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Thursday, August 13, 2015


Usha Seejarim's solo touring museum exhibition titled Venus at Home opened at the Durban Art Gallery this evening (August 13).

The conceptual artworks are made from ordinary domestic objects. As brooms and mops are stripped of their utilitarian function they allude to gender specific roles pointing to notions of identity within the construct of the home. Irons are turned into lotus flowers, a builder's trough becomes his wife's clothes iron and used mops of varying shades illustrate pubic hairstyles.

“Henry Lefebvre, in Clearing the Ground, 1961 describes a housewife as being immersed in the everyday, needing an escape, and a mathematician being distant from and needing a return to the everyday. This phenomenon of escape from and return to the everyday co-exist in my life as a house/home-keeper and artist. It is this dual relationship that I wish to explore in this body of work,” says Seejarim.

“As a home-maker/housewife/mother of two, and an artist, I seem to straddle between daily chores like washing the dishes or doing homework with the kids to the seemingly glamorous act of making art,” she continues. “These two distinctly female roles in my own life are coming together in a series of works that uses ordinary household objects as materials to create sculptures and installations.”

Venus at Home first showed on the Main Visual Arts Programme at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival in 2012. In 2013, the exhibition received much acclaim at the Johannesburg Art Gallery and last year this body of work saw significant audience engagement at the North West University Gallery.

“I am excited about bringing an exhibition of this nature to Durban audiences,” says Director of the Durban Art Gallery, Mduduzi Xakaza. “I believe that the artworks express the complex role that women play in our society which are necessary conversations to have.”

The history of Seejarim's work shows a fascination with the everyday and the mundane. Previous works have used household and ordinary objects like toothbrushes, bus tickets, soap bars and earbuds. In fact, in a public artwork for MTN, she used some 140,000 safety pins to create an installation titled Pin code. This piece sits at their head-office in Fairlands in Johannesburg. Other public artworks made by Seejarim include the ten slate stone figures representing the Freedom Charter at Walter Sisulu Square in Kliptown, a 40m sunscreen for the South African Chancery in Addis Ababa and her proudest moment; the opportunity to produce the official portrait for Nelson Mandela's funeral in Qunu which she made from a series of stringed seeds.

The experience of public art is evident in Venus at Home through a body of work that is sculptural and installation-based. As these ordinary objects are transformed into three-dimension artworks, they become culturally loaded, gender specific and open the possibility for conversations beyond their ordinary functions. Seejarim links this to an acute awareness of her identity through location, history and culture. It’s a sense of who she is in relation to the idea of home and belonging.

Seejarim obtained her Masters Degree in Fine Art at Wits University in 2008 and her B-Tech Degree in Fine Art in 1999 at the University of Johannesburg (previously the Technikon Witwatersrand). She has held seven solo exhibitions and participated in numerous group exhibitions nationally and internationally in Paris, Minneapolis, Tokyo, Havana and Belgium. She has also created a number of significant public art pieces in a variety of media.

Venus at Home is project managed by Art Source and supported by the National Arts Council. The exhibition runs at the Durban Art Gallery until 18 October 2015. The artist will conduct a walkabout tomorrow (August 14) at 13h00.

For more information contact Jabu at the Durban Art Gallery on 031 311 2263 or Usha Seejarim on 082 857 0196.