Claudette Schreuders: The Bystanders

Claudette Schreuders: The Bystanders

From July 6 to August 11, 2017, Stevenson Gallery will present The Bystanders by South African artist Claudette Schreuders.

The exhibition includes new sculptures and drawings, and a retrospective of all Schreuders’ lithographs, spanning 2003 to 2017. The title is drawn from the exhibition’s central figure, The Guilty Bystander, a large new sculpture in wood, and finds resonance throughout Schreuders’ oeuvre.

In contemplative posture, hands clasped behind her back, The Guilty Bystander is an observer, separate yet implicated in her surrounds. She finds her counterparts in earlier bodies of work: in the socially awkward Mingle (2000) from Burnt by the Sun; in the bust of Olive Schreiner, The Writer (2002), from Crying in Public; in The Bystander (2006) who stood apart from the earthly melodramas of The Fall. For Schreuders, the detachment embodied by these figures is a bit like the realm of art itself – set apart from the mess of life, the entanglement represented by families, relationships and babies. Two other new sculptures, positioned in the back gallery, show a smaller female figure lost in her own world – absorbed in the act of grooming herself in Hair, and stretched out asleep, on top of a bed, in Spent.

While The Guilty Bystander stands alone in the central gallery, she is surrounded by ink portraits of previous sculptures in which she finds aspects of herself – new perspectives, given the passage of time and a growing sense that, isolated as these characters appear, there is no such thing as separation from others, from society. This self-reflective view continues upstairs with a retrospective of around 70 lithographic prints produced with master printmaker Mark Attwood of the Artists’ press since 2003, shown together for the first time.

In Schreuders’ 2011 monograph, Faye Hirsch wrote, “Schreuders considers her lithos ‘records’ of the sculptures, which, after all, are ‘something that leaves me’, as she has said. In their looseness of execution, they are akin to numerous sketches she makes for the sculptures, but they retain the formal reserve of the statues. In addition, each figure or group is placed at the centre of a blank sheet (actually a tissue-like chine collé adhered to the backing sheet during the printing process) as if surrounded by empty space, like the sculpture on which it is based. On the one hand, the gestural, painterly treatment of the figures gives them a feeling of life; on the other, their clear ties to statuary seem to arrest them in time and space.”

New lithographs are included here too, documenting the sculptural group Note to Self, shown in 2016 in New York – a self-portrait in the act of drawing, accompanied by portraits of the artists, writers, musicians and others who have inspired her practice, among them Balthus, Alice Neel, Marlene Dumas and Brett Murray.

Claudette Schreuder was born in 1973 in Pretoria, Cape Town. She holds a bachelor degree in fine art from the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, and a masters degree from the Michaelis School of Fine Art. Schreuder has featured her works extensively in several exhibitions, including The Rainbow Nation, Museum Beelden aan Zee, The Hague, Netherlands (2012); Great Expectations, Stevenson, Cape Town (2013); Disturbing Innocence, The Flag Art Foundation, New York, (2014); Winter in America, The School, Kinderhook, New York, (2015); Note to Self, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, (2016); and Home Room, The School, Kinderhook, New York, (2017).

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