IMAGE CAPTION: Gentle Fascism, 183cm X 100cm, acrylic paint on board
Daville Baillie Gallery
IT’S ALREADY TOO LATE ONCE THE SOLDIERS HAVE ARRIVED
From 7th October to 24th October
On his return from an extended stay in Cairo, this year, artist Peter Mammes was able to look back on an extraordinary journey. Divided into opposing forces, the allure of ancient culture with its modern interpretation, in patterns and motifs, was undermined by the militarism and insecurity of the post Arab Spring era.
Back home, Mammes resolved to create a series of large works that show how romantic stereotypes of foreign cultures often ignore the realities modern mayhem.
Mammes is an extraordinary visual storyteller. His collage-like paintings combine the quaint engraved styles of Victorian-era storybooks with representations of decay, grand historical commemoration and disaster. His work is a psychedelic palimpsest layering the moments from ancient times to the present, recording events that range from heroism, to decline and demise.
The cast of characters feels eerily familiar: worshiped and discredited political leaders, wounded fighters, nurses, doctors and decaying animals. The works seek to address the question of what lasting political power looks like, and how power structures are maintained at the expense of reason.
The foreboding message is clear from the title of the exhibition. In the words of Mammes: “People are going insane with political correctness. But we must connect with what we don’t want. We don’t want a society where we are not allowed to say stuff. It’s pertinent right now. All over the world people are being thrown into jail for making comments, or for the words that they say. It’s a scary place to be. We must always bear in mind that once you hand your freedoms away, it’s almost impossible to get them back.”
In his new work Mammes shows the effects of war, and how that contrasts to the image of the lasting political hero. “Let’s take Stalin for instance, or Nasser. They are not people who are going to pass out of history. They’re not of the moment. So, my work questions the way they have been monumentalised. But then there’s someone like President Zuma: no matter how important the role is that he played, it’s questionable whether people will remember him. He’s already falling out of public discourse.”
The exhibition explores our lasting fascination with images of power, and how that contrasts with images of powerlessness.
Biography – Peter Mammes
Peter Mammes was born in 1986 in Krugersdorp. He has worked on drawings and artwork from a young age. For the most part an autodidact, his training has also included an apprenticeship in a puppet theatre and with a set designer working on theatre productions. As a child experiencing the transition in the country, he observed the rapid transformation of our collective social and economic norms, and the conflicted and often clumsy responses to those changes. His observation of the amorphous historical narratives told by the successive governments ruling South Africa has been a major factor in his development as an artist. He uses his artwork to pose questions about the construction of the narratives of power and authority, the intersection of individual and national identity and the suppression and celebration of the ugly and unacceptable. Peter has sought out what it means to be African while travelling from Cape Town to Cairo, on public transport. He has also lived and worked in Moscow, London, and Varanasi. The process of his artwork begins with drawings and graduates to painting; but more recently he has created sculptural artworks.