Liminal Geographies, while exploring the somewhat complex anthropological concept of the liminal, essentially tracks a very relatable and human process: that of coming to terms with the unknowable and the uncertain. It considers how we grapple with places and spaces which are intangible, which exist only in conjecture, memory, or fantasy; how we map and coordinate “in between” states of change and fluctuation. Situating these processes in relation to contemporary artistic practice, Liminal Geographies presents a dynamic collection of works which express and engage the liminal in varying uses of symbolism, media and thematic conversations.
The symbol of water, and particularly the ocean, is a central and recurring motif throughout the exhibition. Swain Hoogervorst’s impasto oils communicate the sublimity and vastness of the ocean, the high horizon line of his Seascape placing us firmly in the depths, in the midst of the swelling waves. Alexia Vogel’s Arctica similarly surrounds the viewer in unknowable waters, with floating icebergs depicted in deep night hues conjuring considerations of the interplay of surface and depth. Vanessa Cowling’s photographs of beaches on the coast of Spain present the ocean in a starkly different way – as a site of repose, calm and leisure. But these images, still and composed as they appear to be, were in fact taken through the window of a moving train. Cowling thus subtly contrasts stasis and movement, stillness and transition, a balance which lies at the heart of both the concept of the liminal and the reality of the ocean itself.
Jean Brundrit’s Making the Wave series interacts with the ocean using a unique digital process – another theme which recurs throughout the show. Here Brundrit has used 3D mapping technology to capture the shape and movement of waves. The result is a series of complex topographies which resemble canyons, desert dunes or cliff faces – this assimilation of the opposing ideas of water and land visually enacts the shifting between fixed states that is one of the definitions of liminality. Chad Rossouw also makes use of 3D technology in a series of works in which the artist has digitally recreated a selection of artefacts from the shipwreck of the CSS Alabama. The digital as a liminal medium is likewise present in Gitte Möller’s Hokusai as a Girl, which offers a tongue in cheek response to Hokusai’s iconic woodblock print The Great Wave off Kanagawa (1830 -1832).
Using Photoshop and Microsoft Paint to alter an original oil painting, Möller’s use of mixed media is an example of an expression of the liminal through materiality and process, which is another core consideration of the show. Dominique Edwards’ astoundingly detailed pen drawing represents hours of meditative, repetitive mark making. The final image is thus both a temporal and physical record, a lineated geography of the artistic process. Ideas of process and time are also essential to Katherine Bull’s data capture_LOST_Season 5 (17), part of a 2011 exhibition of works in which the artist watched all six seasons of the ABC television series LOST and created a unique watercolour painting during each of the one hundred and twenty episodes. “To create a recognizable picture from watching the television does not interest me as much as exploring through the process of analogue, recording the threshold of the visible and invisible in perception,” explains Bull, “…I am interested in seeing how time-based media reflects in two dimensional media.”
Bull’s engagement with the abstract as a visual analogue for liminal spaces and states is echoed in several other abstract and abstracted pieces on show, including those by Alastair Whitton, Hanien Conradie, Chloë Reid, MJ Lourens and Sarah Biggs. Biggs’ work in particular goes beyond the abstract and takes on an element of the surreal, calling to mind the worlds of dream with her intense hues and hallucinatory forms.
Despite the conceptual threads which unite the works on show, the liminal is ultimately something which must be felt as much as understood. As such the viewer is encouraged to engage intuitively with this collection of works, perhaps achieving a similar meditative state to the one in which so many of the featured works were generated.