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&Pooof! - By Wilma Cruise

Wilma Cruise is an independent artist and writer. She has had thirteen solo exhibitions, curated others and completed a number of public works including the National Monument to the Women of South Africa and the Memorial to the Enslaved in Cape Town (The latter in collaboration with Gavin Younge).


The title of Lijnes latest exhibition &Pooof! provides an apt metaphor for our electronic age. Our experience of the world is mediated by flickering images on television, computer or cell phone screens. The life span of an image is measured by the three-second sound byte, the gauge used by television producers to define the attention span of the average viewer. Things come and go with frenetic rapidity. Now it is here and then it is gone, as if with the wave of a magician’s wand or an advertising executive’s decision. We use and discard images, objects and substances with barely a thought for their after life. Our experience of the things of the world is thus fleeting and inconsequential. The universalising impulse of consumerism, defined by the tendency to brand and to market the same objects and ideas worldwide, further serves to flatten our experiences into packaged similitudes. From Beijing to Maputo our expectations are the same. We are safe in this world as long as there is a MacDonald’s on the corner. These ideas underpin Lijnes' taut 2010 exhibition.

It has been ten years since Lijnes’ last exhibition. But the ideas in &Pooof! were foretold in 2000 when in the exhibition Cross cut – Criss cross (with Gwen Miller) she used the humble plastic bag as her medium for embroidery. That such a throwaway object as a plastic bag could be transformed into a work of exquisite embroidery is part of the contradiction that Lijnes chose to explore between the meaning of material and the power of the image. Three beaded bags in &Pooof!, Displaced (2009), Despatched (2009) and the other of the same (2009), (re) present in 2010 her ideas about the transformation of material through disruption of expectation.

One might think that ten years is a long time to prepare for the next exhibition and in the last two years Lijnes has been consumed, one might even say obsessed, with the construction of the elements that make up &Pooof! But time and labour are the essence of her work and are integral to the point that she wishes to make. The two floor installations that form the core of the exhibition, Woman and Gum (2008 – 2010) and Start Up (2009 – 2010) are constructed from over a thousand slipcast clay bottles that replicate the simplest of household objects, a plastic “Jik” bottle.

Jik household bleach is such an everyday substance and its bottle so (apparently) ordinary it barely rises above our consciousness. Bleach is used to erase stains, a process that loops back in meaning to the central core of Lijnes’ thesis encapsulated in her title. See here the blot is and now “Poof” it is gone. In Lijnes’ lexicon this symbolizes the temporality of our experiences. The bottle once emptied of its contents, its task complete, is discarded without thought, forgotten and thrown away almost in the instant of use (i). That bleach, used in the most commonplace of household tasks, the laundry, is an activity associated almost exclusively with women’s work, is not co-incidental to the point. Certain types of work and objects lie low in the hierarchy of importance.

Lijnes has succeeded in bringing the discarded back to the level of awareness. Patiently, methodically and precisely she has replicated the plastic container as a fine porcelain bottle. Porcelain liquid clay is poured into the five part moulds. Once dried the objects are extracted, whittled and then smoothed to a perfect finish. Other than a subtle change in tone from light greys, dark greys, gun metal grey, to black, each bottle is formally identical to the one before and foretells the one that is to follow. The process of casting is slow and labourious in contradistinction to the manufacture of its plastic counterpart. As the porcelain bottles come off Lijnes’ unhurried assembly line they are lined up and their surfaces are painted with oxides and pigments in simulacrums of common branding logos, the kind that have currency in the universal world and which mark us as a globalised society. The icons range from Starbucks and Batman to the Communist Party insignia. They are painted in a limited palette of grays, blacks and yellow. Bled of their original colours they are yet identifiable.

In the floor installation Woman and Gum, 837 high-fired porcelain bottles are laid out in predetermined positions to reveal a portrait of a woman. The portrait can only be perceived as a projection or from above and from a distance. Each part of the image is borne on one bottle, as if it were a single pixel (or a single pore). Lijnes herself at the time of writing is yet to see the work complete. It will only be disclosed in the gallery when once laid out in its designated space, at which stage a camera will project the image onto the wall. Lijnes threatens to lay the work on the paving outside her house and by leaning out of a second floor window she will be able to see the portrait for the first time. The risk is not so much in her precarious position of hanging out the window with camera in hand, (which she never did) but the fact that she is prepared to take the artistic decision to exhibit a work whose face is yet to be literally revealed.

In a similar fashion the arrangement of the 255 black and white bottles in Start Up (2009) depicts the design of the digital ‘start-up’ icon. The icon of the start-up button is an ideograph that has collective currency. In our electronic age it functions as a universal cipher, one that provides a simulacrum of connectedness in an alienating world. The image enlarged on the pixilated bottles draws attention to this small presence in our daily world – one that like the Jik bottle is part of us yet is not. It requires only the merest hint of pressure to activate, an act that Lijnes claims emphasizes the “non-physicality” of technology which she compares to the labour intensive nature of the floor installation. Drawn down to a personal level, Lijnes claims that this work symbolizes her re-entry into the world of exhibiting - a re booting as it were - as well as referencing the daily start up demanded by the task she had set herself. As in Woman and Gum the black bottles are painted with a variety of universally recognized logos: the Playboy Bunny, Michelin Man and Colonel Saunders amongst others.

Delft Figures, Male and Female (2009) consists of a pair of enlarged porcelain figurines painted with cobalt oxide. The sculptures are laid prone on a bed of salt in Perspex boxes. By extension the work refers to the earthy, rural kind of men and women who came to the Cape during the Dutch colonial period. The blue on white porcelain references the Chinoiserie of that time. Significantly the shift in scale from the small figurines normally associated with Delftware and these enlarged figures challenges our perception of the objecthood of things (ii) . Their brut presence and materiality occupy a space that challenges our zone of comfort creating dissonance between expectation and perception.

This sensation of the uncanny is expanded to a greater degree on the porcelain sculpture The Baby (2009 – 2010), which is an enlarged replication of an anatomically correct plastic doll of the kind used by therapists and medical practitioners as an educational tool. Giganticised, the form of the baby is a grotesque depiction of the real evoking a revulsion and horrible fascination. Cognitive dissonance is enhanced by a closer look at the decorative patterning on the surface of the white body. A butterfly has settled on the baby’s face as if to consume her. The child appears startled by the intrusion. On her body the patterning shows itself as a set of intertwining logos as if she too were branded. Central to the pattern is the original Starbucks' logo depicting a twin-tailed mermaid also known as a 'melusine', an image derived from a 15thC Norse woodcut. In 1992 the exposed nipples and navel were considered too risqué so the siren was re-designed (information from the artist). Lijnes says, “I wanted to comment on the impact of consumer culture and to see what happens when I put logos on a baby which is not a baby which is a plastic replica of a baby,” and, she might have added, a clay replica of a plastic replica.

Lijnes ideas are not didactic. In her curiosity she is driven to explore the effect of consumer culture on our experience of the world. She has drawn attention to the things that we use usually only subliminally aware of their significance. She has brought them to our attention and given us pause to wonder just what effect they really do have on our experiences of being in the world. In this respect she acts as a guide, one who points the way in new directions. She leaves us without answers but a greater understanding of the questions we need to ask.
i. Plastic bags take from 500 - 1000 years to decompose, unless oxo-biodegradable. And they make for 25% of all landfill.

ii. The ‘model’ for the male and female forms was the tiny plastic “Preisser" figures used for architectural models.


Karin Lijnes, who holds a Master’s degree in Fine Art from UNISA and who has exhibited extensively in Pretoria, Johannesburg and abroad, in the USA and Germany, is showing mixed media works concentrating on thread, cloth, text and household objects such as irons and pc boards. These works can be ‘read’ in a variety of ways, 2-D, 3-D and in book form. The works themselves explore the baggage wrapped around ‘women’s work’ and domestic craft practices. Women are taken to be the cleaners of the ‘mess’, healers, nurturers, to make things for the love of it, to have endless patience. In traditional craft practices, such as embroidery, there are collaborations and connections taking place between self, artefact and environment. It is these layers that make up Lijne’s work, further informed by her own experiences which makes it a personal journalism or journey. The works are textual documents inscribed with images of changing domestic boundaries, of loaded material culture, of finding connections between the ever fluctuating discarded fragments of life, and the connectedness found, for example, in making a detailed embroidered image by hand, with a single strand of thread over two weeks. Lijnes says of her work: ” I see the works as visual texts, resonating with ideas and practices of recycling, collaboration, time/energy, synchronicity, layering of meaning and the idea that there is no one single way of reading or defining what we know.

Karin Lijnes, born in Fish Hoek, Cape Town, currently lives and works in Pretoria. She is the recipient of several awards, including the New Signatures Merit Award in 1992, the Robin Aldwinckle Bursary at UNISA in 1994 and the Centre for Science and Development Scholarship in 1995. Her exhibitions include several New Signatures exhibitions in Pretoria; two exhibitions at UNISA entitled Artists from the Greater Pretoria Region; a Momentum exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum in 1995; a travelling Daimler Benz exhibition in Germany entitled “Women’s Voice” in 1998 in Stuttgart, Hamburg, Cologne and Munich; her Masters degree exhibition, Reweaving Traditions which involved a collaboration with embroiderers and artists in 1998; an exhibition at Di Graham’s Eco-Shrine in Hogsback in 1999; and a travelling Manuscript exhibition at Carfax in Johannesburg in 2000. In 1999 Lijnes co-founded the Cloth Workers’ Coalition, an organization committed to research of cloth works in Southern Africa. An exhibition of art works by cloth workers is planned for June/July 2000 at the African Window Gallery in Pretoria. Her works are represented in the art collections of SASOL, UNISA and Mary Slack.

Godfrey Setti, in the Artsstrip, born in Kitwe , Zambia, in 1958, is currently completing his Masters degree in Fine Art at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. In addition, he has a BA Honours in Art from Reading University in the UK (1988-1991), an Art Teachers Diploma from Evelyn Hone College in Lusaka (1984 -86) and a Primary Teachers Certificate from Kitwe Teachers College (1978-1980). He received various scholarships and grants for his art studies and has undertaken numerous travel/study trips in the UK, France, Netherlands, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi and South Africa. He has worked as a painter, a primary school teacher, an art teacher, and a senior lecturer in Art and Art History at Evelyn Hone College.

In the early 1990s he served as the director of Godsett Arts Limited in Lusaka and as chairman of the Mbile International Artists, as well as on various other committees. In addition, he participated in several art workshops in the 1990s in Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and the UK. Setti has been exhibiting since the early 1980s mostly in Lusaka, but also in the UK, New York, Botswana, Finland, Zimbabwe and South Africa. He held his first solo exhibition in 1988 in Zambia. This exhibition at AVA will be his first solo show in Cape Town. His work is represented in many public and private art collections in Lusaka and abroad.

Setti says of his art: “Art is a developing phenomenon. I am continually innovating and growing with my art through figurative impressionism and, more recently, through abstraction, all of which I enjoy and believe will develop into something new.” In his work the power of colour, contrast and dynamism are vital. He says: ” I am currently favouring reds, blacks, purples and ochre yellows in my work.” Of his attempt to capture the essence of typical contemporary African life in his art, he comments: “African villages and towns have an expressive life beat which is unique the world over. I hope to breathe that essence into my paintings. Art is rib of my body.”

Press release AVA 8th May - 27th May 2000

Press Release

The works themselves explore the baggage wrapped around "women's work" and domestic craft practises. Women are taken to be the cleaners of the "mess", healers, nurturers, to make things for the love of it, to have endless patience. Collaborations and connections take place in traditional craft practises, between self, artefact and environment. It is these layers that make up Lijnes's work, informed by her own experiences which make it a personal journey.

She says of her work: "I see the work as visual texts, resonating with ideas and ways of recycling, collaborating, synchronicity and the idea that there is no one way of reading or defining what we know."

Press release AVA May 2000

Cross Cut - Criss Cross at the Millenium Gallery, Pretoria 2000

Notably these artists began as painters. They used oil on canvas. But Cross-cut Criss-cross there is little use of paint and canvas in a traiditonal way. Instead there is resin, thread, cloth found objects, wax. There is stitching and embroidery.

Sewing is an areas colonised by women. Stitching is a creative act - often conducted in the company of other women. Although Karin and Gwen do not associate with each other in the actual act of sewing, their ideas are intertwined and connected by thread of similar concerns - feminism, an environmental awareness and a need to excavate other verities than the dominant ones, those apparent on the surface of things - the metanarratives of power.

In an inversion of traditional values karin has chosen to spend slow hours with the needle embroidering onto plastic bags of the supermarket throw away kind. She uses gorgeous coloured thread with tiny stitches and loving detail she embroiders onto these objects of valuelessness. The plastic bag has an instantaneous usefulness as varrier. This is matched by its equally instant dispensibility. From the supermarket to the kitchen it has a useful life of not more than an hour or so. this stand in contrast to the two weeks of stitching a single image. The slow act of creation with the needle and thread speaks of an age when time was not so compressed. Karin offers a trenchant comment (some would say perversely so) on the environmental issue of wastage.

In a similar way Gwen is concerned with environmental issues. She has been called an "ecofeminist" although she balks a little at the label - it smacks of categoristion - of being too easily bored. Neither of these artists is willing to accept labelling - not for themselves nor for any of their ideas.

Gwen is concerned with humanity's loss of connectedness with the earth. In her large "Earth's skin" she explores the idea of harrowing - of penetrating the earth's surface with the steel of powerful machinery.

Harrowing/ploughing is about the feminine receiving the masculine - it is the passive and the soft of being penetrated by the hard and the unresisting. But her metaphor warns of the too easy protest stance. Hers is not a simplistic position of a radical style feminist or a "new Ageist" disciple. The act of harrowing or penetration of crosscutting, is also an act of impregnation - of creation - recreation. Cutting into the act of regeneration. Gwen's connection is with the romantic tradition of the sublime. The awe and terror with which one regards nature and the world. as she says, in our age of cynicism, achieving the state of awesomeness and terror is well neigh impossible. Yet for Gwen the significance lies in the attempt. Reconnectedness with the earth is where salvation lies.

"Criss-cross" refers to the medieval concept of the alphabet. Using this connection in a major work, Gwen has explored the possibilities of connectedness in a private alphabet.

The wall mounted books reveal only glimpses of its content. Most pages are not visible having been sealed with wax. Not being seen does not necessarily deny the existence of words. Not being seen does not deny their being. That is the nature of things to lie beneath and below waiting for the knowledge of revealtion the cross cut can bring to the criss cross.

In a similar way to gwen, karin has sealed texts so scrutiny of the contents is denied. But the books are chosen to close, unlike Gwen's are not her own. The secrets within cannot be held warmly to her chest in a self knowledge of possession. Instead Karin has shut out the voices she no longer wants to hear. In her series of books, works such as Grey's Anatomy, Mineral of the World are transformed. They cease to be books, conveyors of information. They are bound, sealed, waxed, burned and violated. They cannot be read. They are no longer available as sources of information.

Karin is resisting, in fact denying the metanarrative implied by major texts of this nature. When she says these books do not speak for her or to her, she is also saying they do not sepak for the myriad "other" voices. She is saying that there are other verities that have equal value, that too have to be heard. Karin's art speaks for and about the other. In a most poignant work she has engraved an image of her grandmother onto the surface of an old domestic iron.

This engraving is as detailed and as loving done as on a conventional plate. Yet the print made by the iron looks like a scorch mark. Here too are layers of meaning. the image of her grandmother was taken from a photograph of the hunter/grandmother, complete with gunbearers and tells of a woman of considerable will and courage - qualities reflected in her granddaughter. Hunting in Africa early in the twentieth century is about colonialism, power and exploitation of the earth and animals. But this is not a man in the metaphorical rape of Africa, but a woman - albeit in a masculine role. The fact that Karin engages with these contradictions should warn one of too easy a reading of her works, like that of her colleague Gwen. The fact that the image of dominance and power is then captured on the surface of the domestic iron, which is itself a symbol of extreme subservience adds to the depth of I-rony (sic).

Wax is a substance used by both artists. Whether it is used to aggressively seal and silence the books of grand narrative in the work of karin or to heal and protect as in the work of Gwen, it is a material invested with meaning.

Cross-cut Criss-cross is about the connectedness of things. It is about weaving over- under - through and above. It is about threading, joining and making connections. It is also essentially about women's experience, womens' work and women's realities. It is about cutting to the quick of things.

Wilma Cruise
Millenium Gallery
October 23 2000

MAFA exhibition:1998

The work of master's student karin Lijnes is an affirmation of a feminine voice. Lijnes' work is a mostly organic assemblage of embroidery, buttons, technical equipment, computer hardware, tablets, fabric flowers. All mixed and put together to form an unholy alliance of different spheres.

Lijnes admists she is inspired by Mapula embroideries and specifically by those that deal with women's issues. In fact, special embroideries were made by the Mapula for incorporation in Lijnes' work. In her work Lijnes attempts to give form to a female conscious world without creating ab essentialistic cluster of feminine identity. She is however unravelling a sense of identity, wherein the concepts of sameness and difference feature strongly. It is clear that Lijnes' ideas about the feminine is influenced by the French feminist Luce Irigaray who deals specifically with the theme of sameness and difference. Kijnes' work titled "Playing in the fields of the speculum" also refers to Irigaray's well known work "The Speculum of the other woman" (1985).

However, Lijnes' work brings another female theorist's work to mind who is perhaps not so well known in the south african context - cyber feminist Sadie Plant. In a recent text titled "The Future looms. Weaving women and Cybernetics (1995), Plant makes an extrordinary ink between the matrix of the computer and the weaving loom. "The computer emerges out of the history of weaving, the process so often said to be the quitessence of women's work. The loom is the vangaurd site of software development".

The fact that Lijnes includes in her assemblages, among other things, mother boards, disks and stiffies combined with embroidery pieces, brings Plant's vision of linking weaving and digital technology to mind. Lijnes succeeds in re-weaving different traditions, not only different cultures but also she inter-weaves the feminine and technological spheres.

"Giving form to a feminine world" - Amanda du Preez