Cecilie Bepler: You work with various materials in mixed media but in this exhibition you are showing some of your paper collages. Could you tell me a bit about your working process?
Lyndi Sales: I love to work with found paper ephemera such as lottery coupons, boarding passes, playing cards and currency etc. Although the currency I used in the pieces for your show are not original notes – I still feel they imbue the message I was hoping to convey. I prefer to cut into something that is already “loaded” with information. Cutting into newspaper articles about the Helderberg was where this idea initially began. In these examples I was trying to convey the story around a plane crash, which was unclear, unresolved and missing pieces of the puzzle. That the viewer is only able to see part of the story makes it possible to construct his or her own assumptions or narrative.
CB: Why did you choose the title Brace for one of your works in the exhibition At the End of the Rainbow? The paper you use in the work seems interesting.
LS: The work is titled Brace and refers to the brace position one is meant to take in case of a car crash or plane accident. On one level the brace position makes direct reference to the plane crash, as that is where my inspiration had flowed from for the past few years. However, my work seems to be evolving away from the specific incident as such as I continue to use the plane imagery to describe other things. So yes on another level the brace position is symbolic of sudden descent… and so possibly an economic downfall. For that reason I choose to cut into currency.
700 x 500 mm. Paper. 2009
700 x 500 mm. Paper. 2009
CB: Some of your works depict or concentrate on political/historical events e.g. The Helderberg crash; can you explain why you implement this reference in your works - can you speak more about your motives in terms of composition and narrative?
LS: My reason for concentrating on the Helderberg crash was due to the fact that my father was a passenger on the plane. My motive initially was to learn more about the incident through my research as well as to create a body of work that was from the heart and that I felt I had certain agency to comment upon. In the process I realized that it was very cathartic for me. The compositions and narratives are metaphoric. For example I use a lot of seaweed and fan coral imagery. The plane crashed in the ocean and floated down five kilometers to what’s known as the abyssal plane. For some time its whereabouts was unknown until the black box was located some weeks after the crash. The ocean and all its contents became almost like this foreign, inaccessible world where human life as we know it cannot be sustained, without oxygen. The fan coral and bronchial branches (lung) are of similar appearance. So, by way of metaphor, the ocean is in a sense alive with the spirit as well as the breath of those who died.
CB: But then again, I see for example in your series Anomaly that you assemble something different, it is like a 16th Century cabinet of curiosities with its distinguished, almost encyclopedic setting and images. Or the work How long can you hold your breath, a life vest upon which you made an almost amorphous pattern imitating bronchial passages. It seems you work is infused with somewhat constrasting themes and fantastic illusions?
LS: Anomaly was a body of work I made that evolved out a series of “curiosity like” cabinets. At the time I was fascinated by collectors, collections, museums and taxidermy. I wanted to comment on issues surrounding genetic engineering but also to create some fantastical and bizarre creatures.
How long can you hold your breathcame about from a memory I had of when I was a child. I grew up as a catholic and held this personal belief that the longer I held my breath when I prayed – the stronger my prayer would be. This belief, together with an image I saw of a deflated life vest floating on the ocean floor, (from the forensic archive) inspired the work.
CB: It seems as if you are showing some kind of transition between nature and culture in connection to human existence, due to the way you link to factualism, and through this create what at first sight seem very fragile and beautiful, such as in the work Brace?
LS: Yes the transitory nature of our existence is a very strong concern and something I contemplate a great deal. I love to make works that are fragile, ephemeral, barely there, like something that can dissolve, mist, steam. Here one second, gone the next. Like life, constantly evolving and in flux, never static; even in the afterlife.
CB: Most of your works as mentioned before are concerned with different perceptions of nature and human existence. What is the underlying view of the relationship between nature and human existence in the works show in the exhibition?
LS: My answer to this is similar to that of the previous question. That we are in constant motion, learning, be it through the experiencing of pain and loss or through pleasurable experiences such as love and connecting with others. In these two works I make reference to the value we attach to material things. And I’m interested by the current theories that we are entering a new phase of human consciousness where the constant need for material stuff is coming under question.
CB: The title Brace suggests a variety of readings and understandings – and somehow it seems included in these is considerations of the economic downfall we are currently experiencing. Are you affected by it? Or do you as a matter of course take the economic situation into consideration in your works of art?
LS: Yes it makes reference to the financial crash. Initially I didn’t think South Africa would be affected by the recession being encountered in Europe and the USA. However in the past few months it has become apparent. Yes, for this piece I was specifically considering the economic situation in my work, and when I read the brief for the exhibition I was very excited and clear about what I wanted to make.
CB: Has the financial crash had any effect on the art scene in South Africa? Could you talk a bit about the contemporary art scene in Cape Town, where you live and work?
LS: Yes in the past week there has been news of two established galleries closing doors as a direct result of the downturn in the economy. So yes it has affected the South African art market. The average South African person does not have a huge appreciation for art. Most South Africans are far more concerned with sport. So the big galleries rely heavily on selling works to overseas collectors.
The Cape Town art scene is vibrant and alive with committed individuals who follow world art trends and news. For somewhere so far from it all we certainly aren’t in the dark. We also have a lot to draw from. There are so many issues one encounters living in South Africa - artists are able to draw from and reflect upon in their work such as issues around race, identity, murder and crime, transience, political transition and, indeed, economic circumstances.
CB: You have a very particular aesthetic connected to your work, where do you find inspiration? By this I mean the particular way in which you combine the frightening with the fragile for example with the cut paper Helderberg work – you simulate a kind of beauty, but the title insinuates something different – as if you deal with the idea of the sublime of Edmund Burke?
LS: I like to draw the viewer in by seducing with something fragile, delicate, which wants to defy existence and then preserve it in a glass box or case (like an object in a museum or curiosity cabinet). I think the power of the work shines through when the viewer realizes that it isn’t all that it seems. Behind this beautiful object or trace of an object lies something contradictory to what you initially perceive it to mean. Something devastating, shrouded in beauty.
My inspiration comes from reading, museums especially science museums, the planetarium, the aquarium; from nature. I enjoy looking at other artists but I find I’m more excited about visiting these places as that is where my true inspiration is found and where I can provide some of my own interpretations.
CB: Since you work with many different artistic expressions and media I would like to know if you are educated in a specific artistic tradition or method?
LS: Yes I am a printmaker. Printmaking was always my first love. Through printmaking I developed a love and appreciation for paper, but also for detail, for work that involves planning and mostly for the patience and meditative process associated with printmaking.