Fragments of a Burnt History
Wood, found objects, the debris of daily life and various artworks transform one wall of David Krut Projects in Parkwood, Johannesburg, into a monochromatic landscape of textured, sepia hues.
From a distance, the almost nostalgic, film-like quality of this collective body of artworks by Faith47 suggests a series of photographic negatives or old newspapers – media that both capture and interpret moments in time. These echoes of interpretative, but impermanent, forms hint at the transience inherent in the installation and the city space it corresponds to, despite the gritty tangibility of both.
The exhibition is titled Fragments of a Burnt History. It is Faith47’s first solo exhibition in South Africa in a gallery space, as opposed to on the streets of Jo’burg or Cape Town, where her images are embedded in the cityscapes.
Writing about it was always going to inadequately communicate the way in which the work generates glimpses of meaning and insight into the flux and change of life on the streets of an African city. While the found objects and studio-created artworks that make up the complex installation are offered up for our comment and consumption, you as the viewer need to work at unravelling and interpreting its layers and complexity.
While you can read the work as a representation of the streets themselves, with their constant flow of animating details and narratives, Jacqueline Nurse, in her great overview of the installation, explains that it is not a direct interpretation of the city: 'Her [Faith47’s] experience is of Johannesburg as a representative African city, the streets full of the energy of transformation and endless possibility, but also the evidence of the harsh realities of day-to-day life.'
The images derive their import from multiple histories and contradictory realities, drawing both literally and figuratively on the countless experiences of people on the streets of Jo’burg.
Unlike Faith 47’s street art, which simultaneously draws meaning from and gives meaning to its specific context, this installation is made up of a mass of reference material pulled from the city. The images derive their import from multiple histories and contradictory realities, drawing both literally and figuratively on the countless experiences of people on the streets of Jo’burg. Sometimes, these are suggested only by the relative positioning of each component within the installation itself.
This is as opposed to on the street, where Faith 47’s artworks interact with other art, people, places and contemporary happenings in a different way.
The work also draws deeply on Faith 47’s own experience of the city, where her most recent street art is a series of murals on the inner-city walls, titled The Long Wait. These images are instalments of her solo exhibition. They depict groups of men in various postures of waiting and can be seen on walls in Soweto, Newtown, the Maboneng Precinct, Commissioner Street, Jan Smuts Avenue, Oxford Street, Louis Botha Avenue, Braamfontein, Yeoville and Rosebank.
I found sensitive and evocative concentrations of innocence and violence, loss and love, loneliness and camaraderie, striving and defeat in Fragments of a Burnt History. I sensed prophetic hints of hope and danger and uncynical irony, as well as many, many stories. I observed an anonymous façade and the things that lie beneath it; the fragments Faith47 offers up to us through her art, which make it personal and poignant.
To me, these fragments are transformed and transforming, symbolic perhaps of the city’s own burnt offerings; a kind of redemptive innocence ritually consumed in the perpetual flames of daily life in the city.
See more images and read this great interview with the artist herself. Or if you can, go down to the gallery and check it out.
Category: Arts & Entertainment