by Linda Stupart (July, 2005)
Julia Rosa Clark works with elements of throwaway nostalgia to create witty, poignant collages and installations. Her works function both to incite personal longing and to deconstruct general, though often specifically South African, cultural truths as learned through the information systems of the public education system, popular media and family legend.
Trained at the Michaelis School of Fine Art as a printmaker, Clark's media range from suitcases to paintings to skateboard ramps and pretty boys. Her most recent body of work, A Million Trillion Gazillion, involves obsessive, meticulous composites of cutouts from educational and popular cultural sources sprinkled with glitter, neon strings and UV lights.
Just back from a hugely successful show at Liste Art Fair in Basel, this young artist has consistently shown that she is capable of innovative, humorous and surprisingly delicate artworks. Her involvement in Public Eye as well as her roles as an active and skilled designer and respected teacher and lecturer place her firmly within the vibrant Cape Town art scene, and make her an influential and exciting figure therein.
"The final pieces / spaces I make usually result from a lengthy process of collecting, shredding, sorting and altering of found objects and images. This process is a kind of protective filter, a device for coping with an overload of information or emotion. The timeliness and repetition of the action allows for a rational distance to grow between myself and the subject matter.
"In earlier work, this device helped me to overcome overwhelming new sensations (such as lust or loss) and make visual analogies for these experiences. More recently, the process has opened up a way of navigating the world of information, and re- examining information about the world. In A Million Trillion Gazillion I started to develop an understanding of the changing nature of knowledge systems. My introduction to information systems took place at school - a common experience- where ideas about the world were formed through interaction with, amongst other learning material, idealised and seductive illustrated books."
"By returning to the visual coding of the classroom (such as cutting up these illustrated books), I was able to explore the humorous and tragic incongruencies of an idealised worldview with the failure and realities of our contemporary world. I tried to work the securities of childhood against the insecurities of my 21st C adult experiences. The work is usually made of cheap, dispensable materials that allows each piece to be made and remade a few times, creating a spontaneity and reflecting the action of 'figuring out' associated with graphs, charts, and classroom displays."
Clark has just taken down her exhibition of works from A Million Trillion Gazillion at the Liste Art Fair in Basel. The body of work, which was shown at Joao Ferreira at the end of last year, consists largely of obsessive constructions assembled with cutouts from illustrated children's books, polystyrene and copious amounts of glue and neon tape; all imbued with a wry nostalgic kitsch. The pieces were made with the help of a workforce of hot young art students over bottles of beer and endless showers of glitter and paper at Julia's infamous 'cutting parties'.
Clark's work I've Waited Hours For This, also known as the skateboard ramp that made Paul Edmunds' knees go shaky, was one of the most successful and memorable pieces at the 2003 Softserve show, 'YDEsire'. Incidentally, the title was taken from one of the artist's favourite Cure songs.
The collaborative installation Sleuth/Rixdollar at 'Graft' for the second Johannesburg Biennale in 1997 was an impressive (particularly considering the members of the collaborative were yet to graduate) and complex exposition of issues of security, identity and the abandoned spaces in the tumultuous South African terrain.
Though Clark does not have any specific projects in mind as yet, she is planning to return to producing installation-based works. She also plans to continue making use of her assistants in upcoming projects. Bigger, better cutting parties are definitely in store.
Born 24 August 1975 in South Africa
Lives and works in Cape Town
University of Cape Town:
2001 - 2004 Masters Degree in Fine Art
1998 Higher Diploma in Education with distinctions in Subject Method (Art) and School Experience
1994 -1997 BA (FA) With distinction in Studiowork and Printmaking
Work from A Million Trillion Gazillion at 'Liste' at the Basil art fair
Exhibition of Masters work, A Million Trillion Gazillion at Joao Ferreira
Selected Group Exhibitions:
'YDEsire' st The Castle of Good Hope Cape Town
WASLA workshop Open Day Sinai, Egypt
'Emergency' Bell-Roberts Gallery Cape Town
'SoftServe2 (Art at Play)' South African National Gallery Cape Town
'Cast' Group Show, Bronze Age Foundry, Cape Town
Unplugged Market Theatre Gallery, Johannesburg
Committee's Choice Association for Visual Arts, Cape Town
IDASA Spin Street Gallery Group Opening Show, Cape Town
Family Values, Sandton Square Gallery, Johannesburg
Printexchange '98, First South African Printmaking Conference, Grahamstown
Sleuth/Rixdollar on Graft, 2nd Johannesburg Biennale, South African National Gallery Cape Town (collaboration)
Sluice at The Castle of Good Hope Cape Town (collaborative)
Visual Design for Constructus (music collaborative)
Exhibited lights (Luminary) on Aisle 5 Exhibition, Cape Town
Assistant Co-ordinator for Beyond the Gallery Public Art Conference, held in March, Cape Town
First Luminary Sales Show (decorative lights), Cape Town
Set design and slide images for Voice Made Night, a Magnet Theatre Production, Artscape & The Arena Theatre
CD and poster design for Steady On by Moodphase5
Various projects for Levi's (Vintage Jeans Artist Project, Window Installations, Rivett Windo design etc.)
Night Light at The Jam, one off installation in collaboration with Lisa Brice and Adam Lieber
Illustrated Summer Haiku by Sue Clark
Collaboration with David West for some of his range and promotional materials for South African Fashion week
Collaboration with Crispian Plunkett for Elle Fashion shoot (White Nights) Cape Town
Décor assistant/ co-ordinator Mother City Queer Projects, Cape Town
Various illustration jobs for Snail Press (Poetry journals and book)