Tigers Don't Cry
"The city and its myths are inextricably linked. Cities are invisible stories and stories are invisible cities." Italo Calvino 2
"To investigate a city is therefore a way of examining the enigmas of the world and our existence". Lea Virgine 3
Tigers Don't Cry presents a body of work that takes its material and images from the city of Johannesburg. Since moving here, I have been intrigued with the sense that everything happening at the same time. On one hand, Johannesburg aspires to become a world-class African city, an important player in the global net of metropolis as it seeks to assert its role as "the country's premier industrial city and centre of finance" 4. At the same time Johannesburg, the site of the many important struggles against apartheid, is living up to the reputation of one of the most dangerous places in the world. To many residents it is a declining place of crime and grime, drug trafficking and prostitution, where excess and poverty exist side by side; where new spatial divisions emerge and social and racial segregation continue. The word goes that 'people' don't stay here to live, but to make money and return to better paths. This is a volatile place, which is imagined in so many different ways. It is continuously writing itself in ways that test our notion of belonging. In Johannesburg, everything (residents, business, trade..) seems to be in constant transit, in continuous relocation. Major regeneration efforts are beginning to restructure, to "re-invent" the inner city. You travel long distances to see each other, to work, to communicate. Identities and languages clash, bring in new stories and values that reflect ancestral myths, fears, hopes and connections to rural areas and other African or European cities; that call up a disarray of images, icons, political heroes, new ways of negotiating the current moment which is often shadowed by the HIV/AIDS epedemic.
As a painter, or someone who is trained in looking, I have always been fascinated Johannesburg's disparate, energetic spaces and the hand-painted signs that you find in the inner city and townships. They add to the city's density and 'personalise' its face. Similar to anonymous writings on the wall, they add something peculiar, an off balance aesthetic and distinct sense of humor and identity. They speak of the city's promises, aspirations, secret messages and complaints, pride, make-shift spaces and fraud realities. And this is where the paintings take their entry, where they begin recording. The paintings don't seek to make a statement. Rather, they reference themes and processes that have intrigued me for some time. They are quiet comfortable with the romantic tradition of painting, with wanting to be a window into the world, distilling sights, movements and silences. And of course, wanting beauty that captures the ambiguities, tensions and deceptive impulses in making an image.