Virginia MacKenny, Ledelle Moe and James Webb at the NSA
Three new shows open at the NSA. 'Sleepers (sightlines)', Virginia MacKenny's installation of 43 paintings, is conceived as a single work. The exhibition is presented on two opposing walls in the gallery. On the one wall are three small paintings of the heads of passengers sleeping on trains. Resting upright, caught between destinations both geographical and internal, the sleepers face a grid of paintings that reflect different states of consciousness between waking and dormancy.
Dominated by blue, the paintings become a colour field where large and small events gain equal prominence. Insignificant objects such as a child's paper boat, a string of fairy lights or the image of the test block of an apprentice Egyptian scribe learning to render the ear in a single line, are juxtaposed with the floral tribute left at the robots of a local hijacking, an image of the path of subatomic particles and contemporary media images of world events, such as the September 11 attacks on the US.
The separate images, some iconic and emblematic, shift between different visual codes and are ultimately subsumed into a complex matrix where MacKenny engages with perception and ways of constructing meaning. Allusions to the eye, sight and blindness encourage speculative engagement with the capabilities of intuition and insight. Mixing reverence, nostalgia, irony and a sense of wonder the work encourages viewers to reflect on memory and memorialising.
MacKenny, a Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at the Durban Institute of Technology is a past winner of the Volkskas (now ABSA) Atelier Award (1991) and has work in a number of public collections.
In the Park Gallery, returning local artist, Ledelle Moe, currently living and working in New York, captures memory in another form in her exhibition 'Collapse'. Filling the gallery with drawings and large photographs of her own monumental sculptures she engages with the idea of entropy and breakdown. The destruction of some monumental landmarks in the recent years have added particular relevance to the ideas that Moe has been exploring for the last few years.
Collapse a large-scale sculpture, was made on site in Queens, New York, and the background for this photographed piece is the Manhattan skyline in New York City. The events of September 11 changed that skyline irrevocably creating a different backdrop for the piece to work against.
Moe's exploration is most often couched in animal form. Common to so many stories and myths, animals are often seen as vehicles to the unconscious and a means by which we may articulate and confront the darker sides of the human psyche. Moe states that "the animal image combined with the human, for me, represents not only the irrational non-verbal - a symbol of the unconscious - but also a vehicle for the expression of contradictory human emotions.
"My materials are rough and speak to a sense of decay behind the brutal show of strength. The violent treatment of the surfaces over exposed steel, refer both to power and powerlessness. It is my intention that my monumental 'figures' - animal or human - reveal this vulnerability� redefining what it is to be 'heroic' through a critique of the monumental".
Moe was born in Durban, South Africa in 1971. She studied at Technikon Natal and was a founding member of the FLAT Gallery, an alternative space in Durban. After graduating in 1993 she left for the United States where she embarked on a period of study at the Virginia Commonwealth University Sculpture Department Masters Programme. She has exhibited widely in the United States and elsewhere, including the Kulturehuset (Stockholm, Sweden) and The Washington Project for the Arts.
In the Multimedia gallery, now getting more regular use for its intended function, is James Webb's 'Phonosynthesizer'. Webb, a Cape Town-based sound artist, lecturer and YDEsire curator was a merit award winner of the 2002 Absa L'Atelier and has exhibited both locally and abroad on a number of group shows.
Originally Webb's solo debut, the first incarnation of 'Phonosynthesizer' was presented in the US Art Gallery, an old deconsecrated Lutheran church in Stellenbosch. 'Photosynthesizer' is a generative sound installation created by the accidental meshing of sounds made by asynchronous CD players. The sound material used is a careful collection of sonic "mistakes" gathered through a process of destroying old audio work.
Each exhibition of 'Phonosynthesizer' is constructed out of the destruction of the previous 'Phonosynthesizer' work. This is done by scarring the rear of the CDs and allowing for the disks to skip and jump in the machines. New work is birthed out of the debris of the old. With this composting of previous work and the chaotic nature of the "out-of-synch" CD players (the audio will never be heard the same way twice, and the random combinations will only loop every thousand years or so), 'Phonosynthesizer' is always fresh and unpredictable. This is a continuous work-in-progress that due to its haphazard, organic properties is both complete and open-ended at any given time.
'Phonosynthesizer' takes error and malfunction as its starting point. It celebrates irregularity and transition, and through its generative nature is able to recycle itself in many diverse and rich forms. 'Phonosynthesizer 100603' has been sponsored by Compact Disc Wherehouse.
Opens: 6.00pm, June 10
Closing: Saturday July 6
NSA Gallery, 166 Bulwer Road, Glenwood
Tel: 031 202 3686
Fax: 031 202 3744
Hours: Tues - Fri 10am - 5pm, Sat 10am - 4pm, Sun 11am - 3pm