The moment the viewer enters Eclectica Design & Art, they’re introduced to the concept of aesthetics by Chris Denovan’s Voyeur. The piece approaches the theme in a generically beautiful manner, but that does not detract from its overall appeal. The large-scale oil work fills the passageway with pastel colour, feeling fluid and feminine, urging the viewer forth.
The works exhibited in Aesthetically Vogue don’t all approach the theme so directly, however. Rather, they expose the diversity of aesthetic appeal and highlight how beauty can be used to reflect on issues that lie far beyond the basic appeal of an image. The ugly truth behind Ronald Muchatuta’s Ghana Must Go and Children of the Necklace VII exemplifies this. His art deals with the issues of immigration and xenophobia; a familiar topic to the Zimbabwean-born artist.
What sets Eclectica apart from the many minimalist contemporary galleries in Cape Town is the combination of art and carefully selected furniture. Raw leather matches the deep, rich browns in Matthew Hindley’s Forrest series of paintings, while a brightly coloured couch parallels the quirky styles of Marna Hattingh and Norman O’Flynn. All the furniture complements the art, highlighting the underlying tones of the paintings or key aspects of the works. This allows the viewer to see the art not only in a formal gallery setting, but as a piece that can be timeless or vogue in their own homes. It gives the gallery a personal, approachable touch.
Peter Pharoah and Sarah Danes Jarrett address the impact of beauty in modern culture Their bright, bold colours and large, invasive canvasses portray natural portraits through an unnatural filter, possibly exposing how warped the ideals of beauty are. Jarrett’s works are structural yet free, the sharp jaw lines of the subjects juxtaposed with dripping paint and free strokes, while Pharoah’s works are a contemporary take on tribal people: fiery red lips burn with his adoration for Africa and its people.
Hattingh and O’Flynn’s design-like works were my personal favourites. Their combined pieces fill a colourful, quirky alcove amongst the other, more serious works. With their Dia De Los Muertos motifs, Hattingh’s figures have the appeal of pop art, and her characters bear a likeness to traditional Spanish sugar skulls. In I Don’t Know What They Are Talking About, a deep thoughtfulness can be seen behind the playful façade: a stern face contrasting with the lightness of the piece. The two artists share likenesses not only in their use of colour, but also in their attempts to understand humanity. O’Flynn combines explosive images with text in his Countdown Series stating that “Life is fundamentally chaotic” and “Our reactions determine our path”,, suggesting a dark sense of humour regarding humanity and the world.
The exhibition as a whole showcases the manners in which art and design can escape from transiency and trend, remaining aesthetically vogue in their own right, whether with a deep underlying message or with cynical playfulness.
Aesthetically Vogue runs from 18 November 2015 to 31 January 2016 at Eclectica Design & Art.