October 4 – November 10, 2007
The JHG Project space is pleased to present the first Northwest exhibition of sculpture, drawing and prints by South African artist Claudette Schreuders. Based on the “colon” carving tradition used by Africans during the colonial period to depict European settlers, Schreuders wonderful figurative works reflect the ambiguities of ‘African’ identity in the post-apartheid 21st century. Clothing, gesture and nuance become subtle signifiers to investigate racial identity as well as the religious and political complexities of South African culture. In both the two and three dimensional work, the figures resemble folk art with their generalized features and diminutive scale but they convey a very personal story. Her figures are essentially modern deities for modern problems, engaging with issues of foreignness and hostility and the means we use to create space in unfamiliar and alien environments.
In one of the sculpture’s titled Virgin a woman holds her arm across her chest, her gaze is pensive. Across her dress, a rudimentary pattern of Fleur De Lys references the title and adds to the quaintness of the figure’s persona. Against the painted areas, areas of flesh are left exposed to reveal the subtle grain of the Yelutang wood. All of the artist’s figures echo these airs of vulnerability but Schreuders’ constructed figures don’t come off as frail. Like the Virgin¸ with her sandals and her arm across her body, each seems stoic.
In the works on paper, similar character portraits come across. Both the women and men carry the artist’s signature stocky bodies, solid stance and staring eyes and each captures a gravity of exhaustion. But none of these characters have been defeated. Each looks in charge of their own destinies and continues to endure, as the title of the series implies, The Long Day.