Goodman Gallery presents Battlecry, an exhibition of large-scale paintings on wood panel which marks Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum’s first solo exhibition with Goodman Gallery. The exhibition follows Sunstrum’s first major museum show at Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati, US.
Battlecry explores Sunstrum’s interest in archetypes originating in classical mythology, which the artist translates into a cast of characters and alter egos that recur throughout her practice.
Sunstrum nuances these mythological archetypes with a focus on “the hero”: “In this latest body of work, I am interested in the fragility of the hero; the ways in which the hero is both heroic and anti-heroic; both a victor and a perpetrator who can experience violence but also cause violence. I am interested in the moment when the hero, despite being on the field of battle, cannot help but become soft, must go inward, must cry.”
Sunstrum layers visual information using pencil and oil paint to create imagery that exists as a rich “collection of citations – building a code into the meaning of the work”. These citations include (post)-colonial portraiture as well as intertextual conversations with art historical works, such as Robert S. Duncanson’s early 19th century romanticist landscape paintings. These references are further enriched by Sunstrum’s experiences with nature and science, encompassing a developing journey of self-discovery:
“I like thinking of all forms of knowledge-seeking-systems – the so-called ‘hard sciences’ as well as cosmological, spiritual and mythical belief systems – in a non-hierarchical way and enjoy finding moments of coincidence between them. I think about contemporary theories in genetics; I think about ancestral archives; I think about shamanistic portals; I think about quantum physics; I think about divination; I think about bodies; I think about love. Being devoted to any one of these notions requires a certain leap of faith. I try to imagine how these leaps may allow us to confront hierarchies of power, or may generate new ways of gathering our story” – Sunstrum.
Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum’s (b. 1980, Mochudi, Botswana) multidisciplinary practice encompasses drawing, painting, installation and animation. Her work alludes to mythology, geology and theories on the nature of the universe. Sunstrum’s drawings take the form of narrative landscapes that appear simultaneously futuristic and ancient, shifting between representational and fantastical depictions of volcanic, subterranean, cosmological and precipitous landscapes.
One of Sunstrum’s most notable projects in London came in the form of a 2018 mural which wrapped around the exterior of The Showroom. The work was dedicated to South African Novelist Bessie Head and formed part of the exhibition titled Women on Aeroplanes, curated by The Otolith Group, Emily Pethick, and Elvira Dyangani Ose.
Key exhibitions and performances include: All my seven faces at Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati, OH, USA (2019); Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town, South Africa; The Wiels, Brussels, Belgium (2019); Kunsthaus Zürich (2019); The Nest, The Hague (2019); Michaelis School for the Arts at the University of Cape Town (2018); Artpace, San Antonio, TX, USA (2018); The Phillips Museum of Arts, Lancaster (2018); Interlochen Centre for the Arts, Interlochen (2016); NMMU Bird Street Art Gallery, Port Elizabeth (2016); Tiwani Contemporary, London (2016); VANSA, Johannesburg (2015); Brundyn Gallery, Cape Town (2014); FRAC Pays de Loire, France (2013); the Havana Biennial (2012); and MoCADA, New York (2011).