3 – 24 April 2022
Colleen Alborough, Emma Willemse, Gwen Miller, and Mandy Conidaris were fellow lecturers in the Visual Arts Department at Unisa between 2008 and 2012. By then, they had formed bonds that manifest today as a tight-knit friendship and a porous sieve for each to explore her thinking and artmaking processes.
“When we were offered this exhibition, the title MESH seemed appropriate to describe our work concepts as individual artists and honour our creative alliance. We all draw on the personal as triggers to resonate universally, and here we speak of our different understandings of mesh as related to our works.”
For Colleen, mesh represents the fabric that structures our lives. Our societies have regulations. Our cities are grid-like, and we move through a mapping of roads, places, and land. Communication networks, seen and unseen, thread their way between our lives. Circles of friends and family are tied closely. Interconnectedness provides security, belonging, and certainty, but Colleen is aware of how easily this fabric can disintegrate when invaded by unstructured threats. Her work has evolved through a lifetime of living in Johannesburg, a city familiar yet threatening, one that causes anxiety, underpinned by its inhabitants’ survival needs.
Emma’s work has long explored issues of displacement and place-making. She believes that to reclaim the remains of traumatic experiences and transforming them into artworks can set off a parallel shift in the psyche – self-rescue materialised through immersion in the creative process. Recently, she has begun a salvaging expedition, collecting remnants of urban decay and retrieving fragments of her own older artworks to recreate and restructure into new artwork. For Emma, the support of a network of trusted, like-minded allies is a safety net for enabling creative freedom.
Gwen considers fungi – a species neither plant or animal – and their mycelia as a metaphor for the striving to connect to the inaudible, the in-between transformations of life. The mycelial mesh is a massive, entangled, hidden world that we know little of. Gwen’s artworks explore the fruiting bodies of fungi but hint at the mycelial layers that echo the folds of our synapses where memory is buried in our cells. Her work is a subtle reflection on how life continues beyond trauma, and how the complex biology of our own emotional beings are as hidden as fungi’s energy.
For years Mandy’s work has dealt with the inner impact of human experience. Her recent series, ‘Extending the olive branch’, comments on the divisive nature of contemporary life – from the politics of our time through to our most intimate relationships – while sheltering her unrealistic hope that a sense of peace may be reached through negotiation and compromise. She uses her techniques to imprint the complexities of such experiences onto virgin paper using various inks.
A mesh as a noun is a material network, an interlaced structure holding things together. As a verb, it suggests something entwined, pulled together, brought into harmony. As a concept, mesh supports yet allows passage and symbolises here the support of friendship. – Mandy Conidaris