2015 FNB JOBURG ART FAIR
11 – 13 September 2015
Marlene Steyn’s unstretched and flowing paintings hang like ancient secular tapestries. In the same manner as their historical counterparts, the paintings have a narrative at their core. However, the story being told here would be near impossible to write in words; there is no beginning or end and no certainty or singular viewpoint. Instead Steyn’s figures seem to be entangled within a web of connectivity, woven into one another so as to suggest a world in constant flux filled with ever-changing entities plugged into and feeding off their surroundings.
Surreal rhythmic patterns creep across the surface of Steyn’s canvases. At first glance this could be thought of as a merely decorative decision. But it is through this purposeful and considered repetition that she begins to unpack a personal sense of being: a question asked repeatedly seldom draws the same answer, a word repeated again and again seldom holds the same meaning. Her rhythmic surfaces signify doubles and triples in an intricate latticework of connection points, further negating the notion of human as singular autonomous entity that is both rigid and still.
Steyn’s subjects hover between a state of incarnation and reincarnation as if frozen in an endless cycle of metamorphosis. This is further developed by the treatment of the figures, often rendered in near transparent paint, they seem to teeter on the edge of becoming, never fully reaching a point of solidity.
Other works by Steyn include drawings in ink and small bronze sculptures. The ink drawings are playful thoughts made manifest in a light and playful hand. Her small sculptures, rendered primarily in bronze, are 3-dimensional materialisations of the characters in her paintings.
Steyn’s approach to her subject matter is both whimsical and humorous. Drawing from a wide range of influences: psychoanalysis (unconscious and self-formation), classical mythology, old manuscripts, fiction and historical figures, though she relies primarily on her vivid imagination. Steyn is inspired by numerous painters: Hieronymous Bosch, Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Frieda Kahlo and contemporary artists Dasha Shiskin, Wangechi Mutu, Dana Schutz and outsider artists, to name a few.
Marlene Steyn (b.1989) studied at the Royal College of Art in London where she received her MA in Painting in 2014. Prior to this, she attended the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, where she graduated with her BA Visual Arts in 2011. Recent group exhibitions include ‘La Piscine’ at Espace Croix Baragnon, Toulouse, France (2015); ‘All s-he ever wanted to be’, Galleria M, Calcutta (2015);’Inoperative Mythology’ at Blyth Gallery, Imperial College, London (2014); ‘Bloomberg New Contemporaries’, Spike Island, Bristol and Institute of Contemporary Art, London (2013) and ‘Dreamtime: New Surrealism’, Mirus Gallery, San Francisco, California. In 2014 she had a solo exhibition, ‘How Cannibals Cuddle’ at The Art Cabin, London and ‘Mad Love’ at Lychee One (London) in 2015. In 2015 she embarked on 2 residencies: Vermont Studio Centre in the USA and Odd Cultural Node, Bucharest, Romania.
'When we share a tongue' (2015)
Oil and mixed media on unstretched canvas
182.5 x 182.5cm