Review: Motel7 at 34 FineArt – Striking, Bright and Hip

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motel7 at 34 Fine ArtStriking, bright and hip – Motelseven’s show perfectly suits the signature black walls and hidden location of 34 Fine Art – one of a number of contemporary galleries in this avant-garde area of Woodstock.

For Daydreamers Motelseven has created new work, mainly acrylic paintings, though her fondness for graffiti is still evident. At one level the images are childlike and naive – largely portraits of the same girl with huge cat-like eyes, long straight hair and a rose bud mouth, often adorned with animals such as butterflies, birds and monkeys.

Ages, eras, and cultures collide with a girl in Elizabethan dress holding a robot in her tattooed arms, and Hello Kitty references are as much in evidence as skulls and the all-seeing eye.   Pink and red colours dominate; light blues and browns too, with hints of glitter thrown in for good measure.

Prettiness and sadness lie side by side, with a distinct dark and surreal undercurrent. The eponymous pout is occasionally made into a smile but it is a thin line, black and stitched up. The girl’s eyes well with tears, which often overspill. Skeletons, skulls and cobwebs are common motifs.  Ditto rainbows and clouds and large coloured rain drops. These are about daydreams, after all, and perhaps the weather references underline the message: only when sun and rain are together can rainbows be seen.

The portraits evoke votive images of the Virgin Mary, and indeed crucifixes are sometimes included; South American art and Freda Kahlo’s work come to mind. But a more obvious influence is the Japanese comic, or manga, where characters have big expressive eyes, lithe bodies and Anglo-Saxon features.

The manga technique is hugely popular in America, particularly for comic strip artists. So it is no surprise that Motelseven exhibits regularly in the USA, especially in California. Despite graduating in animation only in 2008, Motelseven has had solo and group shows in London, Berlin, Amsterdam, Oslo and most notably at Scope Basel in 2010.

But as Capetonians we can enjoy Motelseven’s work in the edgy parts of Cape Town – look out for her signature style in the streets of Woodstock, Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain. Her graffiti is hopefully still on Searle Street, close by to 34 Fine Art.  She is a brave woman creating on our streets in the middle of the night and is certainly a young artist worth watching out for.

Kate Crane Briggs

Motelseven’s Daydreamers exhibition can be seen at 34 Fine Art, Woodstock until 10 November 2012. 
For tours of street art, including Motelseven’s graffiti, as well as gallery and studio visits, contact Kate Crane Briggs on cultureconnectsa@gmail.com +27 (0)72 377 8014.


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