SMITH presents limp, a solo exhibition by Elize Vossgatter opening on the 30th March 5.30pm, the show runs until the 29th April 2017.
The collection explores the impotency of whiteness. The work confronts notions of helplessness, guilt and apathy epitomised by the stuttering, often inert existence led by a generation who might be termed the ‘previously advantaged’.
Referring to herself deprecatingly as a “flimsy-wristed white girl without a cause”, Vossgatter is attuned to the dangers of throwing stones in glass houses. With this body of work she does so deliberately.
“I want to talk about a facile generation of citizens who feel that they have their well-groomed hands tied: they feel unable, unwilling, unmoving, impotent and ineffectual,” says Vossgatter.
“We have the ability to fight and affect change but simultaneously a feeling that we need to surrender: we are a confused, muted generation”
“We are presently in an ambiguous time. Old structures need to be unshackled. The younger generation is moving swiftly and is unbuckling the infrastructures that need to break. Yet, it is these structures on which we learnt how to climb. So, what now? We can either remain inertly as we were, or we can start to listen and start to transform.“
Vossgatter hones in on ideas of idleness, passivity and the limbo of indecision with a sculptural element in the collection: a line of thin pillars fashioned from white plaster imbued with disconnected colour that hang suspended between the paintings – almost acting as obstacles. The pillars – heavy, blemished and cracked – read simultaneously as limp figures and as a broken structure. They double up as a framework for a dance performance by Kopano Maroga at the show’s opening and closing.
Kopano Maroga is a black, queer UCT dance and anthropology graduate who works in the fields of performance and text as a conduit for remembering and healing inherited and intergenerational legacies of trauma and violence.
“To suspend something is to temporarily prevent it from continuing or being in force or effect,” says Vossgatter. “These inert objects force the audience to become the protagonist in the process.”
The theme is elaborated on in her painted works, many of which repeat the visual idea of hanging figures, sometimes more literally than others. “These figures are helpless, glued, chained, drifting: Stuck in wax, dirtied by time. They are frozen in an arrested gesture.”
Regarding formalism as an archaic rulebook, the artist prefers to bring her aesthetic and technical vocabulary to bear in whipping up a sense of the spirit behind the work.
“Presently the political landscape around us seems illogical, destructive, fragmented, terse and disconnected. My brush, my compositions and my entire aesthetic and technical vocabulary seek to echo this state.”
Vossgatter works primarily in oil and mixed media: bees-wax, spray-paint and permanent markers amongst others. Her choice of materials carries with it a weight of manufacture and manipulation that conspire to construct landscapes of viscera in which her figures roam.
“The intellectual framing is pure context which needn’t essentially be understood. The goal for me is to have people sense, feel and intuit.”
To achieve this Vossgatter plays with the relationship between colours, pulling the visual space back and forth to produce tension within the palette. The resulting works are tetchy, tense and often frenetic, to which she adds flourishes of garish, almost childlike colour. These flashes of vibrant energy, by juxtaposition, deepen the sense of inertia in the depicted figures.
Elize Vossgatter lives and works in Cape Town. This is her first full solo show at SMITH following her inclusion in 2015’s group show ‘Two’. Previously, she has exhibited work at Everard Read, AVA and Commune1 among other spaces. This is her fourth solo show.