Golliferís exhibition tackles fading moral values

Gollifer's artworks
Gollifer's artworks

On display at Lalonde Art Gallery are several monoprints exhibited by local artist, Ann Gollifer.

The works are clearly organised and titled in groups, with some seductive surfaces and themes, executed with dedication, perhaps even more so than her previous solo entitled ‘Branded!’ at the Frame Gallery in 2011. 

But seduction cannot be an end in itself.  Well-timed repetition of a single motif can lend some ambience and intensity.  Andy Warhall, a pioneer of the technique, which put banality of reproduction on the art pedestal, had his crudely industrial approach to art, which had a powerful effect on popular culture, and this was his consistent message: multiplicity increased the democratic accessibility but decreased value as a result.

Warhall highlighted the platitude induced by commercial repetition of imagery.  This was something that already irritated the sensitivities of the contemporary cultural movement of the 20th Century of his times, hence his relevance and fame. 

The art technique itself has the potential to compromise the deeper emotional interaction if it is not grounded on any identifiable focal concept.

That compromise is what I fear in the present show.  I am aware that it may not be in the artist’s essential interest, but the fact that while she invokes significant cultural elements in the three chiefs, Leteisi and totemic creatures of some major tribes, she stints on something more powerful.

One would therefore expect a deeper conceptual exploration that combines the elements with great synthesis of materials and meaning at Ann Gollifer’s disposal. 

‘O Mang’ is a good theme and understandably natural from Ann’s point of view. One enjoys the use of multimedia of the ‘O Mang’ series of works entitled What Are You, Who Are You and What Will You Become. But one wonders why the stencil has to be the same for each print with so little variation between, and so much predictability.

The same view applies to the ‘extinction’ series with the Khama silhouette and magpie and the textual element, which extends the meaning of the series.

 The underlying message of Gollifer’s show, for me at least, overshadows the innocent and delicately deceptive concern with the identity crisis.   For a discerning mind, when one strips the exhibition of its décor of repeated motifs, a point may be made that Gollifer actually deals with death and decay (‘extinction’ is Gollifer’s key clue) of the cultural moral values together with the old vanguards of those values in form of Khama the Great, Seretse Khama and others.

That becomes clearer when one follows Gollifer’s neat needlework of skeletal birds, skulls of creatures and of the ever-silhouetted busts and figures of cultural leaders. Probably the most daring in the rhetoric of decadence is the centrepiece O Mang at floor 19.

Here Gollifer uses the interplay of silhouettes faintly recognisable as leaders present and past, and the three D’s that denote the values aspired for by the current president for the nation, with some such as Delivery and Discipline illustrated by explicit ‘Page 3’ modelling poses.

But again, in my view there is a general sterility that runs through the show and spoils it, caused by preoccupation with technical processes and recurrence of composition on different titles.  That, in my view robs the show of any possible emotional value.

There is also a tendency towards the decorative that tends to soften and therefore blunt the edges of the popular social discourse on the degeneration of morals. There is a piece above the reception desk entitled Boloko, The Rhetoric of Nonsense, which is a detour from the main show and simply does not fit in.   Again, even though I could personally be happier with one panel of this piece instead of six conjoined replicas, for me it evokes something of a row artistic emotion that other pieces on display fail to.It is the final Freudian slip if you wish.

The title of the piece could very well be more apt for the show than the rhetorical O Mang provided that my assessment of the decadence of morals and the ironical juxtaposition of the presidential four D’s in this show is anything to go by..

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