Mary Wafer


The frontier is never somewhere else

30 April - 30 May 2009

'My paintings take the urban landscape of Johannesburg as subject matter. They aim to articulate through the processes of painting, the visible and invisible city, aspects of the social/urban environment that can be seen or recognised, and those that are obscured or hidden.

'Johannesburg is typically portrayed in the popular media as a battleground where conflicts are fought against a backdrop of dichotomies: power and impotence, wealth and poverty, corruption and hope, centre and periphery etc. One of these threads is the notion of visibility and invisibility in the city, concrete and conceptual visibility, evidence of citizenship, ways of belonging to and possessing the physical and imagined spaces of the city. The overwhelmingly challenging materiality of the city demands a constant navigation, attention and vigilance, a perpetual re-negotiation and re-interpretation of the particular imagined and real spaces we occupy. Because the city is envisioned and experienced differently by every person in it, the whole, what makes Joburg Joburg, seems to exist almost entirely in the imaginations of its inhabitants.

'For me painting is a conceptual practice that operates as a platform for investigating social realities. Painting offers the possibility of both building up complex layers of meaning and signification, and at the same time the possibility of subtraction and distillation, enabling suggestions of real and imaged absences and presences.

'I use my own photographs as preliminary sketches for my paintings: the initial photograph and my subsequent abstraction represent a layered approach to inducing visibility, and reveals the multiple levels of mediation that frame the experience of an urban 'reality'. By this I mean that I attempt, through my paintings to reveal that which is not visible through a purely representational image. The images are initially captured by the camera and then re-thought, re-invested by the paintbrush.

'Because of this possibility of multiple layers of signification, and the processes of distillation and layering of information, I believe that painting can function as a theoretical and political practice in which the act of making visible is a political act against invisibility.'

The exhibition opens on Thursday 30 April, 6-8pm. The gallery is open from Tuesday to Friday, 10.30am to 5.30pm, and Saturday from 9.30am to 3pm.

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