RK Contemporary Riebeek Kasteel
08 – 29 August 2021
Story Catherine Pate
“Tronkvoel: Visual reflections on the use of prison as a metaphor for depression” Depression is as old as the human race, and rare is the person who has not felt its touch. Sometimes, suddenly, without apparent reason we feel unbearably sad. The world turns grey, and we taste a bitterness in our mouth. We hear an echo of the bell that tolls our passing, and we reach out for a comforting hand, but find ourselves alone. For some of us this experience is no more than a fleeting moment, or something we can dispel with common sense, thoughts and practical actions. But for some of us this experience becomes a ghost whose unbidden presence mars every feast, or worse, a prison whose walls,
though invisible, are quite impenetrable… (Dorothy Rowe, 2013).
My diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder in 2018 led to my experience of a terrible loneliness and a peculiar isolation that triggered a feeling of imprisonment. The work thus engages with the idea of prison as a metaphor for depression and developed out of earlier work that centred around prisons and ex-prisoners. I explore the intersection of gender-based issues, homophobia, racism, and religious prejudice that is based on my experiences and identities, in an attempt to understand the depression and communicate the complex prejudices I face in my daily life.
The work is based on my lived experience, through which depression can feel like a self-constructed prison. Thus, by visually communicating my lived experiences with depression as a coloured, queer body, I also aim to shed new light on society’s perspectives on mental health-related illnesses, as this too is often seen as taboo particularly in communities of colour.
I harness old family photographs as a departure point to investigate personal memory and more current selfies to explore my narrative of self-imprisonment. My invisible prison is visually communicated further through incorporating visual language of the prison – including tattoos, prison slang, and ‘shifts and shanks’ weapons. I use a variety of mediums including, charcoal, photographic transfers, paint, linocuts with a combination of burning and smoking techniques by using candle soot as a primary feature throughout my work. Prison shivs, shanks, hand-made dice from paper-mache and glass marbles, strings and tolls combined, forms provocative conversation pieces as they reflect fragments
of my childhood in relation to depression feeling like a self-constructed prison.”
Brunn Kramer completed his Masters in Fine arts at Rhodes University in 2021 with the financial support of the National Research Foundation (NRF), SARChl research programme in Geopolitics and the Arts of Africa, and the Andrew W. Mellon and the Global Souths programme. He was born in 1994 and was raised in the karoo in a small town called Steytlerville. Kramer is an emerging artist who has participated in numerous group exhibitions all over South Africa, including the prestigious Turbine art fair. Brunn received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (cum laude) from Nelson Mandela University in 2017.
He majored in painting and his watercolour portraits which explore the humanness of ex-prisoners were selected for Sasol New Signatures top 100 art competition in 2016 and 2017. His current research explores the intersection of personal experiences and identities, concerning depression.