The horses of past have come and gone and onward I trot to new pastures.
Last night was the opening of the Durban Girls College Art exhibition. As guest speaker I tire of repeating my chats and decided to interview the 16 girls and glean an understanding of each girls heart . With that came about 16 hours of research with the challenge of creating a speech under 16 minutes. This including a brief of course.
Thank God my head was clear and onward I talked together with a slide presentation dedicated to honour these ladies. The question asked was why art had been taken, and then what challenges had they come across that perhaps made them grow in self realisation or in awareness of sorts.
When the girls were asked what some of their challenges in art had taught them, an astounding number replied that art had taught them to be excellent managers of their time. Art is a very jealous baby, all absorbing and demanding, and one has to be able to gather ones thoughts and stay “composed”(Elizabeth). Character traits such as self discipline, dedication, determination and perseverance were developed. Art led to independent thought , it provided opportunity to explore things one would not naturally look at. Art led to creative problem solving… and looking at the work these girls have produced , it is safe to agree with some who said that art taught them that often the simplest thing has a deeper meaning.
I have taken the liberty of using the girls works as setting the tone for some of the issues they have looked at. I have focused on what I recognised as four categories. These are a look at areas of the Mind( freedom of thought,opening doors, deterioration with illness and healing), Identity and with that a look at Stereotypes, First Impressions and Truth, a look at the Narcissistic in our “Me Generation and finally a look at social awareness.
Mrs Joan Martin was where I began. Her birds set in Resin or textured or imprinted allowed me to introduce Elizabeth Ro’s idea of using origami birds as symbols for freedom of thought.
Also under the theme Absence / Presence Loren Dibb decided to title her art piece “ Open with caution”, again the therapeutic art of “making with your hands” had Loren make each face out of air dry clay, leaving out the mouth because it just did not look right added to the strength of the piece. Her research dealt with the human mind, no mouth, no speech draws attention then to the psyche, the thing we cannot see but indeed has a very tangible presence. The door, a opening or a closing in the mind. Research into
the mind enabled her to understand why people behaved as they did. Her influences are interesting as this work has a surrealist edge to it and Dali, founder of Surrealism was indeed an inspiration for Loren. Interestingly Loren, not sure you noticed the co incidence of the number of faces you made? 52! 52 weeks in a year??
From healthy mind possibilities we go onto the mind that is deteriorating and see how a disease such as ALTZEIMERS begins in the brain, moves to the body, the feet, the hands and then lastly “the heart forgets to beat” (Minal). A personal experience of her own grandmother, MINAL MEHDI looks at her loss and tenderly uses string to connect. Uses “forget me not “ flowers emphasising the loss and the remembrance, black flowers to symbolise the death and in the end produces a moving homage to her grandmother. The memory card game in the background is also a play on the disease, drawings of her grandmother seen on some cards. An apt response to the theme Absence/Presence.
From illness to Healing I introduce you to the work of EVA CHURCH who finds the process of art utterly consuming and hence healing. Having been home schooled after falling quiet ill, flowers for her became a symbol of hope and their healing properties very meaningful. Her work was seen at this years Artspace exhibition showcasing some IEB schools matric art. Botanical drawings is something she was shown to do since she was 7 years of age.
“Healing through flowers” then is about all that.
We now move onto issues around IDENTITY with this young lady called SONALI BISSASSER. She looks at her identity within the greater world of people. I too identified with some elements of this work. I immediately saw the teensy lone figure camouflaged in the cap of the jar trying to melt away. How many of us at some stage of our lives feel a bit like bambi in the spotlight or nemo in the big ocean trying to discover who we are. We need to always remember that both Bambi and Nemo became the inspiration and the main character in the very films named after them.
“ARTIFICE” means a clever trick, a crafty or subtle deception. An apt title from this years winner of the IEB competition exhibition at Artspace. A mobile installation representing different personality types. KEYLA AUFRICHTIG highlights through the use of fabric how people yearn to stay in their comfort zones and in that identity one finds a whole lot of self deception. And that by not having the courage to step outside of those comfort zones, one loses the opportunity to grow.
|Chanel Van Eerden|
Seeing past BRAND NAMES such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Addidas etc , CHANEL VAN EERDEN reminds us that we are all human , wearing skin actually. This work shows circles of butterflies, themselves printed with brand names onto their wings and ironically pinned down dead as in museums. The circles surround Hollywood where the fashion of celebrities dictates the worlds clothing, China where most things are made and Africa where Chanel lives. Interestingly when you look at this image, the form of butterflies resemble a masque used in masquerade balls, identity hidden away under the surface of fabric.
ZAHRAA NOORBHAI recognises that social media can often give off a false persona. Her work , “No Face without Facebook” is about how we box people. The process of approaching strangers to ask permission to photograph them, was initially daunting but valuable research for this work. Zahraa was surprised at the warm response. This exercise encouraged her to really look at people in a new light and to question before conforming to trends. In the process Zahraa looks at how Facebook is used as social media in order to impress others and enhance their identity.
What is the “ME GENERATION?”
From a room full of boxes we move onto a wall installation of cubes. PAULA MACNAB’S WORK deals with stereotypes in a narcissistic world. Are we such a self absorbed society? In an attempt to step outside her bubble, Paula really looks at and begins to draw the people around her, hence placing the spotlight onto the other. She references psychologist Jean Twenge’s description of todays youth as “Generation Me” and chooses to step outside her bubble and see beyond first impressions. Concern with ones uncertain finances in a struggling economic climate could be reason for Generation Me, Paula wrote. This work makes use of sticky notes with words such as anxious. Lifting it up, one reads the real emotion from the person, perhaps not anxious
but reflective. This work warns us not to judge but to rather enquire the real emotion behind first impressions.
KELLY GIBBON looks at a mutated abstract DNA molecule and creates this thing which to me resembles an abstract figure, out of different coloured can tabs. Different colours represent different people. Mirror is embedded in their so this includes the viewer too. The to challenge to the viewer to question the self centered aspect of our character is posed.. Her research took her to listening to the words of contemporary poetry, songs etc and was shocked at the realisation that although the tune might be great, the words were all about self, me, me…
TARRYN JACOBY ‘s artwork investigated concepts such as Feminism and the female figure as an object, Slavery and Personality disorders. Cleverly she uses a blind to displays some of these concepts. When it is closed the viewer can see and when it is open, they cannot see the images painted onto it. The question posed here is significant.
Are we in society blinded. Do we fail to see past real issues. Do we choose to stay ignorant. Do we choose to draw the blinds.
BRINGING ABOUT AWARENESS
Finally we move onto 5 girls who looked at what is going on around them and added their take on it.
STEPHANIE TREVETHAN looks at the theme of the alcoholic and truthfully calls her piece BROKEN ALCOHOLIC. Made up of broken glass she successfully attempts to glue the pieces of coloured glass to make up a larger than life portrait. Also exhibited at Artspace, it is a tender comment on how alcohol can make you present in body yet so absent in mind. The cork made shirt amplifies the rhythm of this addiction. Taking 3 months to complete, it gave Stephanie confidence to consider studying Fine Arts.
Into Africa we go…
GEORGINA WILKES carefully makes up many faces to fill the shape of Africa. These faces grouped together “symbolise the people of Africa seen by outsiders who believe the people of Africa are faceless and uneducated,” It suspended on a perspex board in mid air. “ This received a merit at the Artspace exhibition. Have you ever tried to work with thin wire? Intricate work demanding very fine motor skills and patience.
SIMONE DANCE looks at the practice that threatens to extinguish the lions in our Africa. Killing lions is cheaper than tigers. Lion bone wine is believed to have much power in China. So the process of taking lions into smaller enclosures(canned hunting) to make it easier targets has become popular. Simone begins to draw lions on the very paper that wraps our lion match boxes . The symbol of a match put to light further inspires her to burn the paper, decreasing the images into smaller sections until one is left with the word “gone”. Nothing more needs to be said.
“A wave of Consciousness” is the title of CATHERINE HARDY’S art piece. Catherine mentions how we want to be immortal but just like nature we return to dust. Forces of nature are too great, their cyclical rhythms like the waves “gather momentum before engulfing their surrounds” . The impressive wave made of dead dying palm fronds forms an undeniable presence in the classroom and acts as a reminder that no one can escape death, and life after death to some remains a question mark.
Grandmothers and mothers like to hold something tangible and art provides that vehicle for remembrance. Rebecca Plumbley asked one hundred people from teachers to family and friends to donate a memory. She bound these together to form a curtain and with this in mind I draw the curtains to this show and hope that as you walk into the Art classroom tonight you’ll recognise some of the themes, and be able to commend these girls on a job well done and for making significant and meaningful work for us their community to see and share.
And with this I paused my talk and in essence drew the curtain to my presentation and then the parents and friends and family walked across to the Art Classroom and were further astounded by the significant and meaningful work that these wonderful girls had created. Well done …..ART IS LIFE.