« anima animé »
09.03.17 - 11.04.17
Jane Cheadle’s relationship to her work is to let the material she is using speak in part for itself. As she describes it, ‘it's also the very nature of the material that allows a certain process to work’. She sees herself as a ‘shepherd’ when it comes to the sense she gives her work; she corrals the material into a shape without removing its integrity. In contrast, Erasmus uses a ‘material’ that already ‘speaks’ – text – and removes from it its capacity to inform and instruct by reshaping it aesthetically. Rather than revealing or, in the case of the text he uses, amplifying the meaning, he codes and hides it.
‘Anima' relates to Erasmus’s female muses and his gnostic inspiration and ‘animé' refers to Cheadle’s use of animation.
Jane Cheadle’s art does not deliver an overt political message but does reveal her interest in political theory, which she studied at the University of Cape Town before changing course. Her preoccupation with the concept of work, especially of precarious and manual labour and how it is organised, comes through in her art, in her acceptance of the transitory nature of what she creates as well as her approach to her materials.
By exploring the essence of the matter she uses for her art, she allows the ‘particular qualities of a given material to reveal themselves’. This collaboration with the very stuff of fabrication occurred in the following way for the creation of the animation Sharks (2007):
I spent quite a lot of time looking at that wood-patterned linoleum and then sliced it open. [It was] only when I discovered the beautiful grey concrete beneath that the idea started to emerge of cutting thin shapes and then placing them back. The thickness of the vinyl [,..t]he particular quality of that vinyl and how it was placed over concrete allowed for the animation to work. The form it took – sharks - was just a hunch or a dream, or perhaps inspired by the scalpel slicing. I knew it had to move ‘serpentine’.
Another of her animations was made in a disused dance studio in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, in a building in which Cheadle and her collaborator, Cobi Labuschagne, had their studios. Because they were on friendly terms with the building’s cleaners, they were allowed into the dance studio at night for the duration of the project. Out of this clandestine arrangement grew the animation Swimmer (2005), which won the Royal College of Art’s Man Group Drawing Prize in 2005. Paper becomes water as the swimmer, depicted not only in paint but also textile ink and food colouring, moves with great ease through an uncertain element.
Some of Cheadle’s animations are studies in reiteration and variation. At the beginning of Hope (2015) a round blackboard loses its white chalk coating as water runs over it. Unlike in Swimmer, where subsequent takes over a series of days at the end of the animation reveal the shadows of the artist and her collaborator, in Hope Cheadle’s stop motion keeps human agency in the background and the disc seems to turn on its own while spouting rivulets. The board rotates in one place but every movement creates new marks, patterns and strokes, as if an invisible hand were composing a quickly disappearing series of abstract paintings. The piece was entitled Hope based on the capacity of the circle to turn endlessly, although the squaring of the circle at the end of the animation does suggest that even hope can lose momentum.
Cheadle’s drawings have a fragile, transitory quality to them and they are created to be incomplete. They grow out of her animations or are creative preparation for them but are rarely stills from them. Although animation allows her to temporalise her drawing, her art is essentially about freedom, movement and transformation, with the latter encompassing deterioration as well as growth. As Cheadle states, ‘if something is fixed it has no potential for change’.
A versatile artist, Stephan Erasmus uses various media including, but not limited to, oil on canvas, watercolour, silkscreen, digital prints, book art, line drawings and sculpture in wood.
Erasmus treats text as a material and, via the medium he adopts, transforms it into visual art.
In the series Mist and Split and twisted (digital prints), words are manipulated rhythmically to create pattern. The negative space between letters is given precedence in Line Drawings I to III (2016; ink on paper) and Text I to III Negative (watercolour). Thread is stitched through letters punctured in paper in Threaded I and II (cotton thread on black album paper).
In manipulating the text like a material Erasmus removes from it any capacity to instruct or inform. In Mist, the result of the working of the text is an obscuring veil. The text in Split and twisted has been woven into incomprehension and the threads hanging from the letters in Threaded I and II cloak any words.
In some of these series Erasmus uses five sets of texts from five short stories by Jorge Luis Borges as the basis for his visual manipulation. The Borges stories Erasmus has chosen deal with labyrinths, thus creating a ‘mise en abîme’: text in a visual form that renders it illegible and labyrinthine (Erasmus’ work) uses as its matter a legible text that explores the idea of a labyrinth in an - at times - surreal way that calls into question the very existence of material reality (Borges’ writing).
Some of Erasmus’ artworks make direct reference to coding and encryption. The artist will not give away the exact wording of the texts he manipulates. However, in the game of hide and seek there is always a tension between the desire to remain undiscovered and its opposite, the wish to be revealed. As Erasmus admits, ‘the hidden begs to be found.’ Yet he embraces the deflection and reflection his art engenders. Speaking of one of his pieces, he says, ‘each person who read [a] line of text started recognising different words […] as people will recognise what is familiar to [them].'
Erasmus has said of his art that it is a love letter to his muse. This muse is more often than not the Sophia of the gnostic tradition. Sophia is also a siren for Erasmus, ‘the muse who switches on the light of inspiration for a short period and then switches it off again so you have to struggle for a time.’ In another game of reflection Erasmus’ artwork is the embodiment of the light and shadow of his process of creation.