In an anxious era, when so much seems awry, we find ourselves grappling to remain optimistic. Tired from Smiling, the title of this exhibition, quotes the thoughts of the world-weary heroine in Joan Didion’s “Play it as it Lays”. The 1970s novel deals with the ennui of contemporary society, and a woman who kills time and purpose by aimlessly driving the freeways of Los Angeles.
In the foreword to Gottgens’ second publication: Kate Gottgens // Paintings 2015 – 2017, released in conjunction with Tired from Smiling, Sean O’Toole describes the artist as “a kind of flâneur” –traipsing the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town in search of imagery. This activity later led to the comfort of Google Street View that’s stitched panoramic ready-made could be captured through a “screen-grab” as reference material.
According to Gottgens “These scenes needed to be populated and the body of images then moved from exterior to interior scenes”. Suburban malaise, economic stasis, and an impending sense of dread are some of the themes on display in this new body of work. So too is irony, humour and a luminous sense of the marvellous.
It is because of Gottgens’s uncanny ability to deliver the extraordinary, the sublime within the prosaic, that her paintings are never statements of life but fragile incarnations galvanised to trigger responses resistant to finality. Suspended states, charged plateaus of feeling, Gottgens’s paintings are the startlingly familiar yet strange capture of what Deleuze terms an ‘indefinite life’. Her paintings conjure ‘between-times, between moments’ that offer ‘the immensity of an empty time where one sees the event yet to come and already happened, in the absolute of an immediate consciousness.
(Ashraf Jamal, 2017)