Melvyn Minaar art critic
Opening speech 'Overview' Sasol Art Museum 2012
Individual, Absolute Narratives
The astounding thing about painting is its enduring presence. Given the virtual limitless means - and non-means, in terms of conceptual efforts - with which artists can communicate, the centuries-old medium of painting not only seems to hang in there, but it keeps on reinventing itself as powerful, dynamic force of our time.
This exhibition, an overview with a very individual, autobiographical thrust, is a reflection of one person’s vibrant journey with that dynamic force which can have us viewers so spellbound.
Rachelle Bomberg’s work selected for this noteworthy exhibition is a welcome confirmation of the vigour of painting. Needless to say, this evidence is underpinned by dense, committed talent, and unyielding introspection about her way with art.
In a lecture, simply titled ‘Pictures’, presented during her travels in the USA in the years 1934–1935, Gertrude Stein said: “Anything painted in oil anywhere on a flat surface holds my attention and I can always look at it.”
This is typical, challenging Stein irony at play. She mused on in her characteristic, idealist, and somewhat wacky fashion: “Why does the representation of things that being painted not look at all like the things look to me from which they are painted? Why does such a representation give me the pleasure and hold my attention?”
Of course, what Stein was saying, is that the image and effect of a painting are different to - and much more - than what it superficially represents. All artists, serious in their endeavours - one such as Rachelle Bomberg - can tell you that. But Stein, probably strongly influenced by the then current notions of the psychology of art, was convinced and making a case that painting - the picture presented by painting - needs to be approached for its impact on the senses, for its purity.
Eighty odd years ago, in the cusp of modernism, the art world was starting to understand that the stories a painter tells - illustrates as she deploys the glorious texture and tones of paint on a flat surface - can not be related in any other way.
This is what makes visual art and painting so unique, and so special: These are absolute narratives.
I would invite you tonight to allow both your senses and mind (cerebrally tuned, but also intuitively open) to ‘read’ anew, if you’ve done so before, or ‘read’ with fresh expectancy Rachelle Bomberg’s paintings.
One thing should become very clear to you as you wonder around this fine display, and that is that none of these pictures can easily be classified - in the way that, since the heydays of Gertrude Stein and the naissance of modernism, art history has been divided up into so-called periods or modes or styles.
Perhaps the greatest compliment any artist seeks is recognition of individuality - to stand out - but also to be true and honest in that quest.
Since she started her journey as exhibiting artist in the 1970s, Rachelle Bomberg has pursued all those qualities of intense creativeness. It was, is, as she indicates in the title to this overview exhibition, the ‘Journey of a Woman’.
Her absolute narratives entails wide-ranging references. Wagnerian sweeps take us through colourful expositions of light and shade, of physical and spiritual drama. Stylistic gestures intimate Gustav Klimt’s deep sensuality, Judith Masson’s mysteries, and gorgeous Pre-Raphaelite regal exuberance. Energy underpins every stroke of the stories she suggests. It leaves completion of the tales to our viewer imagination.
Her’s has been a remarkable trip - a journey in which the ups and downs, the uncertainties (which is good in art), but also the inner spiritual and cerebral strengths and explorations define and special creative life. The consequence and testimony surround us here. It is spell-bounding.
Rachelle Bomberg: ‘Journey of a Woman’
Opening May 2, 2012
Sasol Art Museum, Stellenbosch