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Indepth Arts News:

"Crosstalk: Glass Art by Elizabeth Swinburne, Ellen Urselmann, Elmarie Costandius, Helena Kagebrand, Katrin Maurer, Lisa Gherhardi, Ryoko Sato"
2006-02-16 until 2006-03-11
US Art Gallery
Stellenbosch, ML, ZA South Africa

The work of seven artists from seven countries will be exhibited at the University of Stellenbosch Art Gallery from 16 February until 11 March 2006. The artists come from South Africa, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Sweden, Austria and Japan/Kenya. However, they are linked through a shared experience; that of all having, at one time or another, been students of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam. Glass in South Africa has usually been produced within in a craft or industrial environment. The work of the seven artists in 'Crosstalk', whilst routed in a strong technical craft tradition, can be placed more firmly within the sphere of the contemporary fine arts and can be said to have a stronger emphasis on the conceptual potential of the material rather than its craft.

The work of English born Lisa Gherardi radiates vitality. In her works she strips away the boundaries between her prominent themes of life and death and joins them in a harmonious way. Using beauty, sadness, humour and a wonderful sense of irony she combines pieces of the human body and imbues them with a new, challenging meaning.

Helena Kagebrand (Sweden) calls her work “Metaphors for a better life”. In her experimental way of working she creates fine and fragile instruments referring to the human body as well as to medical instruments. Her instruments explore the often dubious relationship of humans and technology, and also the relationship between beauty and strangeness. Sometimes delicate drawings, giving the impression of venous networks or growing plants, are applied to extend the three-dimensional object and its science fiction-like healing spirit.

Katrin Maurer comes from Salzburg in Austria, and believes that the vehicle for her travels is language. While combining glass with poetry she creates connections between elements. She works on the premise that networks are characteristic (symbols) for living systems, in a biological, social and individual sense. Her image-language is a medium for communication. It always concerns a fundamental assurance of ones own and others identity.

Ryoko Sato (Kenyan born Japanese artist) has been working with the theme of “the unfamiliar of the familiar” for several years. Her pieces appear to be both cute and grotesque at the same time. In everyday life there are matters which we avoid mentioning or even looking at because we feel them to be too grotesque. This is where Sato´s interest lies. Through her work she asks “What do we, adults, find grotesque or unfamiliar in some objects, and why?” Her use of strong, bright colours emphasises the contradictions in her work and could also be a reflection of her upbringing in Kenya.

The British artist Elizabeth Swinburne explores ideas of 'the moment of touch'. At the simplest level merely the fact of soft distortion and deformation - what happens when a form is pushed? But then beyond this there is the hint of bodies - the curves of flesh, the translucency of skin, a sensuality and voluptuousness is created in glass to heighten the awareness of the fragility of both the physical and metaphoric moment when we meet and touch.

Memories weave their threads through the works of Ellen Urselmann (the Netherlands). By combining different materials, such as felt, glass-slides, wood and fur, she emphasises the emotional effect of those specific materials and objects. She carefully collects and chooses items, and then joins them together to create 'conversations'. In this way she invites the viewer to remember through their own personal recollections.

In her installation: `Speech Bubbles´, the South African artist, Elmarie Costandius explores her own struggle with communication. She literally wants to make herself clear, to look through layers, and to reflect. With her speech bubbles she also wants to invite others to recognise the language-struggle of their own situation, to understand one’s personal struggle as a collective one. By using the fundamental properties of glass its fragility, its transparency, its ephemeral nature she questions both the nature of language and its fallibility.

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