An exhibition that talks to issues

2019-02-26 06:00
Some of the work that will be on exhibition.

Some of the work that will be on exhibition.

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A retrospective exhibition of work by the late Joan Mackenzie will be shown at the Studio Art Gallery in the Harbour Bay complex, corner of Main and Dido Valley Road in Simon’s Town.

The exhibition will open on Friday 1 March at 18:00 and will run until Wednesday 13 March. In the 1990s Mackenzie unearthed a 1940s railway worker’s “free” ticket, coupled with a 1950s “white”, political pamphlet, which the worker had pencilled over with a simple sum that he just could not add up correctly.

These three elements encapsulated a time in a land where “culturally conditioned” people possessed a mindset that would never “add up”. For the artist, finding that railway ticket initiated a chiasm*, through a series of metaphorical journeys, that encompassed crossing the “fenced” boundaries of time and memory, along with textually traversing and texturally depicting the physical panoramas of a “fenced”, colonised land. Excavation of that land would reveal, not only irresistible, pyroclastic forces at work on the strata, but historical evidence of equally overwhelming political forces on the surface, inciting the pogroms and removals of “un(en)titlement”. (*Chiasm: intersections of personal memory, myth and historical fact). It is ironic that 15 years after Mackenzie’s death and 19 years after her original exhibition, the issue of land and entitlement is still as unresolved and contentious as ever. Her textural and textual statements have therefore lost nothing of their impact; her art is as relevant today as it was in her lifetime. The artist used “earthy” materials: engraved slate pieces on a pyroclastic flow, poured molten lead numerals, copper wire, white cement (stone), seashells, paper, canvas and gauze as naturally apposite elements for land images and issues. Her use of the cyanotype process, whereby the sun simply bleaches images and text into her stone slabs, again exemplifies her simplistic/primitive working mode.

Throughout the exhibition, one must recognise that, although the issue of entitlement has often been addressed before, the artworks themselves force the viewer to engage on a purely visual level, so utterly individual is her use of the media and materials.

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