Grandma’s closets, ransacked


HOW do you do? One of Marinda du Toit’s assemblages. Photograph by Robyn Sassen.

YOU MIGHT BE urged to giggle at a chap made of an old rusted colander and some cotton reels, or a female angel with fish bones as wings, mooted ‘fish wife’, considering the gesture to be comic, perhaps for children. But when you engage closer with the body of work by Marinda du Toit currently on show in the Black Box gallery, in Pretoria’s Association of Arts, something different happens.

It’s a very intimate space which you can overlook if you gloss too quickly through the gallery complex, but du Toit’s work stands out for its unabashed glance into modernist thinking and playing. There is a body of assemblages here, taking anthropomorphism to the hilt, and another body of etchings that might make you think of the work of Man Ray in the disparate facial features that seem sprinkled willy-nilly over the composition.

The figures recall the later work of surrealist Joan Miró in their repurposing of humdrum bits of engineering that you could ferret out of anyone’s kitchen: and the grouped figures, some of which are suspended on the walls, reflect a sense of community that is sinister yet quirky, funny yet strange. And above all, profoundly quaint and unsettling.

And then you peer even closer and you notice that the titles of the two dimensional works constitute complicated mathematical sums, evoking trigonometry. Is du Toit working with John Cage’s principles of chance? Or maybe kabbalistic values? She doesn’t let on, but offers an understanding of the human face in an abstract rubric that makes you look and look again.

Raar Maar Waar (Strange but True) is an exhibition which has a ring to it of ghostliness and personal history, of making unexpected use of objects laden with other perhaps spiritual values. It brings you to think of the Arabic notion of ‘baraka’ where used objects are invested with particular energy, and in doing so, it feels uncomfortable yet playful. And it’s a pretty good reason to drive to Pretoria.

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