06.08.16 – 10.09.16
SMAC Gallery is proud to present GROUND, a solo exhibition by Alexandra Karakashian.
The varied meanings of the term ‘ground’ weave themselves throughout this exhibition. Each different connotation of the word applies itself effortlessly to every facet of Karakashian’s paintings; from references to the traditional vocabulary of painting; to her literal use of natural elements, like oil and salt, that form part of the compound often referred to colloquially as ‘ground’ or ‘earth’.
In GROUND, Karakashian engages with concepts and materials that are regarded as contentious within the various fragile relationships between humans and land (or environment), and prompts a consideration of the shifting ways in which landscape can be perceived in the context of ongoing social, political and ecological discourses.
Karakashian’s practice is deeply intertwined with her choice of medium. Used engine- or sump-oil and salt, are elements that resonate significantly with her conceptual premise. Karakashian’s intense regard for current worldwide ecological crises is one such premise. She chooses to give exposure to the taboo subject of unmediated and unethical seizing of rapidly dwindling natural resources, particularly on the resource-rich African continent.
The artist’s on-going study of natural disasters and large-scale human-effected destruction precedes, and continually influences her work. Her use of sump-oil evokes a clear association to the widespread oil-spills of the last century. The congealed, sebaceous substance has many negative connotations related to pollution and destruction, however, the use of this natural resource is currently imperative to global industrial growth. It is for this reason, that this element could be considered both geographically and politically as one of the most influential natural resources on the planet.
Karakashian’s application of salt, in particular, finds references in the compound’s historical uses as currency, as well as its means for destruction. In Ancient Rome, enemy land was ‘salted’, devastating the chemical composition of the soil and laying waste to its crucial agricultural potential. In perfect keeping with the continual twofold implications that Karakashian seamlessly unveils in GROUND, her use of salt also addresses the compound’s disinfectant properties. Known for centuries to be a wound-cleaning agent, saline therefore facilitates the process of healing. These are all aspects that have been carefully considered by the artist in her making of this body of work. The resulting atmosphere of this exhibition is intriguing and evocative of the ‘calm after the storm’, where the beauty of decay and subtlety is at the forefront of viewers’ visual experience. In addition to this sense of quiet, one finds that chance also plays a vital role in allowing Karakashian’s process to unfold.
Furthermore, GROUND builds on Alexandra Karakashian’s continuous research into her personal and family history. Her unique background details her grandparent’s escape from the Armenian Genocide of 1915. The family spent the next five decades as immigrants, briefly in Romania and later throughout the African continent, finally settling in Johannesburg, South Africa. Karakashian’s aptitude for authentic engagement with her heritage, as well as her personal context regarding nationality, race and culture, further facilitates her artistic process of enquiry and discussion around broader current issues, in particular migration, identity, refugee-status as well as demographic and geographical devisions.