Does Cape Town have an identity of its own, and who would dare to proclaim ownership of the city? Are we not all merely playing witness to a constant process of coming and going as we find ourselves on the shifting crossroads of individuals, groups and cultures, telling different tales and speaking in a cacophony of voices?
The renowned artist Arlene Amaler-Raviv's alertness to different perceptions of the so-called mother city and her awareness of an ongoing dialogue have prompted her to juxtapose a number of images against the backdrop of Table Mountain. This imaginative body of work will aptly be hosted by Cape Town's Worldart Gallery in historic and cosmopolitan Church Street, from 9 – 21 February.
The format of Amaler-Raviv's work varies according to the ideas coming to her at a specific moment in time. In one instance she would use a large canvas, enticing the viewer to share her circular perspective, almost like joining her for a ride on the merry-go-round. As a panoramic dream scene unfolds, a perfect pendant to the large, fanciful work of a fictitious Cape Town, now forming part of the Iziko art gallery's permanent collection, comes to life. On the other end of the scale, versions of the city emerge in a series of smaller works on aluminium. Cut-outs with silhouettes almost touching each other raise questions about cracks, fragmentation, divides and the spaces in-between, and the meaning we attach to it. While stimulating the viewer's mental and social involvement, the presentation on severed backgrounds adds to the visual appeal.
Especially intriguing about Amaler-Raviv's art is the fact that it opens debate and invites interpretation. Amaler-Raviv is intensely aware of mankind's clashing perceptions of reality and the differences of speech and counter-speech. In laymen's terms the exhibition could be called "Whose Cape Town is it anyway", with images and figures shifting over and replacing each other. At the same time the process of "making meaning" by artists, inhabitants, visitors, migrants and viewers is foregrounded, raising questions as to what is being seen and experienced, and by whom. The location of the city serves as a metaphor for the material world at large, invoking a multitude of interpretations. Amaler-Raviv manages to present this paradox by working in firm though undefined brush strokes, suggesting rather than depicting, while still managing to refer to a particular context. While emphasizing the fallacy of fixed and final meaning, the images also hint at the alienation and isolation of human beings finding themselves in a particular geographical space, despite the proximity of "others".
Amaler-Raviv's gaze is complemented by her remarkable technique. This small exhibition begs to be viewed, savoured and appreciated. The works exude an unusual presence and beauty that will appeal to die-hard Capetonians, newcomers and visitors alike, opening up a dialogue about change and the "familiar". Amaler-Raviv has exhibited internationally and her work adds lustre to a number of important collections. Those who admire Kentridge and Hodgins will also be attracted to Amaler-Raviv, although her way of linking dream and reality is entirely individualistic, making a visit to the Worldart Gallery imperative. Lucky Cape Town!