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Arty validation of Twitter and tweet

Published Sep 26, 2011


Exhibition: HOW TO. By Emma Willemse and Hester Viles. At Grande Provence Gallery until October 12. VERONICA C WILKINSON reviews

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IMAGINE transforming a thumb print into whorls of wonder in three dimensions, as well as on paper and canvas, and translating social media twittering and tweets into sculpture.

Artists Emma Willemse and Hester Viles get to grips with material culture as translated knowledge in a collaborative exhibition that embraces wacky humour and a broad range of media.

Willemse’s art explores how information gets lost in interpretation because of subjectivity and technique. She presents viewers with juxtapositions like framed, prescriptive drawing instruction manual covers next to handmade sheets of paper intended as environmental awareness signals.

A playful interactive painting on board, cut into little squares maneuvered on a framed magnetic board can be rearranged by visitors at whim.

The central theme of Willemse’s visual exploration is an imaginary manual entitled Ways of Imagining a Home; a subjective project which commences in the middle of this work in progress with page 50/51.

Describing the creative process as open-ended, Willemse informs me that what Swiss psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology CG Jung (1875-1961) referred to as “the space of psyche” is central to her interest in displacement and resettlement in a personal context.

Her installation in the centre of the gallery delicately suspended by nylon thread consists of carefully cut, inverted wooden parquet floor fragments still bearing glue and cement adhesions that provide effects that are aesthetically satisfying.

Salvaged from a house undergoing demolition, once her home, Willemse’s intention is to “coach the viewer to re-view the fragile, complex and fluid nature of knowledge on human consciousness”.

As an artist and art educator with a Masters degree in Visual art from Unisa (2011) Willemse was invited to present artwork at the Florence Biennale and has exhibited widely in addition to her teaching role.

She has participated in community and public art projects and has work in public collections. The many techniques and formats employed include monotypes and oil painting among others displaying a range of meticulous virtuosity that highlights detail, skill and a keen appreciation of wit.

Willemse approached artist and friend Hester Viles about a year ago to collaborate for this exhibition and Viles promptly embarked on a how-to google search, randomly finding weird and wonderful sites.

Some of these are presented inscribed on the surface of a laser engraved mirror in a gilded frame as an artwork and others inform witty three dimensional sculptures assembled from found objects.

History and the modern ego-validation of Twitter and tweet, the latter regarded by Viles as replacing the trophy in contemporary social networking, assume forms that emanate from sources and applied skills that include engraving, soldering, and laser etching to construct and complete her sound and silent sculptures.

An intriguing object entitled One Way to Call the Family Together resembles the ancient Egyptian percussion instrument called the sistrum which is shaken like a rattle.

Humour and careful crafting of the work speak volumes about versatility and imagination. Viles earned her bachelor’s degree in fine art from Unisa in 2001 and has exhibited locally and internationally since then.

Viles considers this project the beginning of an exciting new creative project that she is enthusiastic to continue.

The Project Room adjacent to the main gallery is hosting a Cape Craft and Design Institute exhibition which showcases functional and fantastic objects.

These include ceramics, a theme which will be centre stage at six venues including Grande Provence during the Franschoek ceramics festival in October. But for this multi-faceted taste from a group of innovative individuals we are presented with a hint of art history in Kate Thompson’s printer’s tray that recollects American artist and sculptor Joseph Cornell’s (1903-1972) careful oeuvre.

Riaan Chambers’s inspiration for a striking wall-mounted light fitting is the sea, with geometrically arranged seashells creating interplay with light that is both dramatic and symmetrical.

The Wilma Britz mirror with its decorative circles reminds me of the Nazar charms used to ward off the evil eye that date back to ancient Sumerian references from the third millennium BC.

A meticulously constructed bottle cap basket by Phanny Mangwiro sold while I was viewing the show, and a crocheted and Japanese beaded co-runner by Shahieda Salie provided an exotic acknowledgement to the assimilation of influence that maps our way forward.

The former storeroom with enviably high ceiling known as the Cathedral now hosts winetasting and is another gallery where painting, sculpture and ceramics are on display with South African realist Donna McKellar’s painting among the artwork

From the flamboyance of an African Pearly King button suit boasting fringes and bottle caps at the CCDI exhibition, the quiet accomplishment of Wendy Visser’s Dillon and Jada range of crafted jewellery, clothing and innovative accessories tell a tale of skills development and nurturing of excellence.

This modest counterpoint to the art exhibitions at Grande Provence is more than complementary, stripping hype from reality during this time of an urgent need to address job creation and productivity.

l The Grande Provence Gallery is in Main Road, Franschoek is open from 10am to 6pm daily. Call 021 876 8601.

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