Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Kalk Bay Modern was  buzzing for the opening of Domestic Departures curated by Cheryl Rumbak, Gwen van Embden and Tracy Megan.  

The exhibition is divided between Kalk Bay Modern and The Forge.  After Ingrid de Kok delivered her speech Kathering Glenday guided guests to The Forge to enjoy other works that are more installative, including film, ceramics and textiles.

Ingrid de Kok's poetic opening speech eloquently articulated this exhibition's theme.  Included in this blog are selected extracts from her speech below which included quoted parts from Pablo Neruda's poem titled Ode to Things.

"Of course, the title of the show has a progenitor too, a genealogy- and we must genuflect to that before talking about the show itself.  Rosenclaire, in their incarnation as a collaborative force, participated in an exhibition called ‘Domestic Departures’ in 2007 curated by Joanna Grasso and Jacqueline Bunge in California. They exhibited with 6 renowned American artists, including Kiki Smith and Kara Walker, and, in addition to a number of works in their individual capacities, including installations, found objects, painting and video, they also invited William Kentridge to do a collaborative work of domestic erasure with them. the women  who attended the Goedgedacht workshop continued to work independently on their own, South African, version of the theme. Some of the artists have exhibited in many shows before, some in a few, some not at all. They share key common concerns and interests but each work, each artist, is distinctive and should be differentiated.  

I think that in general they show us that Domestic Departures is a rich associative theme- a tool for thinking about the process of art making, as well as a theme that invites the quotidian, the every day, into artistic representation. It is subject and process. The associations the titles reveal include a range of experiential, experimental and philosophical registers about home and homelessness, portals and closures, bonds and being bound, about care giving and manipulation, about our respect for or exploitation of nature, about coming and going, owning and losing, secrets, terror on the margins and power in the centre, about the making and severing of relationships. The apparently small things we encounter mark us, and we mark them, and these small things are imbricated in the big things, in questions of life and death, arrival and departure. Domestic is not understood as located only in the kitchen, the home,  the body, though that too; and departure is not understood as only the end of a phase or process, departure from, it is also the beginning or entrance to something. Launch, initiation, starting point- as in, new departure. This seems to be the burden and beauty of the art making we see before us this evening.

And it is not only process, the movement of ideas and sensations that occupies these artists. I am struck by the fact that they are also compelled by the life (and death) of objects and images and  by the provenance in our lives of domestic objects particularly, how they seem for a moment fixed and immutable, and then slip from our grasp, our attention, our memory, or become moribund or broken, until they live again, even in fractured form, when recovered, reassembled, in art. 

To begin to conclude: This show is the result of what occurs when a group of powerful, talented individuals come together inside a fairly tight frame, under experienced tutelage, in a shared discipline of understanding. Despite different individual life histories and interests, proficiency in the media used, and the shape and history of each piece inside the individual artist’s other work, there seems much that is shared in this Petri dish of an exhibition.

This seems shared: a commitment to questions, not answers; to the excavation of experience, light and dark, language and image into visual configurations not dominated by ego. There is a shared attention to the relational world with all its fractures and difficulties as well as its pleasures. There is care about surface and connection. There seems quietness and contemplation as well as assertiveness... And noticeably, we see the self reflective and inter-referential pleasure of  working consciously within art history (among the many artists referenced are Matisse, Louise Bourgeois, Jasper Johns, Fra Angelico, Hockney, Velasquez, Rembrandt, Piero della Francesca).

The departure many women artists crave is from the domestic into the isolation of demanding creative work, inside real not imaginary time, though their other work, paid and domestic, their family responsibilities, and care giving and taking, will always press against the shuttered windows of that room. To work deeply and consistently as an artist, without excuse and blame, while fully acknowledging the external responsibilities and loves that control and frame one’s time...For if one is lucky these external exigencies after all also buffer one, contain one, expose one to the reservoir of experiences, observations, relationships, ideas and politics from which art draws its life. It looks to me as if that is a lesson already partly learnt. There is no art without domestic arrivals and departures, no internal life without an external one."  Words by Ingrid de Kok

Cheryl Rumbak introducing Ingrid de Kok.

Ingrid de Kok delivering her opening speech and Cheryl Rumbak.

Lyn Smuts and Theresa Jo of Artvark Gallery
Gwen van Embden and Michelle Kriek

Paul Weinberg in conversation.

Taryn Miller and guest.

Tracy Megan and son.
Basil Jones of Handspring Puppet Company.

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