Works of Goats and Dreams

Cape Times (South Africa), October 22, 2010 | Go to article overview

Works of Goats and Dreams


IT WAS dear Leonardo who brazenly chastised Botticelli for not being artistically "well rounded". Leonardo said he and any artist should have an equally keen interest in all of the things within the compass of painting, and he especially mistrusted those, like Botticelli, who did not delight in landscape.

And this from a man who recommended staring at stains on walls as a source of inspiration and stimulated 19th century French author-painter Victor Hugo to snitch many of his ideas for drawings from the blots made by coffee stains on tablecloths.

So too, contemporary artist Maria van Rooyen, currently exhibiting at Salon 91: beautiful architectural monochromatic installations, rich in creative ambiguity which unveil interior landscapes of South African narratives, poignant literary landscapes that Leonardo surely would have found fascinating especially in their contemporary rendering.

"Maria's work has a strong political consciousness, but somehow even her sweeping landscapes (as in Victoria Falls and City Bowl) seem to be located in the personal," suggests co-curator of The Long Way Home, Andrew Lamprecht.

Van Rooyen has been influenced strongly by Antjie Krog, Nosisi Mpolweni and Kopano Ratele's There Was This Goat, a harrowing account of their researches into the seemingly garbled and confusing narrative of Notrose Nobomvu Konile at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Just as Van Rooyen has created artwork in her bid to understand Nobomvu's testimony, so too did poet Ingrid de Kok in Tongue-tied where she equally writes of a traumatised mother: "Her tongue's a current, washing over dead fish, abandoned rope and tackle."

This artist's searches for the individual's tongue - the narrative that is humanely and politically interrogated.

I found the intensity of hundreds of freely shredded small rectangular shapes like ruffled feathers in her works a fascinating and intriguing repeated design of hundreds of what could be symbolic of currency notes, strips of paper, money as paper, perhaps reflective of a societal litmus test questioning perhaps the true worth of our economy, and questioning what is our real singular truth of existence. …

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