Painting a chilling Noise of real distortion
Noise, the title of Lehlogonolo Mashaba’s first solo exhibition, investigates memory, remembrance, forgetting and recording as a process in the development of being. Further, it looks at how types of discords and interference affect these processes.
Mashaba, a Joburg-based print maker, uses texts lifted from gathered mobile text messages (SMSes), the Bible and other text from various sources to form his motifs. The collected texts are scanned and manipulated as lines by which the artist draws and creates his form.
Mashaba’s primary focus is the image of the human figure, our central semiotic.
He constructs figures with the collected fragments of words and phrases, lines and shapes.
In other words, Mashaba’s work explores text as the building block of identities.
The visual effect achieved by his technique also makes a comment on the process of knowledge formation itself.
It hints at that transformational process where fuzzy perceptions are processed into viable concepts, the ideas we use to build our knowledge of the world and ourselves.
Like Ayn Rand, the philosopher priestess of free market capitalist thought, puts it in her writings on knowledge called objectivism.
Rand argues that attaining knowledge beyond what is given in perception requires both volition and adherence to a specific method of validation.
It happens through observation, concept formation, and the application of inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning.
Identity or knowledge formation is therefore not automatic; it’s something we arrive at by deliberate processing of information, a process that includes recording, remembering and thinking. However, the introduction of noise into any recording creates problems.
The information being recorded becomes unreliable when it is remembered because of this noise.
This disturbance or fact of unreliability too is part of Mashaba’s fascination.
He defines noise loosely with its common meaning as any unwanted sound.
An imposition that manifests itself as “snow” on a television or video image.
He notes that high noise levels can block, distort, change or interfere with the meaning of a message in humans, animals and electronic communication.
So he tries to represent this distortion in his work.
Noise as visual interference, or screen snow is best represented in the prints that form part of his Origins Series.
The pictorial play of horizontal lines against the layered vertical marks of a standing figure recreates the likeness of a distorted television screen shot.
The introduction of noise into the cognitive process means knowledge creation becomes faulty too.
Mashaba has been quoted as saying: “We are figures who are dependent on knowledge and learning to make us whole and able to relate to our lives, communicate and identify things. Should the information we learn get distorted, then we run the risk of losing the original content and thus unable to make sense of things.The confusion will then manifest itself as juxtaposed letters against portraits obscuring a clear view.”
The 29-year-old artist is a Funda Centre alumni and a former collaborative printer specialising in intaglio, relief, monotype and silkscreen at Artist Proof Studio. He assisted in printing works for established artists such as Marcus Neustetter and Sandile Goje.
Mashaba’s figures are as graceful as his lines, and compositions are elegant and considered. He uses texture by embossed printing and paper layering.
» Noise by Lehlogonolo Mashaba is on at Artspace in Rosebank, Joburg, until March 2 2013