Serving Msunduzi through the Visual Arts
From Pulp to Fiction
Jutta Faulds, Annette McMaster and Sue Physick
The Schreiner Gallery
25 January to 11 March 2007
by Dr. Juliette Leeb-du Toit
This exhibition celebrates the work of three remarkable artists who are colleagues and friends. All have had careers; Jutta as a scientist, Annette as a lecturer and Sue as an artist and teacher. They have embarked on individualised journeys located in their passion to speak and be heard concerning issues of spirituality, mortality and essentially powerlessness and its recovery.
Like many women their creative capacities were initially located in domestically allied practices in perceived and marginalised craft work:- sewing, embroidery, felt making, weaving and papier mache. These constituted part of the construction of the feminine/femininity, with associations of duty, virtue and creativity in the domestic sphere, celebrating aesthetic and functional associations. But feminisms of various kinds launched important challenges to these stereotypical associations and marginalization, regarding all divisions in creativity, whether across gender or racial divisions as intrinsically reflecting patriarchal and colonial divisions of labour and underlying inequalities in power relations. With the result in works such as The Dinner Party, by Judy Chicago, embroidery, lacework, felt-making, papier mache and ceramics were central to its construction. Imbedded in such work, though, were subversive narratives related to self and a critiques of the gendered status quo.
In her text, The Subversive Stitch Rozsika Parker notes : 'Limited to practising art with needle and thread, (felt and papier mache) women have nevertheless sewn a subversive stitch, managing to make meanings of their own in the very medium intended to foster polite self-effacement.' (Parker 1988:5 (my insertions in brackets))
Not surprisingly therefore content in the work on this exhibition deconstructs the assumed expectations associated with 'domestic' production and producer, with content that is compelling and challenging.
All creativity functions as a somatic (of the body) projection in which the body physically manifests the imagination and subconscious. Imbedded in Annette McMaster's work are meditative processes - both directed and embracing chance, allowing a free interplay of ideas and associations. For her creativity functions as a significant process in the encounter with and recovery of self (the physical and metaphysical) - reflecting as she does on loss and mortality, intellectual decline and the interventions of oncology. Her iconic heads are totems and targets, encounters with the self ; her beaded doll, rooted in a Nkondo Nkisi figures, ostensibly a plaything, but its forces invoked when punctured and wounded. Behind the domestic an immanence that is powerful and unexpected.
Sue Physick's creative vocabulary is sourced primarily in her affinity for the land exploring recent contestations of ownership, land marked anew by conflict and death. Located in what she perceives as 'men's games' that gravitate between concession, obstruction and ultimately abuse of power, she creates mandalas (circle-the spiritual, square-the land) in which actual games are situated. Alluding to the aimless yet convoluted strategies that mark game rules, in which resolution is denied - the game endlessly reinitiated, marked by strategic moves in a cycle of repetition her works subvert the ostensible processes of negotiation and redistribution as mere stratagems dominated by patriarchal control.
Jutta's felted mandalas reflect her concerns, in textile and icon, for ecological and personal fragility. Jutta's mantra or sacred text, sourced in Balfour's (1848-1930) writing aptly concurs with the function of the mandala:
'The energies of our system will decay, the glory of the sun will be dimmed, and the earth, tideless and inert, will no longer tolerate the race which has for a moment disturbed her solitude' Containing abrushed maps of tones and textures that infer the healing located in colour and the therapeutic energies released and captured in the repetitive actions of hands, the works function as conceptual repositories of healing.
Significantly all three, Jutta, Sue and Annette have used the mandala format in their work, Jung regarding it as an expression of the subconscious self. The mandala (meaning essence) represents the cosmos both metaphysically and symbolically, the totality of existence and the embodiment of divine powers. As an instrument of meditation its contemplation can attract spiritual forces and healing, its form a site of recourse into a protected space to the exclusion of an impure outer world it assists in locating the divinity within oneself.
The artists on exhibition have assumed an important function as articulate feminine voices that compel one to listen and contemplate beyond the aesthetic, in meaningful narratives that unsettle in their allusions and subversions.
The Tatham Art Gallery holds an Art Collection that contains significant British and French artworks dating back to the 18th century. Its South-African art collection is focused on, but not exclusive to, the art of KwaZulu-Natal.
The Tatham Art Gallery hosts a range of Art Exhibitions. These include traveling and researched exhibitions as well as exhibitions initiated by the Gallery and compiled from the collection.
A selection of current and archival articles from the Tatham Art Gallery. These articles provide a historical and contemporary perspective on the Gallery and the visual arts in KwaZulu-Natal.