RK Contemporary, Riebeek Kasteel
5 Dec 2021 – 27 Feb 2022
Phantasmagoria originating from the French ” fantasme & fantasmagorie” entered into use in the English language in the early 19th century and was the title of a London exhibition of optical illusions produced by “magic lanterns” in 1802. Fantastical, imaginative and dreamlike are all descriptions of this term as defined by Merriam-Webster. The phantasmagorical exists in the music of the cantata “Carmina Burana” (1936) by Carl Orff, “Le Rossignol” (The Nightingale), a musical fairytale in 3 acts (1908-14) by Igor Stravinsky and the work of Jacque Offenbach amongst others.
In 1866, when journalist, Jules Vallès wrote “we have had our fill of gravitas and morality! Our thanks to those who have added generous handfuls of gaiety to counterbalance these scales”, he was referring to Jacques Offenbach’s “La Barbe bleu” the irreverent and frivolous operetta which stood in opposition to the “pompous, grandiose aesthetics of the Second Empire.”
We took our cue from Vallès critique and in creating the brief for this exhibition, we invited artists to extend their creativity with the challenge to create anew, redefine, re-think and re-invent themselves through fresh eyes, a pinch of irreverence and the ability to play with their work. Artists have always had the license to dream and we hoped to stimulate a creative outpouring from this source of inspiration. In selecting artworks for Phanstasmagoria, works were filtered through the traditional criteria of technical competency and ability with the innate content reflecting the sublime inner world or vision of the artist. Yet at the same time we were looking for art that displays another magical quality – the ineffable. This describes a feeling evoked – a sensation that lies beyond language, that confirms you are viewing an artwork that is inspiring, tantalizing and unique.
The artists represented vary from established artists working in their favourite medium to lesser-known artists with a curious and quirky sense of expression. Ceramic work, paintings, mixed media works, crafted work, sculpture, stitchcraft and art on paper comprise this festive exhibition. Curated by artist, Judy Woodborne and gallery owner, Astrid McLeod, this promises to be a feast for the eyes and a counterbalance to gravitas with a celebration of life, colour and festivity in “generous handfuls”.
Text Judy Woodborne
(References: Offenbach’s Bouffonnerie, Wagner’s Reverie:The Materiality and Politics of the ineffable in Second Empire Paris. The Opera Quarterly, volume 32, Oxford Academic).
www.rkcontemporary.com 32 Main Street, Riebeek Kasteel queries 083 53 33607