LEDELLE MOE & SIEMON ALLEN
22.11.18 – 23.02.19
SMAC Gallery is pleased to present Transitions, an exhibition of new works by Ledelle Moe and Siemon Allen.
Concerned with notions of land and dislocation, Transitions comes as a longing to better understand how both personal and political histories are inherent in our ever-present awareness of site – simultaneously serving as an investigation into identity construction through displacement. Informed by their personal histories and experiences of movement – both Moe and Allen left South Africa in the nineties to pursue opportunities in the US – this body of work, at its core, is a reflection on place. Offset by a parallel series of object studies, the exhibition is made up of landscapes – both in the ‘traditional’ sense and in the very material of which the work is made – and sees the gallery space transformed and suspended, at once, into one of both sitelessness and ground. It’s a series of fragments – of locations, of identities, of derivés, of objects – and seeks to reexamine the South African landscape in art as an apprehensive, fraught site full of ambiguities.
Taking direction from the materiality of her cement, and the elements used in its creation, Moe gathered sand and dirt from a number of locations she travelled to this year – Neuchâtel in Switzerland, Dhrangadhra in India, Gaborone in Botswana, the Karoo in South Africa – and embedded each sampling of earth into cement carvings of birds and figures. A combination of creating work both on site and within the studio, Moe engages intimately with the very ‘being’ of the place – reflecting on innumerable implications of coded landscapes – and pushes the matter of her structures as she welds, casts, models and carves into them, opening up narratives around image and materiality. Distinctly structural, Moe’s work stands firmly rooted in the gallery – the present – and evokes scenes reminiscent of a funerary statue or memorial. Here, the work belongs to no specific place or time, and is one that can be moved from site to site, dislocated and without identity. In evoking these scenes and playing to the many grounds from which Moe’s cement was cast, the work explores and reexamines the South African landscape in art, illustrating it as one fraught with ambiguities – both monumental and fragile, permanent and impermanent, located and displaced, structured and ephemeral.
Allen’s work – initially an exploration of transitional geographic sites (harbours) from where the interior of South Africa was colonised – considers the charged landscapes of Pierneef and Baines (among others) and recontextualises them in a place of uncertainty. His large-scale drawings come as an informal and transient archive of coded landscapes, as he employs provisional and, perhaps, ephemeral, materials to draw with – felt pen on polypropylene, India ink markers on spun agricultural cloth. In contrast to his drawings of the empty vista, Allen has depicted objects – iconic consumer objects – sourced from advertisements featured in the iconic DRUM magazine. These images, once a symbol of South African identity, now exist in darkened, poor, black and white microfilm reproductions – impermanent and forgotten, no longer belonging to any specific location. For Allen, land and landscape as a concept is not so much a stable, singular thing as it is a complex, provisional construct.
It is here that Allen and Moe’s work exists – between a dichotomy of closeness and distance, identity and land, change and sameness – and thus, it is also here that the work finds its strength. Transitions comes as a reflection on place, and in its very impermanent state, interrogates notions of identity and site through dislocation.