30 June - 16 July 2015
Participating Artists: Jonathan Freemantle, Alexandra Karakashian, Bonolo Kavula, Olivié Keck, Sepideh Mehraban, Adam Munro, Dathini Mzayiya, Gaelen Pinnock, Jake Singer, Marlene Steyn, Jo Voysey
Commune.1 is pleased to announce its upcoming group exhibition, 'Load Shedding'.
The title of this exhibition is borrowed from the current nation-wide phenomenon ‘load shedding’. Eskom (powering your world) has described it as “an effective way to avoid total collapse... a last resort to balance [electricity] supply and demand… when all other options have been exhausted.” Suddenly and often unpredictably, sections of the city are plunged into darkness. Machines cease their white noise, a warm candle-wax glow replaces cold TV-screen light and a quiet stillness descends into homes. This notion of system overload, of reaching breaking point and tipping over the edge into a state of meltdown, is an apt metaphor for our, at times, frenetic existence. But load shedding also offers the possibility for catharsis, relief and recovery – for a system reboot following physical or psychological crisis.
The exhibition begins with Jonathan Freemantle’s 4 lightning-struck prints that focus the force of highveld summer thunderstorms. Freemantle’s ‘lightning conductor printing press’ creates scorched, earth-stained works which present an experimental mode of artistically harnessing an alternative and volatile source of energy.
Jake Singer’s precariously balanced sculpture titled Bandage (2015) is comprised of aggregate gravel, mild steel and found materials. Evocative of scales of justice, yet spindly like a waning skeleton, the work stems from the current cultural, social and economic situation in the Johannesburg CBD. It speaks, both literally and metaphorically, to the inability of infrastructure to meet demand.
Gaelen Pinnock also scrutinises the South African urban landscape. His night-time print, part of a larger series of floating citadels, is a composite of photographs. Industrial structures bathed in darkness examine the legacies of failed utopias and the shadows cast by laws, systems and urban development trends. In conjunction, Pinnock’s mild steel sculptures, based on the fantastical cities in Italo Calvino’s book Invisible Cities, present the idea of a complex urban grid plugged into an electricity matrix upon which our cities are dependent.
Also engaging with industrial matter, Alexandra Karakashian recycles used sump oil sourced from mechanics. The oil gradually seeps up her pristine canvas creating a horizontal line secreting its own aura, much like the lights in Pinnock’s Citadel #23 (2015). Unstable and ever-changing, oil as medium is simultaneously a metonym for fossil fuel use and an allusion to traditional oil painting.
With work situated firmly in the political realm, Dathini Mzayiya’s momento mori offers an alternative form of national load shedding. His drawing of vulture and skeleton, made with energetic dark lines, expresses anger and frustration at the carrion-like state of the nation and reminds us that death is always looming.
Bonolo Kavula uses found objects to explore the concept of ‘obfuscation’: darkening and obscuring the sight of something. The protagonist of her process-led print-based installation is a humble clothes peg, a domestic object linked to a vivid childhood memory of confusion and hysteria. Kavula’s intimate assemblage of prints sheds slender rays of light on this experience, frantic lines cut through a black ground to reveal snippets underneath, giving the viewers access to the memory but at the same time withholding and hindering ready analysis.
Sepideh Mehraban presents us with 3 freestanding canvasses that have been painted on both front and back. More sculpture than painting, these canvasses are installed in a way to accentuate their transparency; light filters through oil to create luminosity and through paint to create opaqueness. Her script-like brush strokes in Farsi are readable but bear no literal meaning. They trace connections between time, memory, personal versus public history and censorship, a notion enhanced by the bandage-like dressings applied to the surfaces.
Examining the correlation between trauma and catharsis, Jo Voysey’s Catalyst (2012) focuses on the expressive potential of medicinal remedies as a medium for painting. She transforms the contents of the nondescript looking small bottles she procures from medicine cabinets and pharmacy shelves into vast, vibrantly coloured universes of ‘painted’ surface. The unpredictable nature of the medicine’s atomic and chemical make-up is central to her work. Her paintings are raw and visceral - oozing surfaces express hurt and the need for relief.
Bringing a humorous approach to a topic that readily lends itself to satire, Adam Munro’s Thank you, come again (2015) consists of two photographic portraits and an accompanying text. The subjects, the artist and his partner, are captured right after receiving a facial (sex act). With their passive gazes turned, the subject becomes the semen and the act of ejaculation. This visual pun is rooted in a multitude of dichotomies such as private/public, dominant/submissive, masculine/feminine and power/impotency.
Olivié Keck’s ceramic meditating figure is inspired by the Japanese philosophy Wabi- Sabi-, a visual aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. It was created to mark a ‘load shedding’ phase in Keck’s life, which she describes as ‘the young and tragic’. In order to alleviate this anxiety she wryly pokes fun at herself thinking, “Maybe you’re not looking at life with the humor it was designed for.” In a similar vein Casualty of A Power Ballard (2015) is a playful mockery of the power ballad genre: chart-topping albums devoted to the ‘thunder’ and ‘lightening’ of love.
Marlene Steyn’s grayscale ink drawings present interconnected human figures. They weave and flow into one another, forming a circuit, a 'Plugged-In Girl'…
She is plugged into herself
a three point plug requires a surface with three holes
she appointed her nostril-mouth triangle
as the perfect location for plug penetration
she is partly concerned about the dangers of electric shock
but swallows her spit and slime for precaution.