Investec Cape Town Art Fair | 2023 | TOMORROW'S TODAY | Rosie Mudge
Rosie Mudge’s latest exhibition, Battle Cries on the Dance Floor, is a visual representation of a deep breath— a single, lingering moment that is suspended in time. Mudge reflects on the historical truths of women’s never-ending battles and the softness of femininity with the tough-as-nails attitude required of them in the face of adversity.Mudge’s artistic process is a fairly unique one. Far from conventional, she uses glitter glue and automotive paint to evoke the memories of nail-polish, body glitter and eye-shadow through an intensive layering process. Her choice of colour palette, scale and a combination of unusual mediums as well as the lyrical text in her paintings grab the viewer’s attention and bring them to a halt. This fusion of motion and stillness is exemplary of Mudge’s ability to entice and entrap, to allow the viewer a moment for reflection while at the same time encouraging them into the urgency of a new perspective. Mudge hopes that the viewer is bound to walk away, if ever, lighter in spirit and with a renewed awareness of themselves and others.
Mudge is intentional about her use of mainstream music and lyrics within her paintings as a means of bringing the elitist and exclusionary world of contemporary art into a realm that’s more accessible and relatable. “Pop music is fun, somewhat light-hearted and full of energy... but a lot of pop songs can be read as a type of battle cry, a lamentation of the current human condition and a rebellion and rejection of it. In You Can’t Touch Me Now (2023) pastel gradients of blues and pinks spell out the all-encompassing and defiant eponymous proclamation, the force of which is contrasted by the sparkle and light of a glitter encrusted background. The sheer scale of this work creates a moment of pause as the viewer is halted in their tracks by the statement - but then the creeping realisation of its inaccuracy kicks in as they come to understand the vulnerability displayed by such a loud and aggressive assertion. Similarly, in Shoot Me Down, I Won’t Fall (2023) Mudge instructs the viewer in colours of a raging flame to “Fire Away, Fire Away”, a sentiment that many women operating in today’s world need to inhabit in order to succeed and move forward. It is this understanding of a brutal and shared global history of violence and warfare in all its forms that pulls the viewer into an acknowledgement of the human state today, particularly for women.
Mudge’s practice has seen the introduction of beadwork, hanging from the ceiling. Much like a portal on a wall, these new forms become beaded doorways. The piece Bulletproof (Nothing To Lose) (2023) is three-dimensional and made from metal chain. We see the juxtaposition of the delicacy and finesse of the material with the indomitable spirit of the song lyrics from Titanium (2011) by Sia. The song’s anthemic nature and declaration of strength and invincibility is both reinforced and questioned in this sculptural form. Visually alluding to the chainmail armour from The Middle Ages, the artwork is a contradiction to itself, as unsecured and suspended in space it offers no protection at all. Indeed, this entirely penetrable yet brawny and indestructible message, remains consistent in the theme of boldness and fragility. “I’d like people to see the duality of the strength and vulnerability of women,” she says. “To this day, women are having to fight for their place in the world - a never-ending battle first learned during the transformation from girlhood to womanhood.”
The romantic, delicate and soothing nature of Mudge’s work bears stark contrast to the toxic, noisy and highly industrial process of its making. That very dissimilarity between process and finished product is, too, essential to the story being told by the series; trial and triumph, adversity and victory, scrutiny and self-belief. Battle Cries on the Dance Floor is drenched in symbolism - the motifs of femininity and girlhood cluster to form an inviting body of work that doesn’t shy away from the uncomfortable conversation of woman’s experience of the world. The series challenges audiences to engage the idea of women’s freedom by taking a step further to critique what that looks like under male-glorifying social constructs. Are women protected, valuable and free in their vulnerability or only celebrated when strong and fearless?