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Under the Surface

White River Art Gallery, White River Mpumalanga, South Africa. September - October 2022

The body of work on this page were part of more than one exhibition. Currently, selected works are shown at White River Art Gallery in a group exhibition with other artists. Several of the sketches were initially shown at RK Contemporary. 
Thinking about “stories that gather stories” (Haraway 2016), there are links between real and imagined ecologies. The group exibition Under the surface at White River Art gallery shows the work of Gwenneth Miller, Philip Badenhorst and Adelle van Zyl.  The three artists work as independent creative researchers who actively seek to reconsider the definition of painting in terms of revealing that which is hidden.   Gwen reflects on the force felt in landscapes, objects and growth. In Limpopo, her birthplace, lichens grow with glowing colours in dry heat, anchored on rocks. Harsh landscapes yield fungi - creating life through mycorrhizal partners. Through the language of magic realism and with a microscopic eye, Gwen composes images below or next to another, to suggest symbiotic relationships. She applies photography as an analytic tool to forms, abstracting and restructuring images to evoke new connections. One form grows into another through unfolding layers of drawing, monotypes, digital prints, paintings and collages. Through her medium manipulation she considers how organisms transform substrates into new materials. 
Art Times Magazine Feature. Pages 60-62.

MESH. the fabric of friends

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

In May 2022, the sketches and planning were exhibited together with artists at Riebeeck Kasteel Gallery,  in the exhibition title MESH: the fabric of friends.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 

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