18.08 – 18.09.2021
Words by Jessica Bosworth Smith
Sitaara Stodel is an artist who uses her creative practice to explore and unpack the experiences of moving homes regularly during her formative years. Throughout her many moves, from childhood to adult life, her idea around “home” has shifted and evolved many times. Her experience of the home as a transitory space has called into question the very nature of this concept. The artist, having experienced over and over the event of being removed, or removing herself, from spaces which are usually demarcated as a home, Stodel has had to grapple with the abstract concept of a home-space and the lived reality of one.
Growing up, the artist was heavily influenced by representations of homes and ideals of family perpetuated by the media. Indeed, Stodel often has dreams where the space of home and family feature prominently. In her adult life, the artist has had to dismantle her complex emotions towards these two fundamental, and often idealised, social constructs. The realization that there is no perfect home, or perfect family to inhabit it, inspires Stodel to use the pictorial plane to deconstruct the representation of family and home, as well as her own memories, through the use of discarded family photographs. Using anonymous images created by people she has never met, the artist oscillates between abandoning and hoarding tableaus of conventional family life; floral arrangements, wedding guests lined up on the steps of an unknown church, beloved pets, birthdays, first cars, day trips and family holidays, manicured gardens with pristine blue swimming pools, empty bottles and glasses next to half-eaten plates of food from a festive family gathering, empty deck chairs on a patio, and moments whose significance is now lost. These precious forgotten memories captured by other families are imbued with new life and meaning through the medium of collage.
The very playful and interchangeable nature of this creative process provides Stodel with a way to endlessly imagine and depict homes and families, functioning as vehicles through which she explores her ambivalent feelings towards these personal constructs and experiences. There are doors that go nowhere, windows which look out onto disjointed vistas, tables laid out with food that will never get eaten, faces of people who can never be identified, and negative spaces once inhabited; these disembodied signifiers are set against flat planes of soft, gentle colour rendered in paper or linen and accentuated, in parts, with metallic threads which connect and erase. For the artist, the process of cutting away the unwanted parts is a cathartic act which allows her to stitch and stick together new realities which float dreamily within the frame. Stodel’s work evokes powerful ghosts of the past and surreal dreams of the future.