Winner’s exhibition

Brett Adkins

A RESPONSE to what was in all likelihood an unintended but nevertheless offensive approach to women in colonial era art, led Nelson Mandela Bay printmaker Ethna Frankenfeld to create award winning work.

Frankenfeld, who was the winner of the third Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum Biennial Exhibition and Award for 2010, has her solo exhibition opening at the gallery this evening.

Frankenfeld’s work, titled Abandoned, Bound, Corrupted, Silenced – four intaglio prints dealing with the abuse of women in traditional and contemporary society – won her a solo exhibition.

“This is really exposing your soul,” Frankenfeld said yesterday, as she was busy putting the finishing touches to the exhibit.

“But it’s also great fun and a feeling of great excitement.”

The exhibition takes the form of a retrospective, looking back to the early 1970s – a body of work which she has come to realise represents recurring themes in her career.

She explained that her theme of women abuse was a response to what she deemed deeply offensive – but probably unintended – treatment of black women subjects in the era of South African art history’s “colonial gaze”.

Having had health issues, Frankenfeld added: “It’s also a look at the future with a certain degree of trepidation, but also a look at the celebrations of the past.”

NMMU School of Music, Art and Design director Mary Duker says in a catalogue essay on the printmaker’s work: “Frankenfeld herself acknowledges her own interest in uneasy juxtapositions, in disjoints, in contradictions. Her images speak of sensuous enjoyment, of sexual adventure, of pride and lust; of taboos and dangerous encounters. In her more recent works there is a growing sense of foreboding, an awareness of life and death and of loss.”

Duker said most artists dealt with issues of autobiography and identity, “but not all of them seem willing to apply such a self-scrutinising gaze as they embrace, interrogate, be-mourn their own lives, and the lives of those closest to them in their work”.

The Biennial Exhibition and Award is designed to promote artistic excellence in the Eastern Cape and attracted artists from a diversity of competencies and backgrounds. Nineteen artists were selected to participate in the final exhibition and from these, eight were short-listed as finalists.

Duker will open the exhibition in the Lorimer Hall at the art museum at 5.30pm today.

The museum’s fourth Biennial Exhibition and Award will also be launched this evening.

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