original oil paintings by south african artist

South African Art Exhibition at Artspace Fine Art Gallery Johannesburg

The process of thought has been a subject studied by many philosophers. The functions of the mind and thought have been analysed and deconstructed by thinkers from Plato and Descartes to Jacques Lacan and Sigmund Freud.

From Descartes’ findings, philosophers in later centuries started to unpack the idea of consciousness. Thinkers like Nietzsche and Foucault began looking at consciousness from social perspectives or social-consciousness as one might call it. The idea that while one could think and therefore be was one part of the process, but that this was dependent on external factors such as society, culture, and politics and in the case of Marx, class. At the same time, Jacques Lacan was developing his theory on how the self or subject was formed. Through his studies and deconstruction of Freud’s theories, Lacan developed his own ideas from Freud’s Ego, Super-ego and Id theory. Through his mirror stage theory where the subject develops individuality and starts to separate himself from the other, and by extent from the Other, the self goes through mental processes which oscillate within the field of representation or the image.

Lacan’s Three Orders of the Imaginary, the Symbolic and the Real were influenced by Freud’s ideas of the ego, and Mindmapping can be seen as an exhibition that delves into the depths of this notion as the artists try to locate themselves within it. If we understand the Imaginary as the field of images and symbols, the Symbolic as the order of culture and the Real as the impossible or that which constantly resists symbolisation, we can find in Mindmapping a beautiful synergy of Lacanian thought.

Combrink looks at the notion of identity and the fluidity of the concept of identity. Through becoming a mother, her surroundings changed and she shifted into another identity; the role of mother. With the feelings of joy come feelings of fear, uncertainty and doubt. The mind shifts totally when one realises that a new life depends on you. She describes her work therefore as a “narrative of this journey of the mind in which I try to map out the mental and other processes involved” in this change in her life. In a sense, she is drawn back into Lacan’s Mirror Stage, as she abandons the self she knows and must once again face the other in order to form an identity.

Steinmann’s works are fundamentally located in Lacan’s realm of the Symbolic. Through the exploration of images and emblems of South African history and culture, he operates within the Symbolic order of Law, authority and culture. But his containers go beyond the images on the exterior. They, as he says “bear[s] evidence of light and dark”, what is seen and what is hidden. He compares what one sees on the outside of his containers and what might lurk within as a Pandora’s Box type situation. We can therefore presume that what might be within the box is incomprehensible, i.e. the Real. But once the containers are opened, we once again find ourselves in the realm of the image. The way these containers operate when closed however always lead us on a journey to the Real, which can never be reached.

Olen takes Albert Einstein’s quote “Reality is merely an illusion. Albeit a persistent one” ,as a starting point for her work on Mindmapping. She explores consciousness and how we are led to this. Her work is about the process of artmaking and how, in this process of using symbols we navigate our minds. As she says, “The journey from establishing and finding the avenue, to showing the viewer this journey and the abstract emotions that are a constant travelling companion, in a visually pleasing way, remain the challenge.” This journey is the journey towards the real through the process of symbolization. Where some philosophers equated reality with existence, for example, “I think therefore I am, therefore I am real”, Einstein’s words, and Olen’s work, leave us wondering whether reality, and by extension, existence is merely an illusion.

As artists, we are always on a journey to the Real, the impossible, but are constantly caught up within the Imaginary, the field of images and thus, the signified. But this cannot be separated from the Symbolic order, as we use the signifier or language to point the viewer in a direction, to lead him on our journey. The artists will then, although striving desperately to reach the real, never do this, as the unconscious will always remain just that.

artspace fine art gallery.johannesburg
3 hetty ave, fairland
011 678 1206 (t)
0866 498551 (f)
082 651 4702 (teresa)
email : artspace@wol.co.za

gallery hours :
tue – fri 10h00 – 16h00
sat 10h00 – 14h00
closed sundays/mondays

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