Beyond ugly

2010-05-15 16:06

Diane Victor is a ­devout visual ­sadist. She

­manages to render our collective ­social inclination for ugliness with

unequalled skill.

An exhibition of her

new drawings, lithographs and ­etchings – now on at the ­Goodman Gallery in

Parkwood – ­reaffirms her astute ability to confront ­society’s propensity for

the evil and monstrous.

However, her work is

much more than a visual renunciation of the social ills that make ­us ­innately

capable of ­ugliness.

By calling it

Transcend, she ­also flirts with the potential of ugliness as a portal for


The show includes

three ­specific oeuvres. The first is her new addition to the ongoing ­series,

Disasters of Peace.

This is a collection

of prints that continue her exploration of society and its ills: from the rape

of justice to sexual abuse and the failures of our corrupt political


Victor has introduced

new ­imagery to this body of work – horses – as symbols of power and


These horses,

together with the figures who ride them (some of them from history like Boer

general Koos de la Rey) are ­submitted to decomposition and ­disintegration

through ­uglification – not as an attempt to merely renounce them but perhaps to

offer them ­transcendence.

The second part is

Birth of a Nation, a new series of work drawn from the artist’s studies of

classical artworks in Europe.

Here she takes

familiar ­European mythologies and ­superimposes them onto African realities:

Zeus’ rape of Europa ­becomes the story of the ­rape of Africa’s fauna and


The third part of the

­exhibition constitutes six life-size charcoal and ash drawings in which Victor

explores the human body’s surrender to age.

Death, which follows,

is ­referenced through the media of charcoal dust and ashes by ­echoing the

phrase “ashes to ­ashes, dust to dust”.

But the artist also

situates death as an opportunity for ­transcendence.

Through ­uglification,

Victor hopes to ­commit her subjects to the ­sublime.

» Transcend is on at ­Goodman Gallery in

Parkwood, Johannesburg, until May 22.

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