Still and Moving – Cape Town 2015

This exhibition continued Siopis’ longstanding interest in what she calls ‘the poetics of vulnerability’ and extends her particular use of chance-driven processes to generate images and surfaces that prompt associations. In Still and Moving the trigger for those associations is grief, both individual and collective.

As the artist says:

“Grief has no face. It is life that exceeds our grasp. Yet we search the world for images that look like what we feel. What we find often appear overused, stories over-told. But they touch us because of the state we are in. They give us a script to fill, one that might connect us to others in the world. Grief is relational. Some say it is a gift.”

One of the images the artist is drawn to is Niobe of Greek mythology, a symbol of grief in western literature and philosophy. Reread from contemporary perspectives Niobe becomes an image of transformation – specifically how her tears of sorrow merge with rock, to become a waterfall of stone.

In the monumental triptych Late and Soon, Siopis marks the grief of the individual alongside the collective body politic, and of experiences shared through the news and its unfolding events. The lower half of this painting consists of a palimpsest of swarming phrases and figures extruded from newspapers over a two and a half year period. Sentences become lines and circles that intersect, some barely readable, others too overlaid, too compressed, to make sense. Above is an almost formless vermillion entity that explodes across the three panels, an energy field in Siopis’ trademark experimental mix of ink and glue, seducing the viewer into an immersive experience

Likewise the short film, Lay Bare Beside, takes sorrow and its associated ceremonial processes as the main axis for navigating the terrain of a common humanity. In the film Siopis buries two unidentified human skulls that have been present in her private world for many years, and integrates this with footage from anonymous found 8mm home-movies shot in Africa in the 1960s. Alluding to unresolved histories and subjectivities, the work throws up fundamental questions about the perception of form, in this case what is ‘found’, and the limitations of a singular comprehension of what is given.

In the Note works on paper, Siopis records her daily thoughts and traces her emotions through the process of making. Elements not intended for inclusion find their way into the work, as in Note 5, where pencil shavings made when sharpening have dropped onto the ink and glue surface, becoming permanently trapped and transformed into bird wings. Some Notes are translations of dreams, condensation of diverse and unrelated images that coalesce into a single form.