It all begins with what appears to be random splattering on a canvas. The distorted shapes and images that refuse any logical ordering but yet you stand at glare at its beauty hoping it would invite you in. Invite you into something behind and beneath its distorted surfaces and layers that lies deep under its cracks and drippings. But it never does. And all you can do is stand and watch it. After a while you move on to the next one and the same feeling sets in. However, now, something looks different, the distortions seems to reveal more shapes and layers than the previous one. Yet this offers you nothing conclusive. Baffled you still stare and nothing but the arrangement of its striking distortions seems to hold your attention.
So you stand and watch it, again. Look at it as though it promised you meaning, something you can turn to the next person standing by your side and say, ‘I like how these shapes seems to converge to reveal what appears to be a picture of blah blah blah’. You always do these sorts of conversations at exhibitions. Most times actually rewarding to see someone’s perspective of an artifact. So uncomfortably you move on to the next one nodding your head as though something momentous has been revealed to you by the work. You do this a couple of times and finally end up across the opposite wall. And then you start to see it, the distortion is revealing a line emerging out of the blurred splatterings.
That line starts to outline other parallel lines that reveal a bar – a steel bar – as if it’s a door burglar. And right there and then it clicks, it’s a barrier. You look back with an amusement of some ‘ordering’ achieved but an oddly uncomfortable one as you realise that you’ve been kept ‘out’ the whole time. You were standing in front of a barrier. But now the clearer the barrier becomes, the more difficult your position is. You see, to me staring at these images, the most powerful thing is not realising the barrier but understanding which side of the barrier do I put myself. And I say ‘I’ because I don’t see the artist’s hand beyond this point. All the distortions seem to slowly reveal this pregnant question. The splattering fades away, a logic appears and a barrier is formed. But which side of it am I on? And what does this barrier separate me from? From the painter? The person next to me? Who? Then my thought slips for a minute and I think, ‘did I lock my door this morning before I left my apartment?’ you start to think back. ‘What did I do before I left my flat apartment?’ you think long and hard about it, and by the time you recollect how you got to the exhibition you’re amazed at how many doors and access points you’ve had to negotiate your way through. We live in such a vast space but yet so fragmented. From my place to get here I need to present my student card at least 4 times and this is just within a 3 or 4 kilometres radius. As if that is not the worst thing, you have to go to designated locations in order to access those entry points. They are never at your convenience or just down the street on your way. So sometimes even if you want to go a few blocks down the street, you have to go 4 up in order to access your exit before going those few blocks. ‘Ridiculous’ you think to yourself. Then you ponder another notion, well more of a question really, is the space fragmented, confined and trapped like on the canvas of this painting or is it me (the person standing, trapped in its gaze in front of it?). We create these obstacles between ourselves and spaces for certain conveniences but soon those become constraints. If you live in a corner of a street, which side do you face your house and gate? And this question returns you to the painting and your first question, are you kept outside or inside? The first thing your imagination does (and I suppose given the state of our history in this country and the current crime rate) you jump to the inside – a sense of security to conceal yourself from the eminent dangers of being outside.
‘Ah, phew, I am safe’ you think to yourself. You take a few deep breathes and start to ponder about the implications of being locked inside, alone. Suddenly your sense of safety turns its silence on you. But it’s a frightening silence like in a horror movie moments after you shut the door escaping a serial killer. Now you’re locked inside. The serial killer makes no noise, and your imagination wanders where he could be? What is he doing? Will he break in? How? ‘But the house is locked’ you assert your surety. But yet the fright never leaves you. Because you know the danger is always there. You’re suddenly caught between landscapes that are too open and doors that are too narrow and neither of them is safe all the times. So which escape do you choose? The closed or open space? And this is what I found most intriguing about this exhibition. To be reminded of how civilization has locked and trapped man behind so many entrances and exits. Are we all chained to this? So maybe then it might as well be true what Bob Dylan said, ‘No one is free, even the birds are chained to the sky’