Warm Water Imaginaries, Johannesburg 2019

30 March – 2 May 2019 | Stevenson Gallery, Johannesburg

The works in this exhibition were made in response to an invitation to participate in Rising Waters: The Indian Ocean in the Twenty-first Century, a group exhibition at the McMullen Museum, Boston, in 2020. The show proposes to look at climate change and the migration of people, objects and ideas across the Indian Ocean. With Warm Water Imaginaries, Siopis responds to this vast history and complex geological and social present through the creation of imaginary worlds in small and large paintings as well as object-assemblages. While alluding to narratives and images that speak to climate change, the works’ open form, associative materiality and vibrant process invite the spectator to project their own imaginings. Siopis states:

The material process of the paintings is a fluid affair; the glue’s capacity to change its form and colour when it comes into contact with other forces – air, gravity, my gestures – imbues it with a presence that holds onto itself as ‘something other’, yet simultaneously takes on the guise of an image.

Central to the exhibition was an installation of small paintings on paper, a section of which destined for Boston; these are mounted rather than framed, placed away from the wall in emphasis of their objecthood. Siopis observes:

They all have glue and ink as their base, looking a bit like a membranous visual field. Many are actually old surfaces; seen with fresh eyes, something in their ground seemed to lie submerged. The process of seeing the ‘something’ emerge meant being open to the myriad associations, real and imagined, dreams, history and myth, local politics and critical theory that colour the sticky glue, volatile ink, slippery oil and crusty surface. They are all actors in the process. Scale has a role too – the works are intimate and easy to take in the hand, their microcosmic lives readily translating into macrosmic worlds – cataclysmic lumps of red and flashes of hazard orange colliding with stains of celestial blues. All these different things get woven into the same visual field, or sit next to one another, speaking across the page divide. Often apocalyptically. Sometimes lovingly. Always in some kind of relation.

The exhibition also included a room that was manifestly process – consisting of installation and assemblage as well as painting and film, combined entitled Tentacular Time. Within this room there were ideas of imagination and fiction; relationships being made, a consciousness was evident. Siopis states:

I wanted it to be evidence of a breakdown – these distinctions between what is a painting, what is an installation, what is a video, what is information… books and other objects… boundaries being fluid rather than set and rather than binding