Hedwig Barry (b.1969, Bloemfontein) is an artist working at the intersection of the visual arts, arts education and research. Her drawings, paintings and sculptures are grounded in a rich conceptual terrain that articulates a feminist politics of love and desire in artistic practice, and in society at large. Probing the metaphor of “grounding”, and of “groundlessness”, Barry’s work explores the grounds we walk on and live in. She asks how we teach and learn, how and whom we include, and what we make along the way. A long career as an educator, facilitator, producer and collaborator, across artistic disciplines, has led her to a dedicated studio practice embedded in the processes of drawing, painting, sculpting and writing.
In 2020 Barry graduated cum laude from the MA Fine Arts programme at the Wits School of Arts in Johannesburg, with a project titled “Pedagogies, Desires and Practices, the perplexing spaces of teaching and learning”.
Also in 2020, through a collaboration between Wits and BMW, the artist was commissioned by BMW to create two large-scale outdoor interventions for the BMW campus in Midrand, South Africa. Both art commissions - the “Crumple” and “Love Letter for Lost Travellers” were completed in early 2021.
These and other current works are about the interface of the personal and the public, the emotional and the intellectual, and the bodies, grounds, materials, desires and gestures which give meaning to these relationships. Barry explores these interfaces through her feminist aesthetic of repair.
Crumple (Jeanette Schoon) (2021) is the second of Hedwig Barry's monumental outdoor "crumple" sculptures, an emergent series of large-scale sculptures conceived for outdoor environments. Made out of crumpled and welded aluminium sheets, these works are meticulously painted using automotive spray paint.
The first work in the series, simply titled Crumple (2020), was commissioned for the BMW South Africa Headquarters in Midrand, where it is permanently installed.
Crumple (Jeanette Schoon) is currently installed at the corner of Keyes and Jellicoe Avenues, Rosebank, Johannesburg.
The work brings to mind a crumpled piece of paper and the so-called "crumple zones" of cars, designed to buckle in order to minimise the impact endured by passengers in the case of an accident.
This sculpture speaks of care and retrieval, violence and protection, just as it offers the viewer an opportunity to relish its colours and surfaces and to be carried away in a sensory experience. Painted as much as it is sculpted, the work pushes the limits of these media and tells us that something doesn't need to be flat and hang on a wall to be a painting, nor monochromatic in patina to be a sculpture.
Crumple (Jeanette Schoon) is also an homage to the late anti-apartheid activist Jeanette Schoon, who, together with her six-year-old daughter Katryn, was killed by a parcel bomb while living in exile in Angola in 1984. Sent by Craig Williamson, a supposed family friend, the letter had been addressed to her husband, Marius Schoon, but Jeanette opened it while busy in her kitchen. Her death was symbolic of the incursion of the struggle into all spheres of life, including "women's spaces": the home, the kitchen.
The proportions of the sculpture suggest both an explosion and an exuberant resurrection. It recalls an act of terrible violence, but also offers hope for repair and care. It's a feminist symbol of hope and power in violent times.
The piece is also rich in allusions to the work of other artists. The colour treatment brings to mind the painting installations of German artist Katharina Grosse, and the material, crumpled aluminium sheets, recalls John Chamberlain's sculptures made of crushed car bodies. Closer to home, residents of Johannesburg will recognise in the work an echo of William Kentridge and Gerard Marx's "Firewalker".
Things don't just begin. They emerge. The weather brews, a confluence of complex systems, forces and matter. Code gives rise to digital being. And out of a tangle of proteins comes organic life. In the physical world, as in the digital, emergence is a conspiracy of parts, the coming together of desires, forces and material.
In the art world people “emerge” too. They emerge out of obscurity and into the public eye. They get "discovered", or re-discovered. "Emerging artists" get caught in the not-yet of emergence, in the precarious idea that one is always on the way to arriving. And because of this they are also, often, victims of the market for emergence and all that that entails: scrutiny, flirtation, frenzy, speculation and, sometimes, abandonment.
"Emergence" is a hypothetical gathering of artists at different stages of their careers at a time when physical encounters are limited or, in some cases, impossible. It presents an ensemble that allows something to emerge in digital space, a moment of action that challenges the idea that something is only "real" when it manifests physically. And finally, it represents a skepticism towards the euphemistic concept of the emerging artist, proposing instead that artists are always emerging from something and moving towards something else.
visit exhibition: https://artspaces.kunstmatrix.com/en/exhibition/5395385/emergence