Article – Cape Times

Cape Times Friday, March 24. 2006

Cape abuzz with display of female talentCape Times

Exhibitions: WENDY ANSIZKA at 34 Long, ARABELLA CACCIA at Everard Read, ALICE GOLDIN at Irma Stern, TAMMY GRIFFIN at Joao Ferreira, PAM STRETTON at AVA, and IRMA STERN in Stellenbosh. MELVYN MINNAAR has a look.

WOW! International Women’s Day has just passed, and the Cape is abuzz with a display of female talent.

Coincidence it might be, and they will be the first to shun any tinge of gender disparity (in art, women and men have been equals for longer than any other occupation). But, these six shows, every one punchy, proper and personal, do tease some consideration of the female sensibility in the making of art. (Even if only because of the large number of fine art shows on at the same time in the city vicinity,)

In fact, viewing and tracing links between the various exhibitions is a pleasant and rewarding endeavour.

Without demeaning individuality – after all, most of these artists would be recognizable at a distance and appreciated for their craft and tack – tracing their concerns and the issues they engage with, or not, brings interesting and sometimes unusual connections to the fore.

If one, say, appreciates the obsessive tone of Stretton’s remarkably specific photographic/print installation as well as the ardour that produced Griffin’s glittering environmental wall pieces, the hackneyed idea and image of the industrious, precise, homemaking woman takes on a funky twist.

Each of these artists has obviously pushed the limit as far as the physical production of their artworks is concerned. One is aware of their effort, the forceful point it wants to make.

Griffin’s fling with the fantasies of little lights and electronic circuits are jolly enough, but as ever with this kind of hedging towards the decorative, one can’t shake unease at the possibilities of technical failure – or having to turn down the light in the room. The cool unadorned painting in the corner might be a better and stronger bet.

Of all the current shows, Stretton’s tackles the specific feminist issue head on. Her tight, inspiring show (some of the pieces have, deservedly, won a major prize at the Arts Association of Bellville last year), she says “focuses on the female body in the context of contemporary culture and beauty ideals”.

It is a spell-binding excursion with plenty of clout.

The power and punch of the painted image or the authoritative line of illustration have found so many fans for her art that one tends to accept Irma Stern as the flamboyant expressionist, fearless of colour and visual emotion, and an iconic artist whose work nowadays is bought for boardrooms at sizzling prices.

In Stellenbosh, at the Sasol Art Museum in Rynevelt Street, a show of pieces from various classy collections (offered also as tribute to the Rupert couple who pioneered support for her art – Rembrandt sponsored a first documentary of Stern’s paintings) shifts the attention back to the personal.

The paintings may resound in their grand expressiveness, but somehow, given the masculine ambience of where they find themselves in today’s corporate and cultural climate, one cannot but wonder about the woman and the society she lived in when she made them all those years ago.

Hers was a sticky freedom, now taken for granted, and happily engaged in by someone like Wendy Ansizka in a sweeping, zippy show at the ever sympathetic gallery in Long Street.

Ansizka, a painterly poet who seems to use her canvas as a shifting screen where images and visions fade in and out as a kind of ongoing and expanding narrative, has brought some strong stuff to this outing.

A particular gritty, streetwise confidence is embedded in these paint-loaded large canvasses. Her feminist concerns are ever apparent – don’t for a moment underestimate the danger of those red lips in a delicious painting such as Passion!

In Arabella Caccia’s more delicate ink-and-peicil washes it is exactly passion that connects with the viewer. Although the series might suggest quiet contemplation in the title Reverie – more intriguingly present in the strange ceramic female heads on show too – the words (poems) scribbled over and around the women’s faces evoke a flush of fervour.

It is obviously a feminine, private world that Caccia claims with this engagement.

Alice Goldin, who is showing at the Irma Stern Museum, has always been very particular that her imagery is privately sensed, explored and finally executed in the medium of her choice.

Hers is a quiet career of substance, that means that her art – often lyrical and contemplative – is also individually owned and properly recognized as such.

With every one of these six female artists, one salutes, in these days of awareness, the craft and impact of Cape woman artists.

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