Archive: Issue No. 86, October 2004

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Theresa-Anne Mackintosh at the NSA
by Gabi Ngcobo

'Jackie The Kid', a solo show by Theresa-Anne Mackintosh, recently occupied the NSA Gallery's main space and the Multimedia room. Delivered in a slick and humorous manner, the exhibition transformed the complex into a world of characters in tastefully fresh-coloured paintings, prints (digital paintings) and sculptures which were immediately charming and accessible.

After finishing her Master's degree at University of Pretoria, Mackintosh joined a broadcast, design and animation company in Johannesburg to explore her interest in animation. She later returned to the visual arts to pursue these interests.

The paintings and prints are set in a dreamlike narrative and rendered in a language reminiscent of contemporary Japanese art and animation. Walking around one is introduced to the simplicity of existence through the characters whose issues are laid bare through the door of their private thoughts and fantasies.

It is Tina's world to which we gain access. Tina, the main character in Jackie The Kid, a short animated film focusing on what seems to be the thoughts, fantasies or memories of different characters, is a character who immediately charms. She represents somehow the strength of the human spirit; she is headstrong and quite possibly some kind of role model.

In the film, we follow Tina from her apartment on a mission to the pharmacy to buy goat's milk and back. A conversation between the pharmacist and Tina not only forms the climax of the narrative, but also indicates some crucial emotive in the film. The pharmacist presumes that the 'little one' is allergic to breast milk, at which point Tina replies in a matter-of-fact way that she actually gave birth to a goat.

The film works as a framing device in which the rest of the show comes together, with each character entering an inner memory space through Tina. Each person's story comes through as some kind of a dream or fantasy. A deep sense of loneliness percolates through, not as a quiet emotion but one that disturbs and at the same time refreshes. As we are allowed entry to the characters' private thoughts and emotions, we encounter human vulnerability and self-importance as shared characteristics.

The 15 identical sculptures that occupy the floor space of the gallery are of Tina. Little inscriptions pasted on the bottom of her angelic dress denote Tina's different characteristics. For instance we learn that Tina does not kiss ass, she is easily hurt, is kind to animals, wants to believe in something and she tries to do the right thing. The list goes on. She is a likeable, sensitive individual who reminds us of the things that connect us to people generally.

The painting, 'Mission', sums up what the short film portrays but also introduces a different voice to the story. It reads as a parental note for a child sent on an errand, articulating each step to be taken. Tina's vulnerability is found in one of the dreamy images she encounters on the way. The image is of an upper torso of a girl who wears a yellow t-shirt with 'I am a girl' inscribed on it. She cries in one of the paintings and in the animation the words 'in need of care' run through the scene before she appears.

Other images of the featured characters bear disturbing features and moods. Sometimes it is in the way the eyes are shaped, the absence of a nose, the shape of the mouth or its nonexistence. Except for the two vertical slits where the eyes should be, Tina herself has no facial features and yet still carries the presence of one who sees and says things beyond the usual manner.

Mackintosh seduces us with visuals and confronts us with the restless pent-up energy locked within each of us.


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