Karin Preller City and Suburban 2010 | Art.co.za | Art in South Africa
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City and Suburban 2010 | Standard Bank Gallery

2010: solo exhibition at the Standard Bank Gallery:"City and Suburban"
Abstract written by Antoinette du Plessis

Through the years, Karin Preller’s conceptual concerns have remained constant, even as her painting has traversed varied terrain – still life, portraiture, landscape and more. They have been honed into a distinctive artistic idiom: random, or not so random photographically frozen moments, manually translated into painted facsimiles which, by the obvious time and concentration expended on their laboured surfaces, uncover embedded layers of nostalgia, amnesia, desire, danger, trauma and loss.

Her images are carefully extracted from the haphazard pictorial archives left to her by time and circumstance: home movies, family albums, photo magazines, all kinds of visual marginalia (invariably and emphatically photographic). These inscribe her family’s presence, remembered and forgotten, into the stream of consciousness of Johannesburg, the city in which she grew up and still lives, and which remains integral to her art.

City and Suburban, the title of this exhibition, is a phrase Preller remembers reading on buses in the streets near her childhood home. Only later did she connect it to the particular section of Johannesburg’s inner city where her father used to work as a bureaucrat in the department of Native Affairs.

Taken from old home movies, these reconstructed images are anything but neutral, despite the deadpan silence of their finely worked surfaces. They are charged with discomfort, disbelief, displacement and distance brought along by the passage of time. They chronicle ordinary lived moments of individuals, paused and rewound; interrupted narratives, lost stories. Rooted in a specific place and time, they inevitably carry a historical burden, but who can tell exactly what that burden is, or where it resides? It is their very ordinariness which makes them extraordinary.

Though Johannesburg is not a quiet city, a sweeping silence emanates from Preller’s images as they precariously but steadfastly skirt sentiment and anecdote. Her brushwork refuses to interpret, explain or judge, leaving it up to viewers to read in the works, or into them, whatever they find or fail to find. Well known for her use of near monochrome, in City and Suburban Preller turns colour into its own fleeting memory, its immutable loss, a mere suggestion of mood and remembrance, asking no questions and offering no answers.


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