Chelsea Gallery, Cape Town   The contradiction of connecting with but never fully knowing another is brought to the fore in  Facing Reality . In this body of work, De Wet considers the concept of trust, relationship, and connection between two people. Drawing on the language of portraiture, the works interrogate the meaning of connection, which by definition implies closeness and unity.  Body language and the gaze of the figures in many pieces in this body of work visually portray experiences of connection and disconnection that are challenging to define. Through these works, De Wet establishes and negotiates the tension between confrontation and communication, subtlety and bold expression, security and insecurity, and vulnerability and passion.
       
     
Communication 2
       
     
Communication 1
       
     
Facing Reality 1
       
     
Symbol of Communication
       
     
Untitled
       
     
Self-Perception
       
     
Chair of Expectation
       
     
Male
       
     
Facing Reality 2
       
     
Inner Self
       
     
Reality
       
     
FACING REALITY 3
       
     
Confronting reality
       
     
Female
       
     
Heart and Soul
       
     
Facing Reality 3
       
     
Untitled
       
     
Facing Reality
       
     
  Chelsea Gallery, Cape Town   The contradiction of connecting with but never fully knowing another is brought to the fore in  Facing Reality . In this body of work, De Wet considers the concept of trust, relationship, and connection between two people. Drawing on the language of portraiture, the works interrogate the meaning of connection, which by definition implies closeness and unity.  Body language and the gaze of the figures in many pieces in this body of work visually portray experiences of connection and disconnection that are challenging to define. Through these works, De Wet establishes and negotiates the tension between confrontation and communication, subtlety and bold expression, security and insecurity, and vulnerability and passion.
       
     

Chelsea Gallery, Cape Town

The contradiction of connecting with but never fully knowing another is brought to the fore in Facing Reality. In this body of work, De Wet considers the concept of trust, relationship, and connection between two people. Drawing on the language of portraiture, the works interrogate the meaning of connection, which by definition implies closeness and unity.

Body language and the gaze of the figures in many pieces in this body of work visually portray experiences of connection and disconnection that are challenging to define. Through these works, De Wet establishes and negotiates the tension between confrontation and communication, subtlety and bold expression, security and insecurity, and vulnerability and passion.

Communication 2
       
     
Communication 2

Oil, photograph and found object on acrylic sheet
25 X 36 cm
2001

Cape Times - 6 March 2001

FACING REALITY – Paintings by Natasja De Wet at the Chelsea Gallery Wynberg.
BENITA MUNITZ reviews.

"De Wet faces internal questions"

Man cannot stand too much reality, it’s been said. Its certainly not easy to confront raw unembellished truth – even in a painting.

Or maybe particularly in a painting. For as artist or viewer we face it as we do a mirror: It reflects a lot more than our image, it reflects our selves – our perceptions, our way of thinking, beliefs, fears, and a lot more.

Maybe that’s why many people prefer to look at paintings that present sanitised, prettified, and idealised versions of the real world.

No such escape in paintings by Natasja de Wet. Like it or not, she gives us the real thing – a sense of authentic experience as she attempts to “face” issues that disturb her.

De Wet’s artworks come across as intimate reflections of intense experience – journeys into depths most of us prefer not to plumb.

The artist’s “id” is always there with eternal questions – who am I, where am I, why am I here, what do I want, what do others want of me, who can I trust – and so on.

How do we read all this? Through De Wet’s remarkable ability to project herself on to Perspex, glass and canvas formats through very personal and often movingly expressive means.

The artist does not render her realities in realistic terms. In no way would this be sufficiently potent. Rather than creating illusions, De Wet expresses internal and external realities she needs to come to terms with.

Portraiture is her chosen conduit largely because of subtle – and not so subtle – nuances of facial expression.

Far from the flattering renderings of commissioned portrait painters, these are paintings that reach into the souls of the subjects.

Many are wildly distorted by contrasting hues, shadows that resemble bruising, body marks that look like initiation striations, and harsh white highlights.

Other more subtle signifiers include angled heads and indirect glances, scratching that scar surfaces, incoherent markings – and a tiny eye that peers through layers of Perspex. Such clues lead us further into pictorial depths.

Activated, it seems, by a sense of urgency, pigment is swept, brushed and scraped on to formats in ways that seem almost automatistic.

But while the process involves much over painting that clouds the transparency of glass and Perspex format, there is nothing spontaneous about the careful application of collage elements such as rusty metal hinges that have lost their function (become unhinged?).

Responses and interpretation of de Wet’s art are likely to differ since paintings suggest a great deal without overt explanation.

While psychological and symbolical aspects take you as deep as you’re inclined to go, the voluptuous application of viscous pigment holds you to the surface, creating a strong sense of physicality.

You’ll note the way the features emerge out of shadowy depths, disorientation patterns, and debris of different kinds.

And you may conclude that nothing can entirely obliterate the haunting experience.

For some viewers this may be a journey to places one is reluctant to revisit.

But while initially disturbing, these works are ultimately encouraging for they provide many life affirming clues.

For one thing, in contrast to dark clouds that continuously threaten to overcome the protagonist, faces are illuminated by a bright strong light that seems to emanate from an outside source – that is, the real-life world beyond frame limits.

The artist’s projection of her subjects towards the living dimension is surely a highly positive and assertive art-act.

The longer you linger the more you’ll find to contemplate

Communication 1
       
     
Communication 1

Oil and found object on acrylic sheet
25 X 36 cm
2001

OPENING SPEECH BY JUDITH MASON:

Last Sunday I was reading an interview with pop star Britney Spears in the teenybopper section of a newspaper. I quote, exactly, from the last two items “what are your hobbies?” she was asked. “I like shopping, sleeping and talking to my friends on the ‘phone’”, she replied. “What are your ambitions?” was the final question. ‘To live life to the full” she said. This monument to the comedy of the unexamined life, or at least the unexplored ironies of pop interviews reminded me, by contrast, with the work of Natasja de Wet.

Natasja invites us to explore the examined life. She delineates for us the graffiti on the insides of our skulls and hearts. She gives us the flic-flac between portrait details- the exterior, in some ways extraneous information set against a layered palimpsest of messages at once obvious and discreet, which we read like manuscripts floating under water with interfering reflections superimposed. Paint, etched lines, Perspex and collage are used like currents behind which meaning ebbs and flows. Her technique is to sometimes suggest, sometimes explain, sometimes tease with a bit of gossip; sometimes confuse. Looking at her work is like being tuned to a number of frequencies simultaneously. These works although physically static have a sort of kinetic energy. Light picks out or blurs bits of information and sometimes our reflections are superimposed on the images as if we are eavesdroppers on the lives she explores so much as invited to share in the intimate process. They are perpetual works in progress, this whole exhibition is a work in progress, and it helps to remember that she is currently studying for a higher degree. Some of the work on display is entirely resolved; some leaves me feeling hungry for resolution. Aside from giving us many desirable single images which we can carry away as trophies she is providing us with a larger metaphor – that our lives and relationships and our place in society itself are ceaseless works in progress. That the making of artworks, or defining life’s meaning, or the practice of ubuntu are not quickly completed chores but the accumulation of layers of experience and the strata thus laid down have an irrational beauty. This work is for me a sort of archaeology of human being, seen in arbitrary cross-section. The elements are mundane – corrugated iron, screws, fragments of mirror, hinges – as are the elements which make up our own bodies – water, potassium, tranquilizers, take-aways, diesel fumes, calcium, whatever. Yet here we all are, a roomful of unique private worlds, rejoicing in the fact that we, like the work before us, are so much greater than the sum of our parts.

We are privileged tonight to see the first solo exhibition of an important young artist. I am delighted to say that even before the exhibition opened people were queuing to buy Natasja’s very modestly priced work. They are to be congratulated, not just for being the shrewd possessors of life-enhancing objects but because they are part of the creative equation in a society which talks about renaissance without doing enough to enable new artists to live and work.

Coming from Johannesburg I have two stories to share with you. One is about the rash of Witkoppon-Tuscan and Trade Centre-Roman nonsense with which the casino industry is infesting the Highveld. Instead of allowing rising young artists to provide genuinely African renascent images we have what one commentator referred to as “renaissance with its eyes put out”. One of these kitsch-traps has copies of David, which, as a spokesman for the decorators explained with pride, have been computer corrected (or “enhanced’). The original hobbledehoy hands and feet of Michelangelo’s heroic adolescent now conform to the proportions of a mid-thirties, gym-going yuppie. This sort of thing is surreal - patronage as debauchery of great images of long ago and far away.

Then there is the story of a friend who runs a workshop for unemployed people. She told me that a young man with artistic potential showed up at her studio a couple of months ago. He had just been released from jail where he had served seven years for hijacking. She has enabled him to print linocuts which could grace any wall with their naïve charm and integrity. They sell for a mere R50.00 each. Last week he came to her and told her quite frankly that he was thinking of returning to his friends at Orange Farm and their reprehensible trade. Nobody cares about his artwork; he lives in a garage shared with four other men while his criminal comrades get the girls, the cars (naturally), the status and the excitement. The patronage of a few people could mean the difference between life and death for himself and for his potential victims.

Natasja, of course, does not need patronage at this elementary (or elemental) level, but our society needs artists of her gifts, and patrons who have the wit to recognize them, if we are to avoid the cultural chaos which threatens to engulf us.

* government and Cosimo de Medici. Natasja’s work reminds us that we possess soul and poetry and vision and that we are not just consumers of regurgitated rubbish. I am already looking forward to her next exhibition and hazard a guess that her baby, ominously present with us tonight, will appear as part of the text. To this infant I would like to say – be generous little guy. Your mommy needs her sleep and we need her skill and insight. We are so grateful for what she has given us tonight and look forward to a great deal more.

Facing Reality 1
       
     
Facing Reality 1

Oil on acrylic sheet
2001

Symbol of Communication
       
     
Symbol of Communication

Oil on acrylic sheet
48 X 34,5 cm
2001

Untitled
       
     
Untitled

Oil on acrylic sheet
2001

Self-Perception
       
     
Self-Perception

Oil on acrylic sheet
38,5 X 32 cm
2001

Chair of Expectation
       
     
Chair of Expectation

Mixed-media and found objects
82 X 49,5 X 48 cm
2001

Male
       
     
Male

Oil on acrylic sheet
68 X 49,7 cm
2001

Facing Reality 2
       
     
Facing Reality 2

Oil on acrylic sheet
2001

Inner Self
       
     
Inner Self

Oil on acrylic sheet

74,6 X 60,6 cm

2001

Reality
       
     
Reality

Oil on acrylic sheet
33,0 X 31,2 cm
2001

FACING REALITY 3
       
     
FACING REALITY 3

Oil and found objects on acrylic sheets
60 X 103 cm
2001

Confronting reality
       
     
Confronting reality

Oil on acrylic sheet
69 X 62,2 cm
2001

Female
       
     
Female

Oil on acrylic sheet
62,5 X 50 cm
2001

Heart and Soul
       
     
Heart and Soul

Oil, found objects, glass
30 X 20 cm
2001

Facing Reality 3
       
     
Facing Reality 3

Oil on acrylic sheet
2001

Untitled
       
     
Untitled

Oil on acrylic sheet
2001

Facing Reality
       
     
Facing Reality

Oil on acrylic sheet
2001