Grace Cross will be exhibiting her new work, titled Mother is a Drum, at SMITH gallery from 1 to 31 August 2019.
For this exhibition, Grace Cross takes as subject the birth of her child and the quiet revelations of motherhood: the pleasures of abiding, of repetition, of surrender, of finding in ordinary devotion the most perfect communion. Her repertoire of symbols extends to include leaking breasts, spilt milk, hungry mouths, and mashed food. Yet her paintings, for their familiar themes, remain ambiguous offerings. Theirs is the ambiguity of excess, their surfaces thick with accumulated symbols, with strange metaphors and uncertain similes.
Cross gives to each object she paints the status of totem. A showerhead, a spoon, a child’s toy – each imbued with ritual power. They are neither static nor passive, these objects and their images, but alive in their associations and entanglements. They are suffused with psychic weight, with sympathetic magic.
A breast pump is seldom just a breast pump.
Pregnant with symbols
Pregnant with symbols borrowed and invented, Cross’ paintings do not lend themselves to a finite reading. They are as legible as dreams; prophetic visions told to the layman. Only the artist can divine their true meaning. For Cross, each object is a metonym for something else – a story, a myth, an anecdote.
Some evoke her childhood, others her heritage, the people who populate her life, the writers she returns to. None of the objects Cross paints are insignificant, however strange or commonplace: each belongs within her cosmology of signs.
Cross weaves words into her paintings as spells or incantations. Words like suck, push, pull, like pick, drop, pick, drop. There is here here here here written in purple, and I am I am I am I am in yellow. Mother is a drum. Dum dum dum. Words written on words, text within textile. Pat, pat, pat. Such is the repetitive language of a child and the repetition of a mother’s work.
Look for the red thread, among the profusion of her images, follow its crimson tangles. It is the red thread of fate – the bloodline that traces a history of labouring women. Placenta red, menstrual red, nipple-sucked-raw red. This is the tie that binds – an umbilical cord – the maternal line.
What: Grace Cross: Mother is a Drum
Where and when: SMITH gallery, 56 Church Street, from 1 to 31 August 2019
Previous SMITH exhibitions: Thandiwe Msebenzi