28.11.15 – 23.01.16
SMAC Gallery presents LUSH, an exhibition of works by six artists with diverse backgrounds and practices, each exploring in disparate ways themes of excess, contemporary culture, historical and personal narratives, female identity, representation and eco-feminism. LUSH features Frances Goodman, Alexandra Karakashian, Chemu Ng’ok, Marlene Steyn, Shoshanna Weinberger and Barbara Wildenboer.
This grouping of artists creates a shared narrative matrix, where both the broad thematic concerns of the artists involved, as well as the nuances of their indiviual works, can subtly interact. The gallery space has been disrupted in order to create a lacunose territory, where the work of each artist can sojourne for the duration of the exhibtion in their own sovereign states. The nature of these mini-exhibits creates autonomous habitats in a lavishly productive landscape, teeming with themes of excess and obsession in both celebration and critical rapport.
LUSH, a term appropriated in contemporary culture and especially by social media users, is used to indicate approval of something beautiful, delicious, stylish or impressive, needing no accompanying description. Placing it in conjunction with the critically aware practice of these artists, it duly functions as an implied criticism of feminine stereotypes and excessive notions of beauty – a theme explored by both Shoshanna Weinberger and Frances Goodman, for example.
Goodman explores themes surrounding sexuality, notions of beauty and desire, materialism, and other idiosyncratic obsessions and neuroses that form part of contemporary society. Her vermiculate nail sculpture writhes in the limelight of an imagined reality collectively constructed in the gallery space. Goodman uses false nails as a way of signifying a culture of excess and obsession. The title of her work, Lilith (2015), has many historical interpretations but most significantly is the archaic association, the mythological Hebrew term which translates as “night creature”. Functioning both as name and title, “Lilith” first occurs in the biblical Isaiah 34:13 and has been associated throughout history and contemporary culture with notions of vanity and malevolence, or conversely seen as a romanticised nymphean deity.
This style of ecclesiastical imagery could as easily be applied to the visual menagerie of young up-and-coming artist Marlene Steyn’s mixed media wall hangings and sculptures. Her imagined iconography draws from a myriad of sources to create an imagined reality of ageless figures draped in consensual assuagement as echoed representations each taking their place in the artist’s surrogate universe.
Chemu Ng’ok devotes herself to investigating the dynamics of relationships on personal, psychological, political and spiritual levels. Her work opens up a space of questioning by unfolding narratives that combine reality and dream, truth and imagination.
Anima/Animus, a digital animation by Barbara Wildenboer, comments on the eco-psychological perspective of the relationship between human and nature. In the 52 second loop, a jellyfish and nebula move rhythmically in sync with the pages of books that shrink and grow against male and female pelvic bones, suggesting a a synergistic link between living forms that is independent of time and space.
Alexandra Karakashian’s practice operates on the premise of unpredictability found in natural environments. Her abstract salt and motor-oil paintings intimate an ecological empathy and sensitively investigate the relationship between the natural world and the conventions of painting.