Goodman Gallery Cape Town
3 March – 6 April 2018
Speechless marks rosenclaire’s fourth solo exhibition at Goodman Gallery in which Rose Shakinovsky and Claire Gavronsky question the power of words to represent and relate to our surroundings.
In the words of the artists: ‘this exhibition registers an inability to comprehend and articulate the political, social and ecological crises experienced around the world today. This implies the breakdown of all secure structures including language, communication and materiality itself. We approach the ‘unspeakable’ from a position of warning but also of wonder.’
Speechless takes its cue from current discourse on the Anthropocene, described by writer Robert Macfarlane as ‘the new epoch of geological time in which human activity is considered such a powerful influence on the environment, climate and ecology of the planet that it will leave a long-term signature in the strata record.’ Macfarlane warns that ‘we have become titanic geological agents, our legacy legible for millennia to come’ in an attempt to urge human beings to consider the implications of our actions in terms of ‘deep time’ – beyond the here and now.
Deploying different visual languages, rosenclaire propound a shared belief in the world as an ever-shifting fusion of equal components, always in state of becoming. Their work can be read as part of a wave of artists, philosophers, scientists and anthropologists who ask that we look to new ways of relating to each other and to nature or else face extinction.
Shakinovsky’s semi-abstract prints strip back stock media images of recent natural disasters and social upheavals, including the fire in London’s Grenfell Towers, the Syrian refugee ‘crisis’, wildfires in California and the Natal floods, to create ‘a composition without balance or symmetry, mirroring the incoherence and collapse of the social and revenge of the natural’.
Within these alluring works, Shakinovsky boldly attempts ‘to represent the new visual language that may define these times,’ as she puts it, looking to re-represent ‘the underlying structure of disaster and the visual forms it takes.’
Gavronsky’s delicate pastel works posit a deflated colonial male figure as humbled in the face of nature and, at times, crippled by remorse as he is positioned on his knees before people exploited over the ages. In one work a man kneels before a flock of imposing Dodos, joining them in extinction.
Other paintings by Gavronsky evoke a scrapbook, or perhaps a crime wall, mapping key moments of human technological ‘progress’, from industrialization in the 1800s to the ‘Great Acceleration’ of the 1950s through to the present. Current world leaders, such as Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, loom large within this enmeshed narrative assemblage whereby human beings and natural resources continue to be exploited.
rosenclaire began collaborating in the 1980s when they moved from South Africa to Italy, where they run a residency program for international artists. Their collaboration is defined by two distinct artistic languages which grapple with their shared concerns. They have exhibited individually and collaboratively around the world, most recently in the group exhibition Right To The Future (2017) at the Museum of the 20th and 21st Century Art in St. Petersburg. They have collaborated with William Kentridge on a number of occasions and are known for producing public participatory works, such as the Soap Boxes sculpture commissioned by the South African National Gallery in Cape Town in 2003.
Born in Johannesburg, South Africa. Live and work in Florence, Italy
rosenclaire’s collaborative work began in the mid 1980’s when they translocated from South Africa to Italy. Their artwork and teaching has always involved some form of political activism. Though very different in stylistic approach, their work shares the same concepts and common concerns. The collaborative work is generally context-specific.
rosenclaire exhibitions are therefore works in themselves where they both respond to a central concern and the show as a whole is designed as a cohesive installation.
They join forces in order to creatively facilitate a discourse pertaining to a specific theme, place or situation that they are invited to participate in. This may be a curated show, a public sculpture or a pedagogic intervention. Exhibitions often contain a live feed that both references surveillance but at the same time renders the audience as subject and content of the work. The work is done specifically for the conceptual task at hand where, as artists, they regain control and responsibility for generating a specific dialogue with both the art world and general public. An important permanent interactive installation called ‘Soapboxes’ of theirs, sits outside the South African National Gallery/IZIKO (SANG). They collaborate as wives and as dedicated mentors who have run a renowned artists residency program in Tuscany for the past 30 years. Each of them are artists in their own right and make work individually as well.
Gavronsky works in a variety of mediums, most notably in painting and sculpture. Her work often uses visual reference’s to historical paintings, and cues are sometimes taken from events from everyday life. Memory, racism, violence against women and children are some of the theme’s which run through her oeuvre. Her work also bridge’s sometimes complex narratives through overlaid images, and stories which link the past to the present.
In 1981 Gavronsky received a Master of Fine Art in painting, and she moved to Italy in 1985 and has since lived between Cape Town and Tuscany.
Shakinovsky’s work defies any stylistic category as it consists of work that ranges from the re-presentation and decontextualization of found objects, found images and found situations, to delicately painted abstractions and ironic bronzes. The work concerns itself with current political and social discourses while simultaneously referencing and reconstructing art historical edifices. Shakinovsky is interested in the structure as well as the morphology of all seemingly coherent visual and nonvisual languages from the prelinguistic to the post-linquistic and the digital. Her present research is concerned with discourses pertaining to the Posthuman, Postanthropos, Transhuman, Migration and the consequences of Climate Change.
Shakinovsky has over the past decade given contemporary art history courses to collectors, philanthropists and business leaders hoping to inspire them to contribute to fostering the arts in their respective countries.