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Robyn Field explores South Africa's socio-economic reality in new exhibition Article Image

Robyn Field explores South Africa's socio-economic reality in new exhibition

Posted on 11 March 2021

Following this year's budget speech and commentary, Johannesburg fine artist Robyn Field's recent work - Taxes, Tithes and Charity - has offered a more stark and singular assessment of South Africa's socio-economic reality than many budget experts have been able to come up with.

Her diptych delivers a colourfully chaotic depiction of the country's government buildings, churches and shopping malls. Beneath them are lines of stick figure South Africans contributing their taxes, tithes and charities, while above the country's ubiquitous plastic recyclers continue their grinding path to the depot, unaffected.

Robyn Field Taxes, Tithes and Charity
Robyn Field, Taxes, Tithes and Charity

"In one way the piece is a response to the weird emptiness of things like the budget speech news cycle," says Field. "But it's also a simpler reflection of the commentary you hear ordinary people giving every day. As citizens we all provide the money that is supposed to fund the basic structures of our social life, but when we're out in the world those structures are often missing, or completely broken. We all know and understand this, yet nothing changes. Which gives events like the budget speech a strong sense of futility."

The drifting presence of the plastic recyclers in Field's work reinforces this point. They are at once central to the scene, but also far removed from it.

"We're surrounded by a huge amount of recycling and sustainability verbiage and legislation, but if aliens landed in South Africa today you would really struggle to convince them that our approach didn't in fact rely fundamentally on informal sector recyclers, who operate in the middle of our streets but on the far margins of society. Again, this is an irony most South African talk about every day but is seldom recognised in formal processes like the budget speech."

Field has been part of the Johannesburg arts scene for the last twenty years, as an artist in her own right and as the owner and curator of Unity Gallery, a city-based creative hub that operated between 2003 and 2013.

Taxes, Tithes and Charity will feature at her upcoming solo show - Allow me to Introduce You To... which opens at Upstairs at Bamboo in Melville on 19 March 2021. The show will be opened by Blessing Ngobeni, one of the country's foremost fine artists, widely recognised for his biting assessments of the country's socio-economic trajectory.

For more information, visit her website or follow her on Instagram.

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