Groeipyne / Growing Pains by Haidee Nel
The title for this exhibition centers on growth and connects with Nel’s long-term preoccupation with the inner child in the adult psyche, which needs to be confronted from time to time in order for an individual to grow and function normally. Nel was also inspired by her own children, who at different periods in their own development have compelled her to reflect on her childhood and the various identities from that time that continue to shape her adult life.
In the absence of tools to enable this psychic work, Nel developed her own language; a model of young girl onto which she projects the issues relating to the inner child. The model, which she first dubbed Liefie, has evolved into a stylized sculpture, which she treats as a veritable Barbie doll, dressing it up and altering parts of its body to enact different scenarios.
In Groeipyne/Growing Pains she has created five renditions of this girl figure, which manifest as different characters drawn from different aspects of popular culture and children’s stories.
Via a red cape she evokes the figure of little Red Riding Hood in the sculpture titled Double by/Dubbeldoor. However, a wolf’s tail protrudes from the cape as do the legs of this animal, cast as Red Riding Hood’s foe. Nel has purposefully fused the two as a way of addressing the blurred boundary between the victim and perpetrator selves that lurk within people.
It is the well-known character from the children’s story Alice in Wonderland that is the inspiration behind the sculpture Rabbit hole/Haas Gat, though the blue plinth on which it is placed refers to the ‘blue pill’ that is a memorable part of the story in The Matrix film trilogy. In this work she similarly delves into the dark side of childhood, probing the impact and death of a loved one in a young person’s life. It is just such a tragic occurrence that propels a child to experience the titular ‘growing pains’.
Familiar phrases and imagery associated with young girls, from a winged costume to a jewelry box ballerina, shapes another three characters titled Row row /Roei roei, Skat/Treasure and Bottervlieg/Butterfly. The basic features of these characters remain the same save for their costumes and accessories. This uniformity is more obvious in the members of her ‘infantry’ – who wear protective gear in the manner of soldiers. This is part of Nel’s ongoing ambition to generate a 50 plus ‘army’ of sculptures of young girls who must not only battle with the inner child but must also fight off predator adults who abuse or hurt children, thereby leaving them with additional baggage to sort through in later years.