Sunday, September 14, 2014

THE ART OF CONVERSATION IN COLLABORATIVE EXHIBITION

13 September 2014,walkabout at Kznsa

UNDERSTORY@ THE KZNSA GALLERY

What a pleasure it was to do the  walkabout of Lara Mellon and Joan Martin's work yesterday.The audience and I conversed with the work and with the artists.

Collaboration has taken place throughout the history of art. It happened between the old masters and their apprentices, it happened with the impressionists, both opening up opportunities for conversations but also as a means of standing “not alone”. 
The latter is certainly true of this exhibition where the respected relationship between Lara and Joan allowed for their to be a feeling of support and input. 

Joan's work, skilfully drawn, pushing line to dance in every which way, elements of shape clearly defined, together with Lara ,whose boundaries become blurred, the  “mush mash “(as Lara describes) of a reality blurring its borders into another world both take us , the audience to other  head spaces. Both women physically  work and scrub their surfaces before the art work can be born. Both construct and deconstruct until the feeling within them is at peace and the work is laid to rest on the gallery wall. Both two different people come together in this exhibition, both women meet on this stage of their life and CONVERSE! CO INSPECT ,  CONNECT! (CO-LABOUR)ATE and COMMUNICATE to us in their COMMUNITY.

Joan came across some beautiful words written to her by Lara over a year ago and I now share this...In expressing the obvious NEED for each others input, Lara used words such as “INTEGRATED”, that “ the work needed to depict not only a conversation but something of each other in the work...each others strengths pushing and pulling  on the others” 

The term to collaborate has and should be increasingly popular in the 20th century society we live in today. Many note how the pace of life has picked up from the slow trot of a horse to the speed of a car on highways flashing 120km as the speed limit. And still that is not fast enough.
Despite the technological age we live in, where mails of conversation go back and forth like the ebb and flow of the tide that licks our very shores, there is still a sense of 
“fomo” - fear of missing out, bewilderment  and isolation.

On asking Joan about some of the benefits of collaborating , Joan responded that it not only made them as artists “more productive but often led to a refinement  of ideas through discussion. The support when feeling unsure about the work, disenchanted with an artists life was invaluable”.

The postcard series evident in this exhibition is worth spending some time on.
More than the exchange on paper was what goes behind the scene, backstage and that is this.... the act of transferring the card across to the other brings about a physical connection  that the computer cannot offer for in that very moment of anything from 5 to 15 minutes , there is a reading of body language, warmth of touch, gift of giving, an affirmation in words such as “ this is wonderful, thank you, I am grateful”. 

The physical exchange in the postcard offers each other ...a gift of time . Time given to themselves and to each other to value the moment of meeting enough to get off the highway and stop to respond to the other person. 

Gary Chapman, professional counsellor and relationship expert speaks about  the five love languages of “words of affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service and Physical Touch” These simple categories I believe have gone into the success of this collaboration. The postcard series alone incorporate these characteristics and furthermore the audience can feel it. In the artists vulnerability to share such thoughts, a tenderness is fragranced to us like incense and we are able to identify with significant and meaningful thoughts, findings and at times give words to our very own emotions swimming in our minds landscapes.

LOVE is not the answer to everything but it does create a climate of security in which we can seek out answers , ask questions, construct, throw out , rub out and redo. The rewards of this love and trust is that the best of each other will be brought out. Incidentally, talking on the topic of love, behind the scenes two men work hard each time these two women exhibit. Fred and Patrick , Joan and Lara s husbands respectively take up their hammer, drill bits and precise engineering skills to hang the exhibition for them...the co-(labour)ation goes beyond just the artists  and I am sure they are well appreciated ! 

The conversation that transpires out of this collaborative exhibition...the one that both artists are well aware of....is with the audience. 
The conversation between Joan and Lara extends to us the viewer for as much as they were seeking and discovering the secrets in the undergrowth of the forests, so do you and I discover little gems... we find Sam beckoning us to look deeper as he lazily gazes out at us and in another image he looks away and our eyes follow his gaze to discover other symbols and elements of the exhibition. Andile Andries Ndlovu  had wonderful observations to share about Joan's trees, fascinated by the actual production of the work, the many hidden symbols found within it, he engaged Joan in discussion. 

We find the Vasco da Gama monument  entitled“ Monument” with historical significance constructed of paper, fragile looking. Unbeknown to Joan at the time ,this  monument was abandoned. Joan was working on this when I received a email from the portuguese consulate asking people to sign a petition in order to preserve and restore this monument. Just this week Joan connected with the consulate. And here it is bringing about public awareness.

We find butterflies in Lara’s “ Dreams Up ahead”,  symbolic of freedom, transformation trapped beautifully in resin . Reading deeper I am reminded that Lara founded the non profit organisation everyone counts which raised money for various charity organisations  to assist in abandoned babies and more recently the “Speak Art Against Human Trafficking”. 

Both Lara and Joan collaborated on this massive time consuming project for the betterment of society. It is therefore apt that the very gallery that housed the latest everyone counts exhibition , now displays these two incredibly able, community orientated artists.

Let us now meander for a moment and discover “things”.... In the walkabout yesterday I asked the artists questions, some  folk ( thanks Rayne Dancaster and Daryl houghton ) read out from the postcard series and so began  I encourage  a living extension of these artists conversations..  enjoy and relax in the moment now and take a look at these artists websites.



Finally the art of conversation becomes a melting pot of good food for those who see and experience it, for not only are we exposed to a world of escape, different reflections and encouraged to participate but we then add to the response and by sharing about it to others the circle opens up. Being authentic in conversation and in art making leads to a successful result , with more people identifying with the work. This is what makes this exhibition successful and what makes us sit in community. 

Poignantly the words under the exhibit in the mezzanine summed up the feeling in this exhibition, I share this with you now....have a blessed week.

"...we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.For the things that are unseen are transient and are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18



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