An exhibition of mixed media works.
In their first collaboration, Re-vision, Tracy Megan and Taryn Millar use paintings, drawings, collage and interventions on found texts and images to expose the limitations of language. Language, by definition, aims to articulate and refine meaning; this exhibition seeks to unravel it. By layering and juxtaposing a variety of recognizable and abstract elements, the ensuing visual relationships open a space for ambiguity prompting new interpretations. While from a certain perspective the works may be said to disrupt the viewing experience, a correlating experience is being encouraged through the careful and considered enmeshment of elements such that each work creates an alluring reconsideration of its potential myriad meanings. Drawing on the poem View With a Grain of Sand, by Wislawa Szymborska, wherein a grain of sand remains intact even after being stripped of the words usually used to define it, Megan and Millar empty images of their intended or purported meanings and restore them within a trope freed from obvious definitions and hence open to new understanding. The effect is poignant, considering that the experience of rendering and receiving is oftentimes circular – we act upon the world trying to make it and then interpret it in terms that are narrowly self-referential. In other words, we systematically subject experience to our limited anthropocentric impulses. But the world around us and the materials in this exhibition possess their own fibre. They interact with the artists and viewers in ways that induce the consideration of alternative perspectives and meanings.
In Songs of The Innocent and Songs of The Experienced, the narrative tension Megan explores is similar to that presented by the poet William Blake in his poetry collection Songs of Innocence and Experience. Childhood innocence, curiosity and purity are contrasted with adult experience, repression and venality. These works chart the experiences of a cast of characters encountering a series of bewildering artistic tropes and devices. These include shapes, forms and techniques such as oversized geometric cut-outs and burn marks resembling other-worldly portals. The characters are generally presented as innocent and curious. Their natural inquisitiveness draws them toward the unfamiliar and potentially dangerous environments of Megan’s interventions.
In her series, Reconfigured, Millar overlays the cut-out silhouettes of lone figures on a variety of backgrounds such as rock faces, landscapes and maps. The human frame, initially void of substance, is re-imbued with the detail of the underlying imagery resulting in a strange and surprising marriage of images. Like the series Objects of Desire (1983-1988) by Sarah Charlesworth, the subjects, stripped of context, interrelate in a complex web of free-floating associations. In Four Birds That Cannot Fly Millar extends her project through a collection of portraits from art history that depict similar facial expressions. While the sitters span a spectrum of time and cultural-physical location, the common thread of their expression, in a sense suggesting a common feature of humanity, belies the complexity of engaging with and reflecting upon the human experience. The title indicates the absurd limitations of traditional encyclopaedic labels.
The artists collaborate directly on eight works in the exhibition, one of which is the collage A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing (shown above). Another, Birds of a Feather, is a video installation across two screens. On the central projection an ostrich, in close-up, moves its head from side to side. Opposite the ostrich, on a monitor, are thumbnail images found in a Google search (“people with ostrich feathers”). Central to Birds of a Feather and the seven other collaborations raised above, is an anthropocentric perspective which attempts to usurp its environment and prescribe the means of understanding it. In response to this, the very title of the exhibition, Re-vision, calls to mind an emendation or correction of what has come before. Furthermore, it invites a moment’s pause, allowing for a reorientation of our sense of understanding, directing us towards a threshold of new and potentially insightful possibilities.
ASSOCIATION FOR VISUAL ARTS (AVA) GALLERY
Address: 35 Church Str, Cape Town
Tel: 021 424 7436
Opening Hours: Monday - Friday: 10:00 - 17:00. Saturday: 10:00 - 13:00.