Enabling power in young winner’s art

2019 Standard Bank Young Artist winner for Visual Art, Gabrielle Goliath
2019 Standard Bank Young Artist winner for Visual Art, Gabrielle Goliath
Image: Supplied

Steering away from conventional forms of therapy and presenting art as a different kind of encounter allows for a better understanding of the human condition.

This is the approach of the 2019 Standard Bank Young Artist winner for Visual Art, Gabrielle Goliath, who says she sees her work as a way of enabling alternative and more ethically sensitive encounters with lived experiences of gendered, sexualised and racial violence.

“As an artist, I situate my practice within contexts marked by the traces, disparities and as-of-yet unreconciled traumas of colonialism and apartheid, as well as socially entrenched structures of patriarchal power and rape-culture.

“Engaging within this difficult field, I am mindful of the ways in which black, brown, feminine, queer and vulnerable bodies are routinely subjected to further forms of violence, through the ways in which they are represented or mediated,” Goliath said.

Not a newcomer to the National Arts Festival, Goliath first presented a long-term performance project, entitled Elegy, in 2018, which formed part of the main programme.

It called for the remembrance of women and LGBTQIA+ individuals subjected to fatal acts of gendered and sexualised violence.

“Following the performances of Elegy, many people were in tears, and a number found time to speak with me after, sharing in close and intimate ways their experiences of the work.

“This is always a very grounding experience for me, but one that is also deeply encouraging,” Goliath said.

Taking on a subject-centred approach and working in a highly collaborative way, Goliath said she steered away from re-enactments of violence, “which can be so triggering”.

“Instead I turn to performance, to sound – and in my new body of work, to the evocative capacity of song.

“By drawing viewers – or rather participants – into a more personal and involved experience, I see my work as a way of enabling alternative and hopefully more ethically sensitive encounters with lived experiences of gendered, sexualised and racialised violence.”

Goliath said as a child she was inspired by her family while growing up in Kimberley and lauded her mother, Charmaine, for helping her find her way.

She said she came to art by way of fashion.

“Studying fashion design, I found myself drawn to the more progressive work of designers like Hussein Chalayan.

“The garments I was making became increasingly conceptual, and unwearable, and so the shift to art came naturally.”

For Goliath, being named as the Standard Bank Young Artist winner for Visual Arts has been a humbling experience which has given her the opportunity to showcase her work in a different location.

“As the festival’s audience reaches across disciplines – film, theatre, music, literature, the performing arts, visual arts, and so forth – it means a rather unique encounter with a trans-disciplinary audience.

“It presents the opportunity to exhibit in a different part of the country . . . Naturally, I am also deeply humbled by the opportunity, and the recognition of my work that it reflects.”

This Song is for You . . . is open daily from 9am to 5pm at the Monument Gallery.

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