Misconceptions about being an artist abound within society. Most people think we just sit around aimlessly until inspiration strikes. But if To Meet The Threshold has shown me anything, it’s the value of the dogged persistence of an artist striving to fulfill their vision. The installation enveloping the viewer is just one of a series of what Io Makandal calls “tactile drawings,” made over the last two years as part of her multidisciplinary creative practice. In the past however, these frame-shattering drawings have usually been restricted to a single wall or a corner. At No End Contemporary Art Space, Makandal had the entire space to work with. The long narrow structure of the gallery unsurprisingly caught the artist’s eye, a concept took hold and the necessary arrangements were made with the gallery to hold a show.
In a previous article I observed how, for me, No End had begun to read as one of Johannesburg’s many alleyway’s, albeit, with good lighting and artworks on sale. It is this feature that I again felt was highlighted beautifully through Makandal’s intervention. The single corridor pulled the viewer in one direction, and gave no opportunity to tip toe around the installation, or view if from a distance. From the onset it outlined clear rules of engagement with its audience; enter and experience. Be engulfed. What were we asking to experience though? There was clear evidence of urban existence: broken chunks of concrete, dirty traffic cones, piping, housing insulation, and refuse, windswept around the gallery, suspended in mid-air, littering the floor. Alongside this urban debris were signs of natural life, or what was at least once alive; dead leaves, dead palm branches, twigs and a skeleton, which I assumed had once belonged to a cow. The tension set up between the natural (in its deceased and decaying state) and the urban, which for us in the twenty first century is our area of primary habitat, was striking.
But it didn’t simply end there. If it had I might be writing how the installation was a reflection of the overwhelming urbanisation and the effect this has on nature. However, the third element (if I can so crudely group them like this) that I picked out was that of pure line and colour. Coloured string hung from the walls and the ceiling, draping down onto the floor. Neon duct tape covered the surface of the gallery, supporting objects on the wall or cutting through the harsh geometric surrounds. And little fluffy balls were pinned everywhere, little splashes of colour that then expanded when a balloon or party plate came into view. Makandal’s work makes me imagine what might have happened had Joan Miro worked in Johannesburg as an artist. There is the grunge and grit of this urban stew mixed in with transcendental moments of colour and form that seem to have jumped in from another dimension.
Makandal’s work has a formal consistency that, even in three dimensions, reads similarly to one of her painting or drawing works. This similarity is not however where the work ends, for through the reference to the two dimensional works, a tension is set up. A tension between two dimensions and three that starts to bring to the foreground materiality, spatial concerns, and probably most intriguing for me, the human body. In a world of overwhelming complexity, detritus and structure, there was a single direct reference to the human body, a curled finger protruding from the wall, beckoning to the viewer. Asking to make the most solemn of vows, a pinky promise; we are invited to reengage with the possibilities that art present for our present reality.