JOAN MACKENZIE (The Late) 

 

In the 1990’s, Joan Mackenzie unearthed a 1950’s, railway worker’s, “free” ticket, coupled with a “white”, political pamphlet, that the worker had penciled over with a sum that he just could not add up.

These three elements encapsulated a time in a land, where “culturally conditioned” people possessed a mindset that would never “add up”.

For the artist, finding that railway ticket initiated a chiasm*, through a series of metaphorical journeys, that encompassed crossing the “fenced” boundaries of time and memory, along with textually traversing and depicting the physical panoramas of a “fenced”, colonised land; excavation of that land would reveal, not only irresistible, pyroclastic forces at work on the strata, but historical evidence of equally overwhelming political forces on the surface, inciting the pogroms and removals of “un(en)titlement”. *Chiasm: intersections of personal memory, myth and historical fact.

 

" Surveying my immediate environment, Fish Hoek Valley, with its beach at one end and Peers Cave set midway between the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, I focussed in on the prehistoric tool as a metaphor for going through the layers of searching history (the brain and book as tool), surveying the environment (mapping and the camera), excavating the land (meaning) - in order to talk about land issues and culture. This leads to the impact that propaganda has when it is used as a tool, to subjugate and divide people, playing on their fears and emotions. However, modern technology, as a tool empowers people by providing access to information and eroding the very fabric of time.

Concepts underlying my work are interwoven. I have looked at the historical context of the origins of the panorama as a mass medium, specifically in relation to the contentious issue of ownership of land. A parallel can be drawn between the history of the panorama and colonialism, specifically with regard to the contentious issue of the land. Issues, with regard to ownership of land, stem from the very first "fences" and "hedges" that Van Riebeeck erected, the various Occupations of the Cape, through to the 1913 Land Act and more recent Forced Removals - the consequences of which are still, today, being negotiated through the Land Claims Court. GC Spivak talks about the tremendous complexity of postcolonial space and refers to 'retrospective hallucinations'.

My work is a chiasm - intersections of personal memory, myth and historical fact. It is panoramic, not in the sense of an all-encompassing "view", but in a fragmented sense, as a metaphor for our late 20th-century condition, where our multicultural world can only be understood in fragments. To achieve this, I went through a process of collecting various images and stories from local archives, myths and my environment. I have attempted to fuse these fragments, much like molten lava pouring over the earth's surface. The notion of panorama can also be used to negotiate the politics of the late 20th-century discourse, in particular, the disintegration of a binding view and our present understanding of a place as fragmented and discontinuous. Contemporary concerns with "place" today stem from debates around issues of centrality, periphery and difference.

Working this way means that the destructive and regenerative forces of nature can become a tool to access the wilder side of our mind -  the fantastical or fanciful. TS Eliot, in "Dark Embryo", speaks of the brain (as being) female to the soul. His recurrent concern is with a negative state of mind - "negative capability" or "inspiration'. Text plays an important part in my work. Umberto Eco talks about painting being a complex text, not a sign - in other words, his "fuzzy signs". Derrida refers to the value of crossed - out words.

As can be seen, my work started with engraving words onto fragments of slate, drawing on medical gauze dressings and experimenting with collograph prints.

I have made a series of 12 collograph and two kallitype prints. I have used words, created from sandpaper, for embossing, words made from wire and various other combinations of materials on the blocks. The text is engraved into lead wire strips which have been embedded in the frames. The collograph process seemed to be particularly relevant to my theme of impressions on the land" .- Joan Mackenzie (1999) 

AVAILABLE WORK
JOAN MACKENZIE "UN (EN) TITLED" - A RETROSPECTIVE.
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Joan Mackenzie

Vision of  The Valley.

Mixed Media 

58cm x 42.2cms

R8500

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Joan Mackenzie

Mis Deed

Mixed Media 

58cm x 42.2cms

R8500

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Joan Mackenzie

Bound Man I

Mixed Media 

45.5cm x 35.5cms

R8500

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Joan Mackenzie

Bound Man II

Mixed Media 

45.5 X 35.5cms

R8500

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Joan Mackenzie

Chiasm

Mixed Media 

45.5 X 35.5cms

R8500