Mirage | Solo Exhibition by Kirsten Beet:
05 April – 13 May 2017
at Salon 91, 91 Kloof St, Gardens
Kirsten Beet’s latest exhibition embodies the fragmentary illustrations of a shifting memory, somewhere between the feeling of a hot, dry Cape Town without water and the preserved green kingdoms of the suburban and botanical garden. Throughout the exhibition her world is at constant play with the idea of illusion. She exposes the illusionary space of the picture plane and the illusionary ‘natural’ spaces of leisure that humans construct. This play with illusion comments on the larger interaction between humans and their environment.
The exhibition title, Mirage, keys us into this perspective. It refers to the appearance of water on a hot surface caused from the refraction of light by heated air. Hot and cool, dry and lush: water emerges as the defining apparition of the transfer between these states of experience. Water is a commodity, a human right, strikingly under threat with the current drought that has scorched the Western Cape. During a summer usually associated with leisure and pleasure, the preservation of this resource has been a constant reminder of the human need to become caretakers of our natural world.
The Artist has exhibited both locally and internationally. Her exhibitions include the Royal Academy of Arts, London, the Scuola Internationale di Grafi in Venice, Italy and the Cape Town and Johannesburg Art Fairs amongst others. Kirsten lives and works in Cape Town and completed her bachelor in Fine Arts and BPhil in illustration at the University of Stellenbosch. This is her third solo exhibition at Salon Ninety One. – words by Natasha Norman
Cathy Layzell Solo Exhibition | RESERVE:
1 March – 1 April 2017
at SALON NINETY ONE, 91 Kloof Street, Gardens, Cape Town
Cathy Layzell – Reserve | by Natasha Norman
Cathy Layzell’s latest solo exhibition, Reserve, embodies a theme that interweaves environmental politics and the artists’ realm of perception. Using the premise of pictorial space (what British artist Bridget Riley describes as one of those recurring problems for painters no matter what era they work from) Layzell weaves a particular meditation on the human relationship to natural spaces.
What is at first striking about this body of work is Layzell’s particular colourist decisions in the ‘hollowing out’ of a flat picture surface. She has chosen to prime all the canvases in black acrylic and uses this extremely flat surface as the starting point for creating pictorial space. The push pull between an illusionary depth (where the flat black surface suddenly reads as receeding or advancing beside a colour plane) and the absolute flatness of the marks (read abstractly) when a viewer approaches the canvas, belies a larger philosophical comment around ideas about preserving natural spaces.
Layzell’s play of creating illusionary form, light and space through colour juxtapositions is symetrical enough to afford a satisfying ‘ah-ha’ moment for the viewer but also abstract enough to raise a self-awareness in the viewer. Described as a neurology of aesthetics, there is a biological principle at play in feeling good about connecting fragmentary forms into a coherent whole – think about identifying that leopard in the high veld shadows, or hunting the giraffe and zebra. Researchers Vilayanur and Diane Ramachandran (Centre for Brain and Cognition University of California) postulate that many of the delights we make in contemporary aesthetics is derived on some level from a biological instinct. In our world of contemporary art, that principle is still at play but its evolution is one that allows us a self-conscious enjoyment. We know that pictorial elements have been used by the artist to ‘trick’ the eye into seeing illusionary space. We like it and we like seeing how it works.
This space in art is likened to the space of the natural. As Layzell says in her press release: “an impulse to shape, tame and control the natural world lives alongside a desire to yield to its wildness and its danger.” Professor Pete Britz observes that, “Reserves are natural spaces intended to conserve nature in a representative way and to sustain biodiversity, but the reality is that they are increasingly relics of how ecosystems looked before humans became dominant. Although no longer trained by our parents to live and survive in nature, we have an instinctive affinity for it that we sense in reserves. We often feel empty in the tarmac and cement of the city. Nature, even in the highly artificial form of city parks, contributes to a feeling of wellbeing.”
This impulse to preserve and shape just enough to satisfy an ancient biological impulse is likened, in Layzell’s exhibition, to the shaping and controlling of the pictorial plane into something ‘readable’ in an illusionary sense. It is also contrasted with the highly abstract and flat nature of the surfaces in these works – that wild and uncomfortable realm of the non-realistic, chaotic and untamed. The viewer is forced to vacillate between the two extremes. There is no easy solution here but to dwell in the paradox of what the viewer’s eye can tame and what it cannot.