Marie Strauss: Gatekeeper
12 February – 13 March
Opening Reception: 12 February 5–7
RDS Gallery, 6 Castle Street
Marie Strauss (b. South Africa) currently resides in Dunedin. Over the last two decades, since moving to New Zealand, she has developed a national reputation as an artist who works proficiently across multiple media, from painting to ceramics to printmaking, expressively exploring both traditional oil-painting, etching and linocut techniques to the non-traditional use of flocking, velvet and gold. Her work has been featured in over 50 exhibitions since 1982 (Australia, France, Korea, South Africa and New Zealand), most recently at the Eskdale Gallery, Dunedin (2017) and RDS Gallery, Dunedin (2019). It ranges in scale from large paintings (300 cm x 150 cm) to small etchings (15 cm x 15 cm), and includes works on paper incorporating collage, water colour and gouache. With their layered treatments and etched surfaces, the fluid forms of her hand-built, multi-fired porcelain ceramics extend and complement the complexity of her two- dimensional work.
Her multi-faceted oeuvre is united by a common iconography of wild animals, both real and imaginary, rendered in boldly expressive colour and dynamic form that is often derived from her fascination with African jewellery and textiles. Her ever-changing repertoire of wild, domestic and mythological animals at once recalls memories of her African childhood while at the same referencing the important symbolic role that animals play in our psychodynamic imagination. Compelling and enigmatic, her animals are both companions and guardians, but also fearsome, nightmarish creatures that evoke our deepest anxieties.
’Gatekeeper’ (12 February – 13 March) brings together these tropes and themes in a body of work largely completed over the course of the recent (and continuing) pandemic. These works are inflected with a sense of global dread — that our gatekeepers have failed us, or, even more terrifyingly, that there is no Gatekeeper watching over us, keeping us safe. In the words of the poet W. B. Yeats, writing in the context of the 1918-1919 flu pandemic:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned….