João Ferreira

Kate Gottgens

03 Dec 2008 - 10 Jan 2009

© Kate Gottgens
Untitled, 2008
Oil, acrylic & ash on canvas
23 x 30.5 cm
"Asleep Inside You"

3 December 2008 - 10 January 2009
Opening reception: Wednesday 3 December at 6pm

At the heart of Kate Gottgens’ latest body of work lies a sense of entrapment; a quiet dissonance that emerges in the use of evocative imagery, painted in ash.

Gottgens started photographing the contents of a props warehouse in Voortrekker Road – that grim, grey, modernist trash-can of a road that runs through some of the bleakest mid-century suburbs of Cape Town.

‘The warehouse stored a surreal assortment of objects – blankets, horns, mannequins, books, radios – a melancholic coming-to-rest of the discarded and forlorn that drew me into the space.’

At the time, Gottgens was reading The Drowned and the Saved, Primo Levi’s book about Auschwitz, in which he writes of a ‘grey zone’, an ethical no-man’s land where the border between guilt and innocence is examined. The ideas and the imagery led Gottgens to a theme of entrapment: physical and psychological; to explore the dynamic between, accused and accuser, victim and perpetrator, prisoner and jailer.

In the translation from in situ reality to the camera, and from camera to canvas, there is a natural process of abstraction. Gottgens thus creates a powerful dissociation of shapes and marks from the things originally represented. Although there are recognizable elements in the paintings – faces, bodies, animals, buildings – these are vehicles symbolizing a deeper, internal struggle, depicted in the grey ash that provides the matrix out of which these painterly diagrams arise. Subjects distort, ambiguities shift and a sense of unease is manifested. The ash evokes a realm between worlds, a liminal universe of dreams and nightmares.

Asleep Inside You is Gottgens’ title for this body of work. And this is key, for it conveys the fertility that exists even in the face of collapse; that life coiled up and seemingly trapped is simply a position that carries the potential for rebirth.

Opening reception: Wednesday, 03 December 2008 at 6pm


Andrew Putter states that Kate Gottgens is "an artist at the height of her powers" and 'Asleep Inside You' reveals "the sensibility of someone unafraid to confront shadows and wounds with a dispassionate tenderness". Please click here to read the rest of Putter's review for artthrob.

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