SMAC Art Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa 01 Aug 2013 - 05 Sep 2013
‘Between Object and Place’ is the solo exhibition by London-based South African artist Helen A Pritchard.
Except for a single work, a hand-moulded bronze relief of the word ‘breeze’ – a reference to the popular South African soap brand from the eighties, the exhibition is comprised of objects, paintings and sculptures with a decided geometric abstract twist.
Commercial packaging and consumerism informs the conceptual and formal basis for the exhibition. Spectator-awareness is another important aspect as Pritchard purposefully ‘packages’ the work to encourage participation and to entice a dialogue with the viewer.
In ‘Between Object and Place’, Pritchard eagerly explores numerous dualisms: the difference between High and Low culture, hand-made and manufactured, figurative and abstract, intuitive and considered, structured and free-formed. The artist describes her inspiration for this body of work as the ‘languages of graphics in advertising, design and gestalt, form and balance of the everyday’ that she encountered growing up in the 1970s and 1980s in South Africa. Pritchard has taken inspiration from these visual languages and focused on ‘the decisions one has to consider within the formal constraints of paintings and its traditions.’ By using everyday packaging as her point of departure, Pritchard’s aim is to bring advertising back into the context of the gallery. ‘This constant play between High and Low culture finds us with an overall sublime experience of Minimalism, Modernism, Pop, postmodern appropriation and fetish.’
An intuitive selection process and experimentation is a critically intrinsic part of Pritchard’s art-making. The geometric layering of pigments onto a canvas provides depth. As the artist makes clear, ‘the work becomes itself, an object which claims an aura via its layered histories.’ There is an ambience of colours, which create ‘spatial value, perspective and depth through this immersive build up.’ Through this process, abstracted new objects materialize. Pritchard allows a freedom of interpretation of what is represented on the surface, often alluding to the figurative as well. For Pritchard, the history of layering the materials can be physically seen in the construction and deconstruction of the work, as she describes; ‘the editing process creates fragments of images and responds to memory of object and place.’