The absence of a muse can be even more inspirational than its presence.
– Alagraphy –
I have been very aware of what absence is lately as the recent loss of my whippet has raised my awareness to the lived experience thereof. It has also stirred memories as to the unique space it inhabits in space and time; how it has separated trajectories of memory both near and far, how weighted and dense living has been for a while, and yet how the winds of passing time has carried me forward to where I am birthing my memories through my art making.
A truly phenomenal South African artist who has worked with the concept of absence in a remarkable way is Lyndi Sales. I first came across her work in her 2006 show at Bell Roberts Gallery entitled 1 in 11 000 000 Chance. This body of work explored her deep sense of loss and absence of her own father that died during the infamous Helderberg plane crash. According to Sales it was working through her loss that streamlined her work towards what it is today, but for many years there appeared to be a tangible link between what ‘was cut away as symbolic of negative space and hence absence which was clearly my expression of loss at the time.’
In a published interview in the The Lake Rachel Kelly explores Sales thoughts around her October show No Place at whatiftheworld. Here, Sales expresses how she sees things differently now by equating absence – or nothingness – to dark energy and our inability to perceive it:
Right now negative space no longer equates absence. It seems that the more we discover through science the more we realize that “nothingness” or negative space does not exist. Nothingness is merely that which we can’t quite comprehend and so we can’t see it’
Keeping this in mind whilst being immersed in the very recent exhibition ELEGY which showed at Goodman Gallery (Cape Town), it is difficult to imagine that any words of insight could soothe the loss of 19-year-old Ipeleng Christine Moholane.
Ipeleng was found raped and murdered on 25th of May 2015, and ELEGY is enacted in commemoration of Ipeleng by the artist Gabrielle Goliath. The gallery space – set up as an installation – mainly includes a looped video of a performance as well as the small stand on which the performances take place. The awareness of absence is heightened by the darkened and bare environment.
However, as soon as the performance video plays the ‘sung cries’ of the three female singers, an incredible presence of who Ipeleng (and many other victims of violence) may have been is felt. Elegy is certainly no negative space, but rather one where absence is replaced by presence not seen.
It is commendable that Goliath has offered the due respect and memory of the absence and presence of Ipeleng to her grieving parents. It has been a long time since I have experienced an artist such as Goliath who appears not to be driven by ego. Elegy was not about showcasing her own talent, but allowing for the absence of a loved one to be honoured and felt. Truly inspirational.
Thank you Goodman Gallery.