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Stuart Bird / Promise Land / 2012

19 January - 03 March 2012
Goodman Gallery, Cape Town

This January, Goodman Gallery presents Promise Land, the first solo show by acclaimed artist/ sculptor Stuart Bird. In a series of meticulously and often obsessively hand-crafted sculptures and installations, Bird explores the position of the artist and the individual in contemporary South Africa.

South Africa is the land of promise of the title – a country full of exciting dynamism, but, conversely a potentially dangerous and fraught land. The title also alludes to the promised land of Canaan in the Hebrew bible – a mythical place of abundance that was never quite realized. Over the Rainbow, a glittering arch constructed out of broken shards of mirror, is both a welcome and a warning – a reminder that the place to which it grants access remains a fantasy that can be visited but never inhabited. And in Change, a floor sculpture spelling out the word ‘struggle’ in hand-carved African mahogany, coins are imbedded in the wood like bullet-holes; a violent symbol of an economic struggle barely begun.

Promise Land is also about a personal struggle – a process of working through and coming to terms with the country’s legacy of conflict and violence, an inheritance that we have no choice but to live with. Chip Off the old Block is a noose carved out of Imbuia and suspended from the ceiling, a pile of chips underneath as a memory or reminder of the original raw material. It is an equivocal symbol, simultaneously pointing to the systemic violence of a public execution and the quiet despair of suicide; and in Blood Knot Bird invokes the metaphor of a climbing knot to consider the forces that bind South Africans historically whilst causing tension in the present.


Supawood and broken mirrors
70 x 210 x 20cm
Hand-carved African Mahogany
260 x 50 x 7cm
Imbuia, mirror and lighting installation
78.2 x 110 x 7cm
Hand-carved Imbuia wood
550cm long
Stained glass and mirror
74.5 x 107.5 x 7.5cm
Imbuia wood and electrical fittings
180 x 110 x 7cm
Wood, coins, lightbulbs
8 elements, 90 x 60 x 22cm each