Justine Mahoney will open her first solo show with Southern Guild at its Cape Town gallery on 10 Lewin Street, Woodstock, on October 14, with ‘Tainted’, a series of 10 bronze sculptures with 10 corresponding collages.
‘Tainted’ presents a study of the jostling schizophrenia that exists between an apparent playful façade and the darker element which lurks beneath the surface. Typical of Mahoney’s style, the work portrays a veneer that all is well. However, when delving deeper, a sense of unease emerges, as if demons are hiding in the shadows, giving each piece an element of unsettling tension.
Mahoney’s fascination with fantasy, child’s play and imagination, overlaid with the sinister realities of our society, make up the overarching theme in both ‘Tainted’, and her previous series, ‘Innocence’. In each, the nuances change, becoming darker and darker. Where none of ‘Innocence’s’ figures have eyes, suggesting that they are blind to the world around them and that all is sugar-coated, ‘Tainted’ starts to unveil the characters’ eyes, allowing reality to reveal itself.
“As Justine’s confidence as an artist grows, her subject matter becomes more enticing and thought-provoking, reflecting South African culture in a dark mirror,” says Southern Guild co-director Julian McGowan. “This exhibition takes you to a familiar but unsettling place – it is Malice in Wonderland.”
Mahoney explains: “The experience of growing up in South Africa during the 1970s, 80s and 90s was extremely schizophrenic and it is from this period that I gather elements of inspiration. I have a large collection of imagery from those decades which mimic my memories, and which I turn into portraits that reflect this multifariousness. From these hack-and-bash collages, seemingly teenage in nature, I use clay to re-form the past and recall fears, dreams, nightmares and aspirations.”
Each character is then cast in bronze and handpainted by the artist, available as an edition of nine. The corresponding collages that appear in ‘Tainted’ offer an inspired view into this world of pieced-together fantasy, with themes centred around Mahoney’s observations of gender, landscape, aspiration and oppression, many of which are an amalgamation of stories told to her by her stay-at-home nanny, Lizzy Maema, during her childhood.
At the time, growing up during apartheid in the leafy suburbs of Johannesburg, the realities of the political environment were swept under the rug. However, when scratching the surface, sinister truths emerged, revealing a world of fear, pain and anger. Fragile “normality” began to crack as the artist became more aware of her surroundings, and, through Lizzy, began to learn of the sacrifices made to endure a deeply divided society.
‘Tainted’ runs until November 18.
Gallery hours: Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm
For more information,