From July 17 to August 10, 2019, Gallery Momo, Cape Town will present UNRESOLVED CATEGORY, an acknowledgement of contemporary painting in its current state. This exhibition does not claim to innovate the medium in any way. In fact, painting has been declared dead so many times since the daguerreotype that its ‘re-invention’ feels like a redundant activity. Rather, UNRESOLVED CATEGORY puts a spotlight on painters who extend, overlap, crack, and smudge the familiar to propose continuous progress to the medium.
Subverting traditional notions of painting as pigment on a canvas, Gabrielle Kruger creates malleable structures by peeling off layers of acrylic paint. This act of “ungrounding” paint from its surface articulates a praxis distinguished not my mark-making, but by excavation. Sunette Viljoen continues the concept of removing layers of paint in a gesture of revealing history, sourcing strips of plaster from the walls of restored buildings.
Byron Fredericks colours his canvases with bright and energetic yellows and pinks—referencing Bo-Kaap aesthetics—cuts them up, and stitches them back together, alluding to the complexities of identity formation and historical context in South Africa. Asemahle Ntlonti allows their canvases to fray, to unravel, to hang loosely from a ladder or a rusted, oversized safety pin, encouraging a decolonial, non-hierarchical relationship to materiality and display.
Joël Mpah Dooh has chosen to do away with the canvas entirely, choosing rather to experiment with more easily accessible materials, such as aluminium and perspex to portray Doualan street scenes. Sepideh Mehraban’s canvases are layered with thick impasto strokes and glue over newspaper clippings, old family photographs, and strips of Persian carpets, symbolising the disparity between state-controlled narratives of Iranian history and the artist’s personal memories.
Using painting as a means of archiving memory, Ronald Muchatuta engraves and carves into his paintings invocations of slavery, displacement, and exploitation to draw out their manifestations in the present. Adele van Heerden’s work speaks to fractured memory and removal, choosing as her subject the void of a monument rather than the monument itself.
It can be said that any painting is a sort of monument. Ferdinand Kidd operates in the aesthetic arena of the monumental and sublime. Stephané Conradie creates a more personal monument. Her painting is ornamented by souvenirs and trinkets often memorialised in the living rooms of working-class South Africans, speaking to processes of creolisaiton and identity formation as well as framing, literally, painting as a sculptural medium. Katharien de Villiers goes as far as to display her paintings as sculptures and installations, inviting the viewer to navigate the work spatially. On the other side of the spectrum, Vivien Kohler’s paintings imitate sculptures, crafting the feel and texture of folded cardboard with fibreglass and resin.
If a painting can be sculptural, why can’t it be film as well? Niccolò Masini creates thousands of paintings, producing frames that animate short video works. King Debs endeavours to reconnect with his Tswana heritage, transposing oral history onto a visualised script through the combination of paint and CGI. Alluding to film in its analogue sense, Abdus Salaam creates paintings in a darkroom, using photographic processing chemicals and techniques.
These sixteen artists, hailing from South Africa, Iran, Italy, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Cameroon, comprise a polyphony of painters decentralising the material through multidisciplinary practice. Splintered universes collide before the viewer, triggering issues of history, memory, narrative, and science. UNRESOLVED CATEGORY invites you to a painting show of sensory experience where the medium’s materiality, monumentality and complexity blur the lines of expectation.
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