of MESH are captured on this page. The mycelial mesh is a massive, entangled, hidden world of which we know relatively little. In the new works, the links between forest, kinship and meditive practice comes together. My references include photographs I took whilst walking through the forest with my family, an image of a dried mushroom documented during a residency at Hoofstraat Contemporary and dried, sealed fungi collected from artist Philip Badenhorst's enchanting wild garden. Considering images of the fine spores released by mushrooms and the 'soup' of micro bits that inevitably surrounds us, my drawings asks questions of being enmeshed with so much else. I listened to James Hillman's lectures on The Alchemy of Psychology and wondered whether these spores can be seen as the base material, the prima materia, of my own current search for answers about spirit, body and unknowability of death. There is some magic in this interrelationship between stuff and the human race, communities and friends.


The Material of Bells series
I have been collecting small hand-held bells over many years, and started drawing them as a meditation. Some were bought at specific places that I visited with my family, and others were gifts from friends. Each reminds me of the people, places or circumstances.  Bells symbolize calling, beginnings, endings, summoning people to gather, thus their act of ringing always mediates knowledge of an event. Rendering each bell becomes a form of contemplation that draws my mind to a place of calm during a time of intense trauma. I lose myself in scrutinising the physical details of the bell, trying to evoke the materiality of the object through my stains and marks of ink. Since the substance of a bell adds to its resonating sound, I was struck by the thought that what we emanate also becomes evidence of the fabric (material) of our consciousness, our convictions, and our values.

Apart from the shape of the bell resembling a simple mushroom, the vibrating sounds the bells also acts as a source of energy. Recalling brings memory to life, like mushrooms recycling the energy below. One of the last works in this series, Sounding (2022), finds an echo between these seemingly disparate subject matter.

AT FEATURE: MESH the fabric of friends, in Art Times
Hillman, J. 2017.  The Alchemy of Psychology. Audible.
Residencies at Hoofstaat Contemporary, Riebeek-Kasteel, Cape.
RK Contemporary: Exhibitions: MESH the fabric of friends. Artist Gwenneth Miller