The Norval Foundations group exhibition explores the process through which we make psychological and physical spaces for ourselves. This group exhibition was curated by Khanya Mashabela and focuses on the ways in which our psychological ‘safe’ spaces are produced within the boundaries of the physical space we inhabit. This theme is exemplified by Gerda Scheepers painting I have made a place (2020), wherein the artworks random and turbulent looping lines are contained within a deliberate, rigid frame. Moreover, this abstraction serves to describe the relationship between our physical and psychological spaces.
The exhibition itself draws its name from this artwork by Scheepers, illustrating the curators message; our psychological spaces are a biproduct of our manifested physical spaces and can only form within the boundaries set by the physical. Scheepers simplistic representation of such a complex topic through the medium of paint sets the stage for a versatile and moving gallery.
The relationship between the physical and psychological space is then further called into question in the work of Gladys Mgudlandlu, Nyanga Landscape (1962).
However, this relationship is called into question through Mgudlandlu’s process and incorporation of memory rather than the abstract is evident with Scheepers. Mgudlandlu who was an art teacher at a school in Gughuletu, would paint by paraffin lamp in her shack by night. However, after becoming successful as an artist Mgudlandlu refused to paint in well-lit rooms using electrical fittings and maintained her practice of painting by paraffin lamp. This devotion to her process and subsequent limitations of her once physical space Mgudlandlu illustrates arts ability to ‘make a place’ for us both psychologically and physically. Furthermore it calls into question the relationship between the physical space and subsequent psychological spaces we produce. Moreover, it also serves to illustrate the relationship between hardship and creativity in producing these spaces as Mgudlandlu’s dedication to the paraffine lamp is what makes her use of colour and colour casts so unique in her artworks, giving her work a sense of authenticity to the people and places she portrays as evidenced by the work above.
Another prominent artist featured in this installation is Bronwyn Katz, whose mixed medium installation Grond Herinnering (2015) which, features both performative and digital art examines her nostalgic memories of her hometown Kimberley.
In the work Katz examines the return to the psychological space she inhabited whilst inhabiting the physical space of Kimberly. Katz achieves this by performing rituals and practices from her childhood such as rubbing her feet in soil from Kimberly and playing old games she did as a child. These practices symbolize a transition from one psychological space to another as the artist alters her current physical space in favour of that of her childhood in order to engage with these nostalgic feelings and memories entirely. This performance is accompanied by a monologue which plays over the videos wherein Katz creates a monologue between her current and younger self. In the monologue she reminisces about the events that have occurred in her life and how that has changed her. Thus this piece successfully engages with the physical and psychological spaces of her past as well as engaging with the transformation her psychological space has undergone over the years and the factors which have influenced it.
While all three of the aforementioned artists make use of different mediums to explore the topic of psychological and physical space, Scheepers work I have made a place (2020) acts as an abstract visual definition for the underlying theme of the gallery put together by Khanya Mashabela and it is for this reason that I believe the gallery was named after this work. Furthermore while Scheepers work acts as a visual definition, Mgudlandlu and Katz work serve as installations which represent the embodiment of the concept through practice allowing the curation of the gallery to be viewed as a metaphorical visual essay of sorts discussing the relationships between psychological and physical spaces, making its case using visual definitions and examples. The result is a moving body of work from a great variety of South African artists which provokes questions not only of our present spaces but also those of the past their role in the psychological spaces of many today.