Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Beast at Home: Bonita Alice at AOP

IT IS easy to spot the "beast" referred to in the title of Bonita Alice's new exhibition. In all of her circular artworks a dark black amorphous mass dominates. Though it is a solid mass with defined borders it is like a shape shifter as it morphs into different configurations. Thus it is an unpredictable and ever-changing phenomenon that eludes description and can never be fully apprehended. This menacing black beast is always pictured in relationship to a land mass, a territory: in one image it is pictured between what appears to be a cliff. In another it is curled into a tight ball, with protrusions like limbs extended into the air as it is seen hurtling towards land.

Like the depiction of the black beast, the land or territories that appear in each image are clean stylised renderings. These territories are defined by jagged edges, underpinning their uneven borders and the manner in which they subtly infiltrate space. In some instances these shapes are colonised by irregular lines, denoting rivers or territorial borders.

So it is that Alice's artworks appear like maps. No ordinary maps as they chart the confluence of physical territory and internal processes. The land masses obviously referring to physical landscapes and the black beast articulating an internal phenomenon, an ambiguous emotional and psychological entity that hovers at the fringes of the consciousness, haunting the mind, the soul.In this way Alice gives expression to the manner in which the inner consciousness and external, physical phenomena interact and collide. The tension and dynamics between the two. Most importantly, she points to the ways in which physical or geographical connections manifest internally.
In other words, how one's affiliation to a place conjures an indescribable and almost irrational psychological condition. Certainly at work here is the artist's relationship to Joburg. The negative connotations attached to the city complicates people's attachment to it; hence writers, filmmakers, photographers and artists are constantly grappling to reconcile their affiliation, make peace with the push-pull dynamic.