Kim Lieberman Interrupts the Future
by Sean O'Toole
The postal weavings of twentieth century mail art are not simply about the literal journeys travelled by paper envelopes. For the artist Kim Lieberman mail art traces pathways, a multitude of unforeseen and emotionally meaningful routes. 'Every Interaction Interrupts the Future', her first solo show in Johannesburg's pre-eminent contemporary art gallery, offers a visual elaboration on this point.
Striking maternal reds predominate in a show that contains a range of new works, all of them executed in her distinctive postal genre style. The preponderance of red is apt; Lieberman has recently given birth to her first child. Red, which features voluminous clouds of red on the 'canvass' (actually postage stamp paper), is the example of her luxurious use of this elemental colour. Initially quite bland, the work gains an entrancing power the longer one studies the textured inconsistencies of its surface.
Common throughout the show is Lieberman's use of postal elements, such as blank perforated postage stamp paper, perforations, and perforation residue. The work Residue is a work literally composed out of residue, perforation residue, the millions of throwaway dots that are disposed of after a sheet of stamps is printed. The useless aftermath that gives all stamps their authenticity and legitimacy, Lieberman's use thereof focuses our attention on the absent other, on the seemingly meaningless detritus that has allowed the artist to produce her refined silk threaded pieces seen, for instance, in her earlier Blood Relative work.
Personally I was intrigued by her piece Examining Every Interaction. The work offers a series of paired silhouettes; the image on the left always the same Amazonian woman with ornate headdress. On the left the silhouette changes, offering iterations of clich�d national archetypes, the sort of strict typologies stamp designers like to use in suggesting a master narrative, or stock identities.
Commenting on her recent thought processes, the artist has stated: "I have a fascination that explores the consequences that follow a single action. I allow myself to dwell in the shear wonderment of the simplicity of this notion, the reality of effect." In her work Carrier, another piece to use the silhouetted feminine figure, Lieberman presents a long line of pregnant women. The work offers a pertinent visual example of her idea that consequences can follow from a single action.
As with many of her pieces, Carrier is a work that reveals the highly intuitive emotional base from which Kim Lieberman works. An artist possessed with a heightened sense of acuity and awareness, her work is thankfully devoid of any maudlin sentimentality. As Wits University's Colin Richards has also cogently observed of her work: "Everything connects. Everywhere. Across the surface of the work, across the surface of the earth, across the heart of South Africa."
But it is not just the intuitive or emotional side to her work that is compelling. There is a subtle interplay of ideas in Lieberman's work, particularly in the way it appropriates officious source material, overlaying onto this deeply personal narratives. Of course working in such a highly specialised manner has its perils. Repetition means that not all the works satisfy, and the cynically inclined might ask whether she has not reached her end game in terms of the postal genre.
A soothing show that offers clever insights and lots to ponder on, Kim Lieberman's Goodman debut evidences that she is possessed with far more than stoic patience and meticulous eye for detail.
Opens: April 10
Closes: May 3, at 16H00
Goodman Gallery, 163 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood
Tel: 011 788 1113
Fax: 011 788 9887
Hours: Tues - Fri 9.30 a.m - 5 p.m, Sat 9.30 a.m - 4 p.m