Rising ghosts of dust

2013-03-24 10:00

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Artist Candice Kramer finds meaning in the migratory patterns of butterflies in her new work, writes Percy Mabandu

The monarch butterfly and its migratory habits puzzle Candice Kramer, the multidisciplinary artist whose new work hangs at the Nirox Foundation Project Space in Joburg.

Titled Transient Dust, the exhibition doesn’t only rely on the butterfly for thematic inspiration, the creature is included as a motif in a number of works on show as well.

Her catalogue includes a nugget tale of the butterfly’s fleeting journey through generations. For instance, she observes that the butterfly that goes from Canada to Mexico and partway back lives six to nine months.

However, when it mates and lays eggs, it may have gotten only as far as Texas in the US, and breeding butterflies live only about six weeks. So a daughter born on a Texan prairie goes on to lay eggs on the South Dakota highway divider, resulting in the?offspring becoming granddaughter.

That leads to a great-granddaughter born in a Winnipeg backyard. Come autumn, how does she find her way back to the same grove in Mexico that sheltered her great-grandmother?

This transitory identity and gaps in shared memory speak to the fragmentation and impermanence that permeate all life. Kramer’s new opus of paintings and video explore and illustrate it with human focus.

To capture her chosen theme, the artist uses steel instead of canvas as a surface, as well as rust dust. She addresses these elements through the traditional medium of oil painting.

In the set of paintings that make up the Market Street series, she renders composite human figures in metal dust and rust mixed with oil paints.

They are depicted walking on eerie city streets. The point is to capture the idea of their transitory presence as workers traversing the urban space.

The figures carry a marked aloneness too, as the old idiom goes: “The city engenders lonely crowds.” This is made particularly apparent in Market Street Circa 1950. Apart from surface design, the exhibition reveals Kramer as a strong portrait painter. It’s in how she deploys naturalistic head studies in her various compositions.

The two panels – respectively titled Mine, and Yours – are a case in point. Kramer plays a game of texture, depth and visual weightiness in the two.

The show’s curatorial design and floor plan give the exhibition a delightful visual playfulness. By not simply resorting to hanging the collection of paintings on the wall, but also by laying some on the floor, they create a refreshing dynamism to how the work is enjoyed by visitors.

Round, square and rectangular panels of paintings and a screen showing a performance work of audiences walking on metal dust combine to communicate the show’s interests.

»?Transient Dust is on at the Nirox Foundation Project Space at Arts on Main, Joburg, until March 26

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