Sanell Aggenbach: The Heart Has Many Rooms
Everard Read’s CIRCA Gallery is divided into two floors, separated and supported, one above the other. Sanell Aggenbach’s The Heart Has Many Rooms offers a quiet meditation on affection: actual and implied. The body of work is divided into two distinct areas of interest and both probe the complexities of endearment.
The lower floor consists of monochromatic paintings, her primary medium as art maker. The paintings are of an intimate nature, rendered in soft folds of over and under-exposed personal photographic references. These are tender studies in intimacy where some images are painted on canvas shaped as folded fabric. New large paintings of unmade bed linen serve as a form of abstract eroticism, contour-like shapes of the rises and valleys seen from an aerial view, not unlike those of the restless lines of maps.
Aggenbach’s paintings are seldom lucid, but rather obscured and concealed by either dark blue hues, or sapped of detail and lost in the brightness of bleached ivory white. Thematically these folds reference a clue to the work upstairs, a re-interpretation of Michelangelo’s Pietà by echoing the drapes of Mary’s tunic, Christ’s pale flesh and the composition of forms. The original carved from marble.
Madre Pietà (2019) offers a more playful reimagining of Michelangelo’s original: the Madonna and Child replaced by two plush toys cast in bronze. The sculpture stands two-metres tall; it’s hard, polished surface coloured in deep warm tones.
Separated over two floors, The Heart Has Many Rooms traverses the artist’s affections – above, the devotion of mother and child; below, the private affairs of the heart. Vivid bronze tones versus deep blue hues below. For every room its colour, for every love.
Sanell Aggenbach’s work deals primarily with the intersection of history and private narratives by considering the process of recall and interpretation. Her work displays an accomplished virtuosity as she moves comfortably between the various disciplines of painting, printmaking and sculpture.
Since 2003, Aggenbach has focused mainly on subverted feminine tropes and feminist themes. In her most recent solo exhibition, Bend to Her Will, she subtly and mischievously reframed the hobbyist art of flower arranging by appropriating the traditionally masculine art of Japanese Ikebana. Her sculptural work, primarily in bronze, parody Western masterpieces from Michelangelo, Henry Moore, and Warhol to Pierneef and take a refreshing look at these pivotal references from a woman’s perspective.
Born in Cape Town in 1975, Aggenbach currently lives and works in Woodstock, Cape Town. Her explorative work has secured her many achievements including winning the Absa L’Atelier Award in 2003. Her work is represented in numerous public and private collections, including Sasol, Absa, Spier, SABC, Red Bull (Austria), the South African National Gallery, 21C Museum in Kentucky (USA) and Anglo Gold.
“My earlier works relied heavily on processing found imagery, rethinking associations and creating new fictions. These works were often an amalgamation of historic references with private narratives and forms part of a process of investigating pathologies and deconstructing the past. My primary intention is to construct subtle paradoxes by introducing a quite humour, either formally or materially.”
Sanell Aggenbach’s The Heart Has Many Rooms runs until August 24, 2019, at Everard Read’s CIRCA Gallery.
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