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MFA student exhibits unusual body of work

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A member of the Visual and Performing Arts of Africa focus area in the Fine Art Department and a Masters student, Rachel Baasch showed an unusual body of work in an even more unusual setting, the tennis court at St Peter’s campus recently.

 “The Eyes of the Wall and other Short Stories” is an outdoor, site-specific installation that invites the viewer to walk through the space and to experience the interplay between interiority and exteriority.

Explaining the meaning of the complex metaphors underpinning the exhibition, Baasch said: “The way we perceive spaces and places is continuously engaged in a process of transformation. It is at this intersection that the shadows of stories within stories within stories insert themselves, like phantom limbs into the gaps and tensions framed by the forms of the installation.”

Her supervisors were Prof Ruth Simbao, who assisted with the theory component of the Masters, and Ms Maureen de Jager, who was her technical supervisor. They both praised Rachel’s work, with Ms De Jager calling her a spirited thinker and maker of art objects.

“Rachel seems to have flourished in the dynamic, reciprocal space between theory and practice. Her ideas are often as luminous as her sculptures, and articulated with the same lucid eloquence,” said Ms De Jager.

She further said the Rhodes Fine Art department allocates two supervisors to each MFA student and how this interconnectivity “has the potential to facilitate valuable discourse across and about the practice/ theory divide”.

In her speech, Prof Simbao spoke about how the installation is what Rachel calls “a house with three walls” a physically and metaphorically vulnerable space. “As you, as the viewer, negotiate the space by walking through it, different objects become framed by other objects, and at times one object might become hidden by another object. As such framing becomes a metaphor for the ways we view and construct the world, opening up opportunities for shifting perspectives,” she said.

Baasch specifically chose the tennis court because it is situated between two Fine Art buildings: Photography and Printmaking. “Rachel sets up a dialogue between architectural spaces and in a sense wedges sculpture between the largely two-dimensional mediums of photography and print,” said Prof Simbao.

“However, just as prints can be subtly three dimensional too, these sculptures are actually relatively flat, and it is light and the lines of the tennis court that transform the work into a three dimensional space,” she added.

Prof Simbao complemented Baasch on being generous with her peers and building camaraderie. Playfully substituting the word ‘supervisor’ with ‘survivor’ she joked that “there are not many departments in which a staff member would point out a student who sleeps on a mattress on a tennis court for a whole week as a good example. In the Fine Art department, however, we recognize and acknowledge your sheer commitment to your work, demonstrated in the way you have thrown yourself (often quite literally) into this project with sometimes frightening levels of energy.”

Baasch has also completed her mini-thesis entitled: “The Eyes of the Wall: Space, Narrative and Perspective” which ties in with her sculptures.

Story and photo by Anna-Karien Otto



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