Kreutzveldt, Van Bosch and Trappler at the AVA
by Sue Williamson
Do painters have more fun? Looking at Dorothee Kreutzfeldt's freewheeling show 'Things Left Unsaid', one feels certain they must, though the truth is that painters probably agonise over every detail like the rest of us.
Working with what appears to be supreme confidence and élan, Kreutzveldt here assembles paintings in groups of four or more in such a way that a group carries a rough story line, though each painting is separately titled. The artist intended the titles to work something like haikus for a contemporary South Africa: Flags, Flowers and Fire; Fear Not; Boxer; Your Lucky Round reads one group, in which a boxer in mid-punch hangs below an image of two colliding mirror balls. Achieving illusionistic space is not on Kreutzveldt's agenda: the images are suspended against flatly painted backgrounds, often with small Klimt-like blocks of colour running over or under them, animating and deconstructing the images. The conventions of comic book illustration are utilised, and smudgy text is an important but throwaway element. "We Feel Better Having You Around", two roses tell the outline of a rounded toy figure.
In 'Things Left Unsaid' those "things" are not quite as cheerful as the determinedly bright palette might suggest. Far from being derived from the artist's own family album, Kreutzfeldt draws her images from the daily press, often attracted to quite morbid scenes. A painting in which four girls are lying on their backs spewing what could be lemonade from their mouths was sparked by a photograph of an exorcism ceremony. The only other painters I can think of who so successfully portray the perverse side of childhood innocence are Marlene Dumas and Eric Fischl.
Like the movie Blue Velvet, set in an apparently perfect small town in America, the red roses and sweetness of Kreutzfeldt's world in which sport, flowers and children play leading roles mask more difficult and complex scenarios.
The work of Cobus van Bosch is a weightier proposition altogether. Van Bosch is an observer of street furniture, of the patterned cast-iron hatches and lids which separate the above ground from the below-the-surface world. This is not a new obsession: round hatches were the source of imagery for an earlier show in 1998 called 'Cover' in which Van Bosch imagined himself as a homeless person, showing a series in which his progressively aging face was framed by the round rim of a manhole lid.
In the current show, 'Monument', Van Bosch has sand-cast in iron a series of thick plaques, circular, square and rectangular, in which the kind of lozenge or knobbed patterns to be observed on hatches have been combined with drawings and text by the artist. Most of these, seen as objects alone, are remarkably handsome. Van Bosch has successfully experimented with different finishes on his cast-iron plaques, polishing up some to a steely shine, and allowing others to glow with a rich orange rustiness.
It is in the heavy-handed approach to the text and images that one experiences severe misgivings. Van Bosch has taken descriptive terms like "FIRE HYDRANT" and "INSPECTION COVER" and matched these with images and a second phrase. Thus "FIRE HYDRANT" is linked with a porno image of a masturbating woman, legs spread, and the word "BABE". "BRANDKRAAN" shows a body lying on the ground, with the word "FAME" beneath it. In an artist's statement remarkable for its dull resemblance to that of just about every fourth-year art student in the country, Van Bosch says his work commemorates "certain aspects of past and present experiences in South Africa. These works may also serve as functional objects/artworks in public spaces, adding a much-needed documentation of those experiences, both private and collective, that shape South African identities." Well, let's not analyse that one too closely.
Upstairs on the Art Strip, Jill Trappler, one of the endangered minority of painters of abstract art, is showing 'Looking Back', a series of small paintings made over the past two decades. There are three themes - a series of still lives of Morandi-like vessels, the second a series in which the canvas itself is folded into and onto the surface of the painting, and a third series which combines the two. Since I have a personal antipathy to a multitude of bright colours splashed and dripped over a surface, it is difficult for me to be objective about much of Trappler's work, although beneath the chromatic surfaces, the vessels in the still lives hold their own. For my money, the best works on the show are also the simplest: three small pieces in a restricted palette of white, raw umber and blue.
Until March 2
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