South African history painting : reinterpretation by women artists.
The title of this thesis 'South African History Painting : Reinterpretation By Women Artists' indicated that the focus was to be on South African history painting. As the research progressed, however, it became apparent that the initial title did not encompass a broad enough spectrum. Therefore a more suitable title for this dissertation is 'A Visual Reinterpretation Of Aspects Of South African History By Women Artists: Penelope Siopis and Philippa Skotnes'. It is the intention of this dissertation to examine the way in which two contemporary South African women artists namely, Penelope Siopis (1953-) and Philippa Skotnes (1957) visually challenge in their paintings and prints respectively the conventional depictions of recorded South African history. Poststructuralism, deconstruction, new historicism and Postmodernism are among the theoretical currents upon which this research is based. It is from a Postmodern standpoint that selected works by Siopis and Skotnes will be analysed. The intention of this analysis is to examine their attempts to access the Postcolonial condition in South Africa through their visual presentations. The work of Siopis and Skotnes reflectects an interest in Postcoloniality. Furthernore, their visual imagery addresses questions of culture and power in South African visual representation. Works such as those created by Siopis and Skotnes can be seen as uncovering some of the contradictions within the process of decolonization. Nederveen, Pieterse and Parekh (1995 ) describe decolonization in the following way: 'Decolonization is a process of emancipation through mirroring, a mix of defiance and mimesis. Like colonialism itself, it is deeply preoccupied with boundaries - boundaries of territory and identity, borders of nation and state. (Nederveen, Pieterse and Parekh 1995: 11)' The focus in this dissertation is on the works of Siopis and Skotnes and their use of specific deconstructive methods to undermine prejudicial historical imagery and question established perceptions within South African history. In other words, the visual presentation of these two artists explores the boundaries or margins of established history. Both Siopis and Skotnes confront in visual terms the prejudicial representations of women and/or ethnic groups who have been subjugated by what they perceive as white, middle class, patriarchal history. The primary concern of the research is the visual imagery produced by these two artists and the effect of deconstruction on their respective art works. In the first chapter selected works from Siopis's 'History Painting' (1980s) series are to be analysed. In the second chapter the focus is on Skotnes's etchings in 'Sound From The Thinking Strings' (1993) exhibition. The investigation then moves to a project entitled 'Miscast' (1996). Skotnes was the curator of the 'Miscast' exhibition. It does not contain original art works by Skotnes. It is however an extension of the ideas which her prints embody and is therefore relevant to this dissertation.
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