Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town, South Africa
17 Feb 2023 - 29 Oct 2023
GILT is a solo exhibition by Nigerian-born, British artist Mary Evans, presented on level 1 at Zeitz MOCAA. The title of the exhibition is a play on the words gilt and guilt. While the former refers to something that resembles gold laid on a surface, the latter suggests the feeling of inadequacy and, in the context of the Black experience, what may be a consequence of surviving the historical wounds of slavery, colonialism, apartheid and even late-stage capitalism.
A central motif of Evans’ decades-long practice is that of the life-sized silhouette. She assembles many silhouetted figures in a narrative form, which she calls history paintings. The large-scale works act as a type of glyph or coded visual language that counters difficult Black histories. The figures function as a familiar device to provide viewers with an entryway into the artist’s work. The scenes of light-brown shadows placed against monochromatic landscapes recall histories of colonial entanglement while facilitating a humanistic reading of the Black figure as every body. Her practice and choice of materials (paper and other disposables) gesture at the historical and contemporary ways in which the Black body has been treated — cheaply, shipped, broken, disposed of and feared.
GILT uses familiar visual motifs — that of the silhouette — to highlight Evans’ consideration of the interrelational experience of Black diasporas, migration and global exchange. As part of the exhibition, Evans presents new work commissioned by Zeitz MOCAA that is a site-specific response informed by a period of research and exploration of Cape Town and, by extension, South Africa. In looking at the history and psychogeography — exploring urban environments that emphasise interpersonal connections to places — of specific cultural and heritage sites in the city, Evans has conceived an installation that invigorates the rich iconography of shared histories of resistance and resonance.