STEVENSON, Cape Town
14.04.2016 – 28.05.2016
The ellipses precedes the idea. It is the gathering of all the clues before the plot twist arrives; it holds the story’s elements mid-air, itself making no move toward sense but implying that there is sense to be made at some point, if not yet…
The title of Moshekwa Langa’s ‘Ellipses’ refers to this soft language device that comes before the explosion, the tragedy or the betrayal. The collection of images and objects on show enter this poetic conversation seductively, without articulating any particular subject but using evocative mark-making strategies that seem to explore memory, dreams and personal life experience.
Langa says (with a mysterious smile I imagine) that his working process is ‘like taking notes...’ In this sense, his ellipses, or his process might function as the liminal moment wherein all future outcomes are presented, and equally possible, all universes are parallel, and no one is quite sure how things might end. In moving around ‘Ellipsis’ at the Stevenson, I felt as though I was floating in a kind of mind map, a gathering point of ideas and clues, where conclusion was neither present nor a particularly interesting thought.
Langa’s work in this sense is not linear. It refuses the predictability of a forward moving narrative, and so it asks its viewer to look at it differently. Gentle and intimate, one feels as though they see detached pieces of secret spaces, each linked to a far off universe- each unresolved in the traditional sense, or perhaps just a little bit secretive, implying an ‘otherplace’ that is infinite and not here.
I do find myself stumbling to articulate the kind of trace Langa allows us to see, as his imagery seems to flirt, rather than to declare. In this sense, I am interested in what Langa’s work seems to do, what it refuses to do, what it gives, and what it withholds, for as much colour, mark-making, text and materiality exists in the pieces, the presence of the ‘ellipses’, or more specifically the implication of what the work precedes (or does not give away) is incredibly tangible.
This is perhaps best articulated through Veiled Landscape, a large floor installation, consisting of a silky silver fabric draped over various objects, atop which a number of colourful balls are littered. These are in playful communication with the blues, purples and greens of the surrounding images on the wall. This landscape, veiled, covered and smothered in billowy sleek cloth, hides the textures of its components, the specificity of its rising mountains and buildings, situating itself nowhere specifically in this sense.
Its allusion to land of course might be said to be reflecting something of the artist’s diasporic experiences and relationship to place, evoking ideas of belonging and not, having access to space, and not, being at home- and not… However, in speaking to the biographic, I think we might miss other feelings that Langa makes available to us through articulating certain characteristics and associations with places and experiences. I think these ultimately are able to function as these very ellipses to the viewer, who is left to imagine the resolution of these tangential and curious off-cuts.
The repeated bumps and concealed objects of the installation mirror the mark-marking strategies of the surrounding imagery in its clumps and bruises of repeated colour. Gouache, masking tape, glue and ink are layered on large pieces of paper with watery rich blues and turquoises complimented by dark purples and oranges. These images are openly composed, the repetition of liquid marks bleeding to the ends of the page, with white frames acting almost as a disruption to their implied infinity.
Langa operates often without obvious focal point, forming marked planes that are almost reminiscent of the detail of aerial photographs of land features, their ancient hills and crevices telling of a layered history, and ever moving into a future moment.
In operating rather poetically then, the use of materials more reminiscent of an art classroom than of a fine art exhibition begins to lend a gentle sincerity and softness to the work, the Islands and Forest series in particular creating green worlds of faraway imagination that would be far less interesting (or engaged) if rendered in oils.
As a whole, the work of ‘Ellipses’ is a meditative body, pulling you into its all-consuming quietness. In this sense, it reminds me of those silent, sleepy, and somewhat frantic moments after waking, when trying to recall the quickly escaping elements of a complex dream. One might recall names, and possibly some images but the overarching sense of the experience is not in the realm of articulation, not a secret perhaps, but contained in the imagined imprint of our minds.