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'Gnossienne:' An interview with Michelle Aucamp and Lindi Jansen van Rensburg

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ART AFRICA sat down with Michelle Aucamp and Lindi Jansen van Rensburg, to speak about their upcoming exhibition ‘Gnossienne’ at the Jan Royce Gallery, Cape Town which takes place from 1st September - 1st October 2016. 

AA Newsletter 2016 August25 Royce1Lindi Jansen van Rensburg, Ballad for a Wonderer, 2016. Acrylic and sand on canvas, 79 × 119 × 4.5 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

ART AFRICA: Please tell us about the body of work you’ve produced for your upcoming exhibition ‘Gnossienne’ at the Jan Royce Gallery, Cape Town? Where does the title come from?

Michelle Auchamp: We were looking for a title that reflects our intension to subvert and expose certain ideals within our work. Both of us resonated with the idea of uncovering hidden aspects of ourselves and each other as a centre for discussion. We cover more ground, because we have different focal points, yet our starting point is similar.

The word ‘Gnossienne’ refers to the inability to truly tap into someone else’s inner life or reality, even though we long to do so, to holistically know someone and be known by someone. Our works attempt to convey fragments of our inner realities, where the artist and the viewer move between this natural inability to be known and the longing to be unveiled. 

Lindi Jansen van Rensburg: My work is heavily influenced by music and literature. I have a great admiration and love for the composer Erik Satie, whose piano pieces have inspired many ideas and artworks. One of my favourite is Gnossienne No 1. When listening to this specific composition I’m transferred into a natural environment, where my soul purpose is to wonder with an anticipation to connect to something that is not yet articulated. 

This body of work continues my internal ongoing conversations about nature and longing. For me the one represents the other, and vice versa. There is a longing for a lost self which nature seems to reflect in the very pure, natural patterns it contains. However scientifically explicable, something mysterious is retained within the human experience thereof.

Michelle’s work examines that which is hidden. She explores how young Afrikaans women in her community express their hybrid identity, one that is deeply rooted in a nationalist identity governed by rules of religion and ‘ordentlikheid’ (respectability), looking to ideals of innocence, and exposing the repercussions of these expectations.

AA Newsletter 2016 August25 Royce4LEFT TO RIGHT: Michelle Aucamp, Loslyf Doily, 2016. Lasercut Zerkel, 70 x 100 cm; Michelle Aucamp, Skatlam, 2015. Etching, 270 × 350 cm. Images courtesy of the artist.

Each of you have a unique approach to material. Please tell us a bit about your creative process, and how you communicate through your medium?

Michelle: I feel we both employ traditional means of communication with regards to our materials.  In some cases we attempt to disrupt the perceived intensions of our mediums and in others to disrupt the s. 

In my practice the traditions of print aid my concept. The use of modest materials with clean lines, simple drawings, and illustrations is my way of communicating serious issues, making it blatant that this is what is to be looked at. I try to stay clear of violent representations, although my themes are quite emotional and routed in violence. My intention is to draw the viewer in through virtuous aesthetics and keep them lingering until they see what is hidden within the ‘innocent’ depiction.

Lindi: I am a printmaker with a love for textures. For me print lacks depth as a two dimensional object, which I aim to resolve through my practice. I try to add another dimension, to disrupt the surface with the layering of materials and textures. This is also why I work across disciplines with painting and sculpture and try to see how I can stretch the traditional usage of materials. 

AA Newsletter 2016 August25 Royce5Lindi Jansen van Rensburg, The golden reeds hide us, 2014 . Etching, 27.5 × 36.5 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

What role does the element of space play in your works?

Michelle: Our work is dependent on space. Not necessarily physical space, but from an emotional or psychological space. As mentioned in the definition of ‘Gnossienne,’ our inner spaces become external. Lindi mediates on internal experiences through an external representation of nature, connecting it to a physical space of personal meaning. In this way the meaning of a work is not a given, and the image is left to the viewer to find their own interpretation. In my own work I take the external experience of female gender performativity and try to communicate its emotional and psychological effects. Where aesthetics seduces the viewer to share a private moment in a public space.

AA Newsletter 2016 August25 Royce3Michelle Aucamp, detail of Skatlam, 2015. Etching, 270 × 350 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

You’ve worked closely together for this show. How has this process informed your practice, and what are some of the nuances to come out of this experience that are specific to this show?

Michelle and Lindi: Our process involves discussion. It’s a conversation that we’ve been having for the last two to three years, and focuses mainly on what it means to be a woman. We come from the same background and have grappled with certain ideals and social expectations of femininity, sexuality, religion, and spirituality. Even though our work differs we are both in search of something that is aesthetically pleasing, while exploring our inner secrets, which happen to entail painstaking attention to detail. Our process driven work comprises several phases that are not necessarily observable in the final works, yet these intricacies invite the viewer to linger. 

‘Gnossienne’ will be on show at the Jan Royce Gallery, Cape Town from 1st September - 1st October 2016. 

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