A Bonnet of Gatsbys

Wed, August 23, 2017 to Sat, September 16, 2017
  • the dealer’s dogs, 2017, Mixed media on synthetic fabric, 211 x 153cm
  • the sabela, 2017, Mixed media on synthetic fabric, 209 x 163cm
  • I thought I remembered things differently, 2017, Re-assembled bird skeletons with steal structure, Dimensions varied
  • I thought I remembered things differently, 2017, Re-assembled bird skeletons with steal structure, Dimensions varied
  • I thought I remembered things differently, 2017, Silkscreen on Fabriano, 50 x 35cm, Edition of 3

Invention, irreverence and joyous bravado combine for Katharien de Villiers’ highly anticipated debut solo show at SMITH, A Bonnet of Gatsbys.

De Villiers, whose recent Human Carwash installation at the 2017 Cape Town Art Fair drew high praise, has produced a multimedia collection of works featuring sculptures, paintings, video and fabric works.

A Bonnet of Gatsbys loosely documents her varied experience over recent years in and around the unfamiliar territory of peri-urban ghettos on the outskirts of Cape Town.

De Villiers inverts the documentary process by questioning her own memories of time and place, representing her fractured thoughts as a mixed media assortment of works that function as dubious approximations of reality.

De Villiers sets about challenging perceptions using allusions to stigmatic forms. The work Danger Gevaar Ingozi II reimagines the loaded symbolism of the familiar, politically loaded and problematic warning sign.

With I Thought I Remembered Things Differently, De Villiers reconstructs the skeletons of dead birds to fabricate originality and press her audience to question the veracity of faithful replicas as well as their own role in interpreting and projecting meaning.

“There is a moment when the artist is removed from the work, which is something we have to accept. We are not there every step of the way to explain everything. It’s a leap of faith,” says De Villiers.

Drawn to foreign landscapes and preferring the challenge of discomfort, De Villiers delves joyfully into uncertain territory, reliant on intuition and impulse in preparing her artistic response.

Intentionally misusing her resources to create difficult juxtapositions and playful contradictions, A Bonnet of Gatsbys displays meticulously crafted works alongside brazenly slapdash creations in an orchestrated conflict.

The lion’s share of her materials are found objects, recycled and repurposed in her sculptures and installations. Evidence of craft and making are overtly evident in the work.

“I want people to think about how my pieces were made,” says De Villiers. “I have no patience so my process is immediate. I work fast, which I think is an honest way to produce because the thinking becomes a lot broader than the work itself,” she says. “I’m comfortable with uncertainty.”

Fun, free association and a love of the slapstick are prevalent in De Villiers’ portfolio. A jester at heart, she goads and tempts her audience, fully conscious of the waning effect of shock tactics in a country and a world where truth is increasingly stranger than fiction.

“It’s not about tricking anybody or blindsiding people with something profound. My work is about physical things and our physical response to them. In South Africa art appreciation is strongly linked to status. Basically, I think we should fucking relax and allow each other to either like a work or not.”