Titia Ballot makes good use of her mimetic ability to create convincing landscapes – which she then deconstructs. While associating and relating things in often irrational ways, she deflects our attention away from the obvious towards a broader perspective than the one facing us.
The triptych Vision at Uitkyk provides the best example with its underlying concept of past, present and future. The elegant old blind-windowed homestead with broad steps that invite approach is shown frontally amid protective trees. It’s a tranquil setting of scenic splendour. Less inviting though, are menacing elements in the foreground.
To the left a huge earth-lifting shovel, festooned with flags directs armoured claws towards the great house; in the centre panel deep maze-like troughs cut into land fronting the homestead – making access and escape – difficult. To the right stands a totemic structure which seems to symbolize a linking of cultures. Grainy textures and harsh dark/light tonal contrasts establish mood while suggesting that the scene is strongly illuminated (under international spotlight?). There are other examples, more – and less – enigmatic. Pointers to the meaning in Sacrificial Stone (a millstone with pottery decorated with motives of different cultures) are rather too obvious to maintain much interest. And in the coloured etching Good Friday, RSA, 24 April 1994, while detailed and varied surface treatment attracts attention, tromp l’oeil illusions ( pealing wallpaper, broach pinned to the surface) lose impact in conjunction with areas that evoke nothing more than smudged printing ink.
A lot more intriguing in concept and satisfying in terms of treatment is To Dutwa: Mentor, set in a bare landscape with two shoe “lasts” beside an old folder full of documents, topped by a dry plant. Open for interpretation and precise in tool application, this is an etching to linger over.
( Review of an exhibition at Chelsea Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa )