Landskapskildering as ver-beeld-ing van die liminale in geselekteerde werke van Pauline Gutter
Venter, Willem Pretorius
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This dissertation presents an investigation into three works by the South African artist Pauline Gutter (b. 1980) that were originally shown in her exhibition Opslag (2008) [this title is almost impossible to translate; it can refer to the sound of a gun, or it can mean to butcher something; it has an association of suddenness]. The works that were selected for scrutiny in this dissertation are Uit die blou van onse hemel [translated as From our blue skies; or Ringing out of our blue heaven – the first words of the erstwhile South African anthem] (2004), Into the landscape I (2007), and Landskap naby Zastron [Landscape close by Zastron] (2006). The choice of works was based on the particular mode of and imaginative re-presentation of the landscape that can be discerned in each of these works – different, yet conceptually quite similar. I argue that Gutter‟s landscape works in the exhibition Opslag (as representative of the thematic concerns of the show as a whole) are indicative of an imaginative re-presentation of a liminal experience (which is informed to a large degree by the artist‟s acute awareness of the threat posed by cruel and rampant attacks on the farming community). This liminal experience, as embodied in the artworks, is in its turn a reflection of the liminal existence as lived and interpreted by the artist‟s perception of her environment and community – speficially, the Boer farming community of South Africa, and even more specificially, in the Free State Province. Those aspects of a liminal experience that can be gleaned from a reading of the selected works Uit die blou van onse hemel, Into the landscape, and Landskap naby Zastron, are powerlessness, instability, the transitory shift of status, disorientation, isolation, marginalisation, and uncertainty. I argue, furthermore, that the imaginative re-presentation of the liminal experience is achieved by means of certain strategies and approaches towards landscape painting that are associated with the sublime. Where the sublime, in the context of the re-presentation of the landscape is often associated with a sense of being overwhelmed, even with awe, I demonstrate that Gutter achieves what Coetzee (1988:49) refers to as a singularly distinct understanding of the sublime with reference to the unique character of the South African landscape. In this sense, specific themes associated with the sublime (portraying things like problems, the sudden and the unexpected, darkness [that connotes uncertainty], danger, fearsomeness, and emptiness [that relates to isolation]) can be related with elements of the liminal. By identifying the themes of sublime representation, the reading of the works demonstrate firstly Gutter‟s unique and distinct application of sublime landscape painting. Secondly, it emerges that the portrayal of the liminal is achieved by means of these strategies towards landscape painting, and thirdly, that the imaginative re-presentation of the liminal is suggestive of a particular dimension of the existence of the contemporary Boer/farming community. Gutter‟s reflection of and on the landscape demonstrate a particularly poignant projection of a theme onto the landscape, and seems to suggest that while the liminal experience is potentially a place of growth and renewal, it can also induce a sense of paralysis as a result of the overwhelming uncertainty experienced by the particular community.
- Humanities