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The Piano | 2-30 March 2024 | Ilse Schermers Gallery, Dorp Street, Stellenbosch, Western Cape

Works available from Ilse Schermers Gallery    +27 21 882 6909. Price list here

Artist statement: The Piano



My piano is a micro-world. It has been my companion for many decades. Simultaneously being object, process and experience, it forms the subject matter of this body of work.


When the Knysna Great Fire struck in 2017 reducing all my earthly goods to ash and clinker, my piano survived, simply because it was not there. This experience has deepened my bond with the instrument to an even more intimate and profounder level. My piano has become larger-than-life and represents my girlhood years as well as my performing-productive identity as mother and artist. In this sense its presence has been ontogenetic, reflecting my personal development to maturity.


The piano’s casket-body becomes a memorial vessel for loss through fire, but also for childhood memories of daily rituals of vigorous mechanical discipline of repetition, practising scales, arpeggios and other technicalities. A polyphony is created as layers of obsessive repetition, production and remembrance pile up.


As a musical instrument, the piano – with its black-and-white notes, inner mechanical structure, hammers and harp – conjures fantasies and imaginative journeys. In a lyrical play of ebony and ivory, it delivers the tonal sounds of the light and dark of cyclical life and death from its coffin-like, heterotopian body. The pregnant circumference of its wooden cabinet becomes a birthing locus of creative production and performance, bearing and reciting worlds of sound and music. It obediently performs according to existing notation, but simultaneously encourages improvisation and deviation. Performing and producing, it mimics the laboratory of the mothering female body that brings forth new life through biomorphic processes, yet also allows for genetic variation. Likewise, the artist’s arduous process of birthing new creations is evoked.


Central imagery in the work is also that of withered angel trumpet flowers, which for me talks about cycles of life and death. In the ritual they become flor de muertos dancers.


Conceptually my art has always been concerned with spaces, places and worlds, whether natural, artificial or invented. These rendered spaces, places and worlds are layered; constructed; tainted; and complex. Revealing the intricacies of human action and  invention, they recount utopia,[1] dystopia[2] and heterotopia.[3] I work in both physical and digital media, so that my work often becomes intermedial.



[1] Perceived as escape, paradise, ideologically ‘good’.

[2] Collapsing, polluted, nonfunctional, lost.

[3] Enclosed. A bubble.

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