You’ll need sunglasses to fully appreciate what glitter artist Leanne Shakenovsky has done with the idea of a painting by well-known South African painter JH Pierneef of the town of Heidelberg in the former Transvaal. Cast into tones and tints of gold glitter, it’s completely dazzling and Shakenovsky’s tight approach resonates beautifully with the quietude of the original – one of the famous Johannesburg station panels – on which it is based.
There are a few similar Pierneef-evocative pieces in this show, which on the whole reflects a welcome digression in former auction house assistant Shakenovsky’s growing personal vocabulary. For some years, she has been doggedly translating copies of well known local art works into a panoply of glitter. Her thought process in these has revolved around the ideas associated with worth, value and wealth. Theoretically justified, the works contained iffy authenticity and as much fire as a colour-by-number painting.
And while this exhibition features some more of the same in a Pierneef mould, it also features Shakenovsky shaking a toe in a new direction. Evoking on one level, the work of local artists Gina Waldman and Kim Liebermann, her boxed constructions come head to head with the kind of values articulated in the Dada movement – in between the wars Europe – the aesthetics of 1950s domesticity are cropped and cut out and assembled to reveal humanoid forms, but ones not without a sense of humour. They call to mind pieces by artists of the ilk of Man Ray, which gave womanly form to an egg beater, for instance.
Most predominantly, in this body of work, Shakenovsky is thinking about two ideals: the happy family and the 1950s wife: both concepts which are moored thigh-deep in ideological conflict and contradiction. She conflates them with layers of fabric cut almost abstractly, and compiled almost like a children’s puzzle. But there lies the rub: the works are not consistently legible as happy family images and they’re not what you might expect; the stronger pieces on show are the more abstract ones. Rather, Shakenovsky articulates how she is seduced by colour and texture and its context, in these quirky, engaging pieces.
Thus one can forgive and look beyond the pretentious name of this exhibition which has a solid academic explanation, as the work is engaging and entertaining on the eye. Thankfully she’s worked through the literal approach and is beginning to allow her own voice space.
Shakenovsky’s work is juxtaposed with several intricately woven landscapes in water-based pigment of Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum. They soar and reach and ricochet beyond the confines of the paper on which they are painted. While they may give you the urge to read Frank Herbert’s science fiction classic Dune, and occasionally one or two teeter towards a moonscape fantasy, a la children’s book illustrations, they’re competent and compelling.
- De-Con-Structure by Leanne Shakenovsky and Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum is at InToto Gallery, Birdhaven until June 9.
- This review appeared in the print edition of the SA Jewish Report, May 23.