Running on Empty: work full of soul

Audrey Anderson's Blinders in Hindsight, a work in ink on wood. Photograph courtesy Gallery2
Audrey Anderson’s Blinders in Hindsight, a work in ink on wood. Photograph courtesy Gallery2

The first thing that strikes you when you enter this gallery space is a sense of plenty: artists Audrey Anderson and Ross Passmoor are very different practitioners with distinct visual signatures and skill. They’re young, but their individual approach is established and keenly honed. And while there are not hundreds of works in this intimate gallery space, the two diverse perspectives meet and concatenate and converse and create a joint portrait of this city that is engaging and beautiful, light on the eye and meaningful on the heart.

This is Running on Empty, an exhibition which embraces a cynical understanding of the rush and thrust of the condition of Johannesburg, with a bold grip and an uncompromising reflection.

Anderson works primarily in ink on wood. The support is as supple as skin, and the medium as incisive as though it were applied not with a paintbrush but with a scalpel. Her line work is calligraphic, yet her embrace of the quirks of naturalism is sound and without pretence.

Flirting with the idea of an architectural drawing and hinting tantalisingly at the drawing traditions which informed a pre-digital graphic design and advertising industry, her work has its own internal razzmatazz, which reflects a frisky inner city, with its grey men in suits – and in water, as it embraces the architecture and the mixing and ringing of foliage with architecture. The works are whimsical yet layered, easy to look at yet deep.

Conversely, Passmoor works with a guttural approach – his is a meaty line, in which he explores the texture and nuance of electric wiring and great blocks of construction that together form huge engineering achievements like bridges or tunnels. Working with monograph and etching, Passmoor demonstrates a strong drawing hand reflecting on the bigness of architecture from the outside.

The works are bold and unapologetic, celebrating how the rough plate under the pressure of the intaglio press bruises and mottles the paper, offering a reflection on this city which is poetic without being sentimental, nuanced, and yet never obvious.

The intimacy evoked in the give and take of these two artists is palpably engaging. There’s a duet, a conversation here that you hear as soon as you enter the space. It’s not a great big conceptual gesture that will change the world with great thrusts of bravado or academic speak. Rather, it’s a celebration of skill and beauty and a confession of great love for this city, with all its hurly-burl, drama and panic.

  • Audrey Anderson and Ross Passmoor’s exhibition Running on Empty is at Gallery 2, 140 Jan Smuts Avenue, Rosebank, until Saturday July 4. 0114470155 or visit gallery2.co.za

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Robyn Sassen

A freelance arts writer since 1998, I fell in love with the theatre as a toddler, proved rubbish as a ballerina: my starring role was as Mrs Pussy in Noddy as a seven-year-old, and earned my stripes as an academic in Fine Arts and Art History, in subsequent years. I write for a range of online and print publications, including the Sunday Times, the Mail & Guardian and artslink.co.za and was formerly the arts editor of the SA Jewish Report, a weekly newspaper with which I was associated for 16 years. This blog promises you new stories every week, be they reviews, profiles, news stories or features.

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