Date:25 June, 2019
by participating artists
August is Women’s Month in South Africa, celebrating the strength and resilience of the women that came before us in building the foundations of this country. With Franschhoek’s French ties, we took inspiration for the title from Assumption Day, a celebration of the ascension of Mary, on 15 August this year in France.
Art in the Yard will be hosting a joint women’s exhibition titled Assumption, featuring two dynamic and unique artists: Claire Denarie-Soffietti and Lerato Motau, with the title alluding not only to the social pressures and assumptions women face, but also to the legend of the assumption of Mary – a story which is so symbolic of our society: a woman is “glorified” for her sacrifices, while she remains voiceless; a story so deeply embedded in much of Western Society that it still perpetuates the way the majority of women are expected to walk the earth to this day.
For centuries women have been burdened by social assumptions. To this day, stories of how assumptions about women affect women, are rife and indicate a problem yet to be solved, even with all the advancements we have made as a society.
With this exhibition we not only unpack and challenge the assumptions surrounding women, but we allow them sufficient space to be celebrated properly.
Born and raised in Versaille, France, she was an autodidactic art student from the outset.
Claire has lived and exhibited in many different countries, from the Notorious “Sandy Lane” in Barbados with clients such as Pavarotti and Cliff Richards, to the creative streets of Chelsea New York city at Agora art gallery. Claire exhibited in Canada, Montreal, where she won first prize in “Best international emerging artist of 2013”.
Claire now resides in Cape Town with her architect husband and four children and has found success in both Cape Town and Johannesburg Galleries. Most recently Claire has been exhibiting at Walker Bay Art Gallery, Hermanus and at The Grand Beach Café, Granger Bay, Cape Town. Both collectors and the media have loved her work, she was featured in Habitat magazine, on Top Billing, as well as House and Garden.
Denarie depicts quiet moments: serene portraits; a tranquil woodland path; a woman lounging on a chair. From Pink Elephants to Charlie Chaplin’s and Coco Chanels. However, the colours are more intense than in reality, while the compositions are so tightly framed that they become dynamic, and the portrait subjects never reveal all to the viewer. Soffietti’ figures have secrets, and hint at an interior world within the picture frame. It is her wonderfully palpable painting style and bold colour choice that makes the 2D picture world seem more real than our very own.
There is this element of distortion evident in her pieces. When asked whether this sensationalizes any particular personal interpretation of the world, and life, this artist always responds:
‘Nothing pleases me more than the grotesque of human nature! I don’t do pretty and I become colour-blind when it comes to pastels and sober colours’. Nature and human nature, for Denarie, are perfect and ought to remain untouched in its finished state. She allows herself to marvel, not to comprehend. The artist admits: ‘I paint to translate the absurdities of my mind, and stop when it fails to entertain me’.
‘Embroidery and particularly the act of stitching are important in my work, where each stitch is a symbolic journey. The materials that I use comprise mostly of fabric, and while many categorise my work as textile works I prefer to define my artmaking practice as Fibre Art. A description of many artworks would include forms of fabric joined to the canvas by stitches, and in some areas the form is created almost entirely from the stitches. I have also begun to introduce circular found objects (like metal earrings) and found patterns in fabric, into the artworks. The decision to collect and include them is informed by their aesthetic qualities. The details on the found fabric further dictate the added intervention. For example, a fabric containing stars, prompted the stitching of more abstract star shapes.
The concept of stars and planets were inspired by gifts brought from my children. My three year old daughter presented me with drawings with circles and I was assisting my nine year old with homework regarding the planets. The circular form has resonated with me. I am fascinated by the roundness and wholeness of this two dimensional shape, and the globe or orb as a three dimensional form. It reminds me of my own life circle and life cycle as I think of myself as a child, adult and later an elderly woman. This has resulted in a series of works that explore the circle as a shape and form in a universal, planetary context.
The simplicity of the designs are intentional. Forms like planets and stars are reduced to their most basic shape, which for me is a reminder of how these appeared to me as a child, and how my own children now see these concepts. The complexity of these ideas are not accessible to them, and I enjoy this innocence.
I love the brightness of luminous tones, where I refer to them as “mashangane colours”. Associations of bright colours as well as embroidery are related to Shangaan people, which is inherent in my own ancestry.
Other works have been inspired by Vilakazi Street in Soweto where I live. Text was embroidered onto a 30m piece of purple and yellow ribbon, which reads like a narrative of Vilakazi Street, chaptering different points of interest along the street. Visitors were invited to embroider symbols thus including the illiterate.
A long term project has been the Friendship Skirts, which are personalized skirts made with the individual characteristics of many of my female friends in mind. These skirts have been shown on a documentary in Beijing, and later worn as part of a fashion show in Johannesburg. This project has grown, where I have now been receiving requests from people to make skirts for them and I recently received had a request from a male client for a friendship shirt.’
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