Review: Gabrielle Raaff at Salon91

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Gabrielle RaaffCape Town artist Gabrielle Raaff’s current solo exhibition, Night Watch, explores the inner realms of the subconscious that circle around dreams and memories. The artworks were influenced, as the exhibition notes describe, by the artist’s experience of “parenthood and a need to rediscover the self within relationship to others”.  As Raaff explains, “Becoming a parent puts one’s own childhood into sharp focus, and the responsibility of the task often leads to pockets of longing for the perceived simplicity of youth. Our memories of the past are after all just fragments of the truth.”

Ranging from shadowy abstract ink, watercolour and bleach drawings to vague, almost blurred images of faces kept in mostly one colour, the paintings provide an interesting glance into what Raaff describes as “the internal landscape of the subconscious”.  Each painting warrants a steady gaze, time to allow one’s thoughts to subside, and to appreciate the image on the intuitive level that is unique to every individual.

Despite sinister topics such as nightmares, the exhibition is nonetheless enjoyable and vividly engaging, and even though Raaff’s paintings do include haunting pictures of disturbingly human shapes, the eeriest painting is Moon Walking II, an ink on fabriano painting, kept mostly in pink, depicting the distinct shape of a tree being stabbed by a sharp triangular yellow object.

Other pictures that stand out are the child and clown faces in Fool, Foolish, Full – a trio of water-based oil paintings on linen. One picture with surprising appeal, perhaps because of its simplicity, is Potential, which contains no distinguishable objects except a circle.

Bringing abstract concepts like dreams and memories onto paper, Raaff has managed to make visible to the viewer some of her innermost personal images, sharing something that otherwise remains hidden, or is perhaps only entrusted to close family and friends.  As a result, Night Watch is an exhibition with a sincere and intimate feel.

Marie Stinnes

Gabrielle Raaff’s solo exhibition, Night Watch, runs at Salon91 from 18 February to 9 March 2015.

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