StArt Salon Vol. 2
(we encourage you to view this exhibition on a desktop if possible)
Like many of the exhibitions opening online these days, this one was initially intended to take place in a physical setting. The digital format has given us an opportunity to reflect on our process; how we gather ideas and tie them together. It has been gratifying to create something intangible that feels truly shareable. Like Fillipus Sheehama’s artwork Green Cards, this exhibition has come together like a patchwork. These artworks reflect the artists' experiences of the world, weaving together the personal and the political, playing between abstraction and representation. Similarly the format of this exhibtion has been pulled and pushed by the digital media we are using to present it. In this new venue, curation has never felt more like collage with a seamless scroll lending itself neatly to the stacked 'salon format'. On the other hand flat screens can feel quite slick and alien, so we have included clips of audio throughout in an attempt to bring a bit of rawness back to the experience. We hope you enjoy the show.
We've prepared this audio from April, 2020 as the first sound track for this online exhibition. The StArt Room is located on Independence Avenue in the centre of Windhoek, Namibia and is usually bathed in the sounds of a bustling busy city. With the recent covid-19 lockdown things are a little quieter than usual.
Namibian mixed media artist Fillipus Sheehama often constructs artworks using recycled and found materials and uses these to explore issues relating to social and economic inequality. ‘Green Cards’ is formed out of many flattened bottle caps threaded together with wire to create what becomes a tapestry of glittering metal. Sheehama collects bottle tops from local shebeens (bars) each week, and creates works like this to speak to the issue of alcohol abuse, particularly in under-served communities with high rates of unemployment.
This pair of paintings by Nicky Marais take as their focus the structure of a pylon. A recognisable motif, pylons are literal transferrents of electricity and energy. We often encounter them in long lines across a landscape. Indeed in Namibia many long roads through the desert run parallel to a seam of pylons. Marais aptly describes these as pylons “marching” across the landscape. In relation to her broader artistic process which draws on various motifs to refer to transition, liminality and connection these pylons symbolise at once the literal transfer of energy and more deeply a sense of travel and connection.
‘One Identity, 2’ is a cardboard print by Elisia Nghidishange depicting a group of people standing together. We seem to see them from the back, with no defining features for the individuals who make up the group. The emphasis is on the collective, reiterated by the print’s title. However, the group is distinguished by their overskirts of ostrich eggshell beads - making the context clear. This is an Oshiwambo community. This print could be understood as a celebration of the possibilities offered by tradition for unity among people. Simultaneously it also offers an exploration of the power dynamics within a traditional and contemporary context. What is it to inhabit just one identity?
While at the annual Tulipamwe International Artist’s Workshop in 2017, Nicky Marais was inspired by dreams in which snakes were the main recurring feature. Marais’ paintings are often formed through an abstracted vocabulary of signs and signifiers, creating a rich layering of content and meanings. In ‘Snake Dreams’ we see the simple linear reference to a snake, repeated to create movement through pattern and colour.
Made around the same time as ‘Snake Dreams’, ‘Mother Work’ is a painting by Nicky Marais inspired by a specific dream the artist had at the time. Marais portrays this dream through a mixture of a specific set of motifs and symbols. While much of her work looks at symbols from socio-political histories of Namibia and the environment, a lot of her work also delves into personal relationships, exploring grief and connection. However, while the artist may have a specific impetus for her work, interesting things happen when viewers make their own associations with the symbols.
The three artists whose work forms StArt Salon Vol 2 are all invested in exploring both their personal contexts as well as how these play out in a wider sense. While so many of us are isolated at home during various national lock-downs, this seems even more pertinent as we find ourselves looking inward, while simultaneously playing our part in an issue exponentially bigger than ourselves. Through the works of Marais, Nghidishange and Sheehama, we see a variety of styles, media and conceptual work, showcasing the intricacies of contemporary Namibian life.