Send It Home

This exhibition forms a collection of sense documentations representing complex emotional experiences I’ve had living as an expat in Masan, South Korea. Living so far from home and being quite isolated because of cultural and linguistic barriers, offers an intense, unavoidable and often involuntary kind of introspection. In ‘Send it home’ I explore emotions such as longing, nostalgia, loneliness, being lost and feelings of emotional reunification.   

 

This sort of introspection was often triggered in me by innocent questions asked by strangers. Like for example, after watching I Am Not Your Negro (2017) at Rhizome cinema, the only other person in the cinema with me, a Korean woman, stopped me on the staircase on my way out, to ask: “You are a white person, how do you feel about white people’s racism?”. This question inspired the two collaborative performances included in this exhibition, titled Prieska (2018) and 315/321: Memory of Objects (2018), both intimate expressions of how I feel about “..white people’s racism” and the violence brought about by political structures in general.

Under the larger questions about memory construction, fragmentation and preservation, which continues to be the main preoccupation of my practical inquiries, and echoing the one question always asked by every South Korean acquaintance I have made: “How do you experience living in Korea?”; this body of documentations and reactions come together under one question asked to myself over and over, “What will I take home after this year of living in Masan, South Korea?”.

In the past I made a study of what colours, shapes, shades and textures might mean to me emotionally. Connecting this knowledge to complex emotions felt towards people, stages and places in my life, I created a visual vocabulary of forms and shapes. I continue to use this visual vocabulary to create mnemonic devices in the form of paintings, which have the purpose of instilling deep feeling in me when viewed. In this way, archiving what was felt at a specific time in a specific space. Needless to say that this obsessively extensive pursuit to document feelings connected to memories comes from a place of being scared to forget the fullness of experience.

To me, in terms of shape, memory is organic as opposed to geometric. It shifts and changes depending on how the light falls, the season and external forces imposed on it. I don’t always set out to paint landscapes, but in terms of emotion, this is how I experience most- in the form of atmospheric and intricate landscapes.

 

The grid, ever present in this body of work and prior exhibitions, visually signifies ‘the study of…’. In this case it is representative of ‘the study of emotion’ and acts as a reminder to me that I am aiming to seperate myself just enough from the immersive experience of feeling, in order to render it. It aids in sifting through the immediate feeling, to discover its visual attributes (form, color, texture etc). It also acts as a measuring tool in the connection of memory to emotion, with regards to the effects affect has on the preservation, construction and manipulation of memory. Furthermore, the grid, in painting it, forces me to sit with the subject emotion at hand, be it comfortable or uncomfortable. Painting, concealing, scratching the grid becomes a sort of meditation of what will sit underneath or on top of the it, as it compels me to patiently stay in its company until the grid is completed.

At my house in South Africa my mother saves glass containers for preserving fruit, jams, sauces or pickles. It is also used as flower vases or candle holders when we have a big celebration. Settling into my life in Masan, I found myself unable to throw away these kinds of spice bottles and mason jars as I emptied them of their contents, considering the resource I was taught them to be. The glass containers became objects that reflected home in South Africa back to me, holding fresh and dried South Korean flowers, being refilled with South African spices or used to preserve experiments with a wide range of Korean fermented foods. Their presence in my exhibition represents this fusion of two spaces within me. A space where I faced my own fragility and strength and was above all happily surprised by my own resourcefulness. Some of these containers are empty, reflecting the readiness and expectation of applying this new knowledge about myself in my return to South Africa. Others hold the shed exoskeletons of Korean Cicadas (매미,Maemi) and wasps.

 

The Maemi signifies the shedding of the old because of necessary growth and getting used to inner noise, as I struggled and made progress this year in dealing with anxiety. The wasp, a bug of community, highlights the gentle balance of coexistence and codependency that I’ve come to realize are central to my happiness.  

 

The mold is a symbol of flourishment and damage, decay and life. The titles and lines of the walls that offers a scaled canvas for the fungus to pattern, as the windows that frame the landscape outside and impose a grid in the form of mesh, has a striking resemblance to my paintings. Reflecting back the push and pull between geometric and organic, study and feeling, gain and loss, community and loneliness, life and death, forgetting and remembering that is the core inspiration of this artistic venture.

 

Can emotions be successfully archived, or do they change as the person does? Will I have the same viceral recollection of the emotions studied while each painting was made in ten years, or even in three, as I do now? Will I truely remember the experience of Masan and every other turning point in my life? This is I cannot know; this is what I continue to study.