Everard Read, Cape Town
11.11 - 16.12.2020
‘Bound’, the critical and complex title of Lady Skollie’s latest solo show, is loaded with preemptive ideas pertinent to our collective context. Having a word so tangible, so pervasive, and subsuming be the preface for this exhibition welcomes the audience to reflect on the many ways in which we are all affected by its meaning. The liminal feeling seeping through the themes she approaches is literally charged with the history of the space surrounding the collection.
According to Everard Read, Lady Skollie “has created an exhibition which takes the history of the Waterfront area as its inspiration”, more specifically the Breakwater Prison where she “directly [references] various writings by and about women in captivity” while also incorporating the tunnel beneath the Portswood Ridge. A ceremonial inclination hovers at the doors of the gallery. This is a feeling no doubt furthered by Lady Skollie receiving the FNB Art Prize this year; another strong stride in her career as she continues to gain momentum, refine her voice, and build her own language. This language that has been developing over the course of her artistry allows her to phrase her keen eye without preamble, to circumvent the palatability politics that often hinder the truth in earnest creation. Simply put, she is in a league of her own.
Dutifully invested in addressing the histories of the Cape and its people, Lady Skollie interrogates prevalent and ever-adapting systems of oppression by emphasizing the parallels between the women who were imprisoned by them then, and those who are now. In the artist’s own words, she “wonders about cages, revenge, tunnels with light at the end, but more times absolute darkness and a life spent expecting to be released from evil.” The presence of this feeling; the reflection occurring simultaneously with the recognition of the repetition creates a tension which Lady Skollie colours with a variety of mediums and means. In doing so, she builds a dynamic deference in honour of womanhood and freedom, and condemns that which succeeds in ever smothering it.
Raised in the Wild, am Wild challenges the forms associated with motherhood and of nurturing. The mixed media on Fabriano work showcases both Lady Skollie’s brilliant linework and her imaginative interpretation of the sense of identity conveyed by the title. The interesting code-work allows recognition even without a direct reflection of the ‘female’, allowing the elevation of these themes, giving them access to the modern correlation being made here. Raised in the Wild treats ideas and ideals of womanhood as living organisms, adapting and taking form in response to deeply flawed, often threatening external circumstances. It is here where the true essence of Lady Skollie emerges, as she challenges the audience, tasking our imaginations to do more than acclimate, or adjust, but to question and reject that these are the only available means of societal structure.
Another meeting of mixed media and Fabriano becomes Offerblomme (sacrificial flowers), presenting the notions often found fluttering around ‘womanhood’; sacrifice, ‘ephemeral’ ‘beauty’, mourning and resignation. HOODia – the Stolen Jewel used to make Americans thin, also a combination of mixed media on Fabriano, is both captivating in colour and caption. PEAK: climb to reach the top, jump to reach the bottom is a larger work that pins the viewer under its gaze. The title insinuates another nuance in the liminal space made here: a sort of Catch 22 emerges beside the idiom of being ‘between a rock and a hard place’ as one considers the effort of climbing while faced with the freedom of falling. That these are the only two options on offer in this equation. There is an exchange there, between these two acts both bound to the metaphor of the same mountain. That same tension seems to echo the idea of other pieces, and the primary sentiment of the show. Lady Skollie’s contention is that the power of limitations imparted by the system imprisons those who are bound by – and defined by – these restrictions into a space that denies them a complete understanding.
At its core, Lady Skollie’s second solo show with Everard Read Gallery aims to scrutinize the myriad connotations of the term ‘Bound’, looking at controlling hindrances like limitation and liminality, while unpacking the persistent inability to articulate womanhood and justice in fullness, which is fostered by archaic structures of society. The parallels gleaned from then and now add a sharpness to the overarching perspective, prompting not just introspection from its audience, but conviction and action.