My work concerns itself chiefly with the issues of memory, identity and hybridity in contemporary South African culture.
As an Afrikaner (a white South African of Dutch descent) I view the present through the lens of a complicated past. Even after three hundred years in Africa Afrikaners are still torn between seeing themselves as European colonists or indigenous Africans.
I am interested in the dynamic cultural amalgamation that results from the contact between traditional, predominantly rural, African culture and the westernized modernity of the city. The fluid cultural mix that results from such an encounter is far more interesting to me than any romanticized notion of cultural purity which wants to fix a culture in an unchanging state of suspended animation. Culture is a vibrant, shifting and changing force that defies our impulse to freeze it in time like an artifact in a museum. I am fascinated by the hybrid, the subaltern, the improvised. I see these reflected in South African taxi culture, West African Barbershop signs, Township music and Tsotsitaal, and the wire toy cars that black South African children make and play with. I suppose that I am partly drawn to these examples of cultural blending because they expressly contravene the rigid, patriarchal prohibition against “mixing” cultures that was so important to the apartheid-era society I was raised in.
I embody my understanding of this hybridity in objects that stand in for the values and attitudes that my colonist ancestors brought with them from Europe, but which are now impractical and counterproductive in a dry, terrestrial African setting. In a tribute to the African side of my heritage, and the organic ingenuity of the African people, I adapt the objects in an improvised way to make them serve their intended function: symbolic and narrative exposition. Thus the object becomes both a celebration and a critique.
Formally I am interested in the tension between flatness and dimensionality, found objects and fabricated objects, sculptural form and graphic images, and control and spontaneity. Conceptually the contrast between the specific and the metaphorical, the rational and the emotional, the personal and the universal and the past and the present are of great interest to me. I am constantly drawn to opposites like modernist form and post-modern content. I mix media (sculpture, painting, printmaking and digital media) because I enjoy contrasting materials and violating the viewer’s expectations of how various media and genres function. I also like to think of the variety of media and materials as a metaphor for the issues of cultural hybridity that my work addresses. I appropriate images because I wish to make use of the inherent meanings that they bring with them (nostalgia or a specific sense of time, place or context). At the same time I find that recontextualizing those images through juxtaposition becomes a successful vehicle for the meaning I wish them to embody. My use of graphic processes, (silkscreen printing in particular) calls to mind screened posters and pamphlets, and refers to art’s potential as a catalyst for social change.