BRETT MURRAY: Hide
Feb 6 – Feb 27, 2019
BRETT MURRAY | HIDE | 06 – 27 FEBRUARY 2019
EVERARD READ/CIRCA CAPE TOWN
Everard Read CIRCA Cape Town is proud to present ‘Hide’ by Brett Murray. This is the acclaimed satirical pop artist’s first solo exhibition at the Cape Town gallery.
Offering a fresh assortment of Murray’s idiosyncratic critters, ‘Hide’ sees the artist moving away from the pointed political critique of his work from recent years, and instead casting softer stones in wider directions, or even inwards. While still reserving plenty of anthropomorphic denunciations for ‘Instagram Revolutionaries’ and the ‘Twitter Nostra’, in this body of work the artist sometimes looks closer to home.
In many ways, ‘Hide’ is a spiritual successor to Brett Murray’s 2002 Standard Bank Young Artist exhibition ‘White Like Me’; an introspective stock-take on the artist’s positionality within the social climate of South Africa at a particular moment. Rather than specifically looking at whiteness during the fervour of Rainbow Nationalism (as he did in 2002), Murray here considers the role of the satirist in relation to the Frankenstein’s monster of political debate that the social media age has spawned.
To this end Murray adopts the wide-eyed, gaping figure of the nagapie (the Afrikaans term for the Mohol bush-baby) as a self-deprecating surrogate. Transfixed, he stares into oncoming headlights with comically-exaggerated eyes and an expression best translated as “oh shit”. Murray’s approach here is to do what he has always done: use humour as a tool to work through an extremely trying and uncertain moment in our country’s history. He extends this vision to include the global sense of confusion and fear. Here he describes a world inhabited by populist cocks, white elephants and Twitter bots.
Alongside more familiar materials in Brett Murray’s oeuvre (flat Perspex cut-outs, metal texts, and sleek bronzes), ‘Hide’ also includes a series of large Carrara marble sculptures produced in Pietrasanta, Italy. Offering clear comedic appeal, the juxtaposition of Murray’s distinctively hapless and doughy animals with a material as thoroughly entrenched in high art pomposity as marble proves to be a surprisingly snug fit.
While satire as a tool for political debate has been a cornerstone of Murray’s practice, these new works aim to grapple with the ways in which political discussions have been shaped for the worse by social media. As someone acutely aware of the real-world consequences of mass-outrage and its potential to descend into actual threats of violence, Murray’s humorous depiction of so-called Twitter Nostras and Facebook Fundamentalists as impish vampire bats is astute.
Against this backdrop, Murray takes a satirical look at his own capacity for outrage and irritation towards Instagram Revolutionaries, identity politics, ‘snowflakes’, and (tellingly) himself, in a series of engraved Perspex drawings entitled Disney Suicides. This particular selection references the pervasiveness of suicide by gunshot as a punchline in many old Disney, Looney Tunes, and Walter Lantz cartoons from the mid twentieth century: “Now I've seen everything!”.
In the context of both the cartoons and Murray’s artwork, the decision to opt-out via suicide is a hyperbolic, provocative, and patently ridiculous one. However anarchic and brutal it may have appeared, the violence in those early cartoons was fleeting and impermanent, serving entirely as a temporary comedic beat.
The series extends what critic Ivor Powell has previously described as Brett Murray’s tendency to “hit the funny bone”: using humour to elicit a “visceral and reflexive kind of shock”, much like hitting one’s funny bone, “something that shorts the essentially rational circuitry of thought and discourse”.
Brett Murray brings all of these divergent strands together under contrasting definitions of the term ‘hide’. The most literal one of course stems from the act of disappearing in the interests of protection or safety. Thereafter, there are the connotations to skin (specifically of the thin variety) and the politics of reactive outrage. Finally, it could refer to the means by which self-serving, populism is hidden behind hashtag-friendly, Instagram Revolutionary rhetoric, and an avalanche of fake news. In the face of this perpetual barrage, is it any wonder that Murray’s nagapie appears so bewildered?
- Tim Leibbrandt 2018, Cape Town
Opening night event 18:45 Wednesday 6th February
Walk-about with the artist Saturday 23rd February
*Images courtesy of Michael Hall