For those of you that haven’t been down to Whatiftheworld gallery lately, do yourselves a favour and fit a trip into your agenda sometime in the next two weeks. Last week Wednesday I went exhibition-opening hopping, and what started off rather horribly (taking a detour through Woodstock up the dodgiest alleyway we could find, to witness a pigeon being steamrolled by the truck tyre of the usual toothless bergie who seemed to get much satisfaction from making a white girl scream (sorry, I’m not from cape town - is it not very pc to refer to the locals as bergies? I haven’t worked it out yet) while five metres away a baby bergie played with the remains of another dead fowl… Just great to see how the other half live…) and continued less than well (sorry to the guys at Bell-Roberts, their current exhibition is a little more than disappointing), but, happily, ended on a super duper note as we arrived at whatiftheworld to find the best painting exhibition I’ve seen in a long time - so good in fact that I didn’t even care that the wine had run out.

The exhibition - entitled Kind Pockets - is the first solo show by Durban artist Richard Hart - who it turns out has only recently been taught to paint but has been in the creative industry for quite some time, as the co-founder of highly acclaimed design company, Disturbance Design. But wow, can this man paint.

The exhibition is a series of over twenty large oil paintings, some huge, at over 3 or 4 metres in height, each depicting scenes of young women carrying animals in marsupial-like pouches, in an environment that lends each painting a surrealistic quality that is an Alice in Wonderland meets Salvador Dali rendition. And the quality of the painting is just as detailed and meticulous as one would expect of a surrealisticly-inclined endeavour like this one. Absolutely and totally a feast for the eyes and the imagination.

The exhibition is also accompanied by a series of outfits made by Amanda Laid-Cherry (Durban fashion designer and known for starting the Space stores), that are exact replicas of those worn by the characters in the painting. This section is a beautiful accessory to an already superb body of work.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say for now. What follows is the review by whatiftheworld:

Kind Pockets is an exploration of the concept of the marsupial girl, an imaginary archetype. Aesthetically the work references the visual vernacular of popular youth culture, bringing to mind the work of artists such as Rita Ackermann, Aya Takano and Yoshitomo Nara. At surface level the work seems to deal with the ephemeral – themes such as beauty, fashion, innocence and adolescence. But on closer inspection the girls and their animal companions populate a disquieting world where the fragile present threatens to shatter into something more sinister. The images seem to capture the moment just before the event, and are filled with an unnerving anticipation. The inhabitants occupy an ambiguous space, heightening the overall sense of disquiet – the dialogue between girl and animal often seems to be an uneasy one.

The works also allude to fertility; perhaps more a metaphysical fertility than a literal one. Whether it be the swan emerging from the folds of the girl’s dress in “Youth god, Thunder god and the War of Teenage Dreams” or the embracing monkeys in the pinafore pocket of one twin in “Sometimes a Perfect Violence”, there is a repeated motif of an animal emerging from the womb area of the subject. Between these symbolic potentials of birth and becoming, the exquisite detail of the clothing and the otherworldly beauty of the young girls, an underlying current of latent sexuality comes through in many of the works and adds to the sense of tension.

*The exhibition will be accompanied by a limited edition soft-cover gallery publication titled ‘Kind Pockets.’