It’s a bit late but I thought it could do with some webtime…
The Michaelis Graduate Show is an annual highlight. New recruits at value for money. The buyers only gamble being whether the young artist will stay in the art world and make the purchase an investment or just wallpaper.
This year’s show was vested with a particularly high quality of installation. The onerous task of curating this vastly diverse group of artistic endeavours was handled particularly well, I felt, by graduating Master’s student, Justin Brett. Although an overarching theme is difficult to impose on a year of students charaterized by eccelectic individualism, many of the visual landscapes were reflective of personal concerns.
Most prevalent among non-white students was the issue of silencing with the hint of a hidden violence: a violation of spirit. This was expressed most vividly by Mohau Modisakeng in his installation of grounded loud-halers and a video work that drew feelings of fear and aggression in the broken breaths of the artist. Thuthuka (Tumie) Tumelo’s works of charred city scapes and unraveling parce flooring offered a bold criticism to the challenges and failures of ‘The City that Works for You.’ Nomuso Chiliza’s eery wall of facial impressions in plaster was a landscape of the gagged and the vanished body’s trace while Rehema Cachage’s carved wooden radio and video works that buzzed and hummed with inaudiable frequencies focused on a loss in transmission.
Equally as personal were the haunting suburbia paintings of Genevieve Louw. The Dutch gables of her childhood home behind an oppressive picket fence articulated a subtler form of domestic aggression and the myth of safety at home.
Longing for home and the great separation that Tumelo Kgomotso, a student from Botswana, endured from her husband and children in pursuit of her degree was poignantly expressed in an installation of wheelbarrows caste in hession and tattooed with the symbols of beaurocratic travel stamps and cellular top-up receipts. These working-class, load-bearing carts were tethered in the colonial architecture of Hiddingh Hall. It was a poignant reminder of the diasporic existence of many of
Overarching economic and consumerist concerns were landscaped most memorably by Jody Paulsen in a paper and felt carnival of mostly American popular icons treated with a lyrical wit and irony. Also broadly political but of a different temperament entirely was Tony East’s incredibly fragile installation of porcelain birds and pollinators. Statistics of fruit, nut and vegetable exports reliant on a dwindling population of bees for production were mercilessly trampled underfoot by the hordes of visitors on opening night, a brutal metaphor to our own depleting natural resources.
Mainstream Michaelis works were still dominated by the affluence of English speaking intelligentsia that worked particularly hard this year to deliver with finesse and installational prowess. My favourites among this crew were Matthew King’s quest for answers in retro-pop collections of an emerging academic, Clare May van Blerck’s good housekeeping in a particularly filthy painting studio, Katherine Pichulik’s evocative apocalyptic industrial installation and Tim Leibbrandt’s remarkable filmic mash-up that considered human evolution ending in a nineties apocalypse. Charting a course between the personal and intellectual, Danielle Mooney’s romantic sculptures about the void were executed with genuine craftsmanship. Mooney’s appropriation of the white cube aesthetic successfully embued the works with a sweet sense of nostalgia and longing.
Creative energy is always refreshingly high at graduate shows but as is often the case these extraordinary bodies of work stand as the first revelationary fruits of four years of supervised tuition. Many of the students’ statements of intent formulated during the year seemed to exist as echoes of thoughts at the planting of this creative harvest, the trajectories of meaning and insights of these creative fruits remain something for these graduates to continue to consider for some time to come.
I leave the last word to Masters graduate, David Scadden. That trigger-happy-boy-interrupted who delivered an animation packed with fantastical overtures of doom and deliverance in a world gone bad. In his own words: ‘I met this lady who said she thought it was better than District 9. Fuck yeah, I’ll drink to that.’