6 September – 4 October 2013
Josh Lilley is pleased to announce the opening of Generation V, the second solo exhibition at the gallery by South Africa-born painter Carla Busuttil.
For her new show, Busuttil continues her exploration through ideas of historical power and conflict. References are taken from history textbooks, newspapers, magazines or the internet, where her paintings fuse composite creations of real people with recorded histories. By scraping away their original identities, the subjects then become containers or representations, characters that make up an alternative world; a fantastical dystopia of conflict, yet one rooted in her experiences and emotions for the country of her birth. Within it, Busuttil points to a post-national environment free from borders. Generation V is her label for this alternative generation, alluding to a backlash and shift away from the entitlement and ever-growing connectivity of Generations X and Y.
Busuttil was born in Johannesburg at the height of apartheid. Her parents were foreign. Like many people in South Africa, she has a feeling of estrangement, of not feeling rooted to one particular place. The pseudo-fantatsical world she has imagined is a response to this unease, an identity crisis and confusion that courses through South African society. This month saw the habitation of a young white middle class family in a township outside of Pretoria — a sort of social experiment. They wanted to have empathy with their fellow citizens, and attempt to understand the disparate cultures within their own country. It has provoked so many mixed emotions, positive and negative, progressive and offensive. People are trying to find their balance, being participants in a new society, while equating their wealth or poverty to those of others around them. Busuttil's paintings exorcise these emotions — notions of guilt, of naivety, of aspiration, of history, of tension, and of confusion. She presents a group of characters living freely, but inhabiting a structureless society.
In her paintings recognisable order is scarcely present. Standardised military uniforms demonstrating unity and rank have all but vanished. Self-styled costumes of conflict have taken their place, perpetually modified and personalised. The characters are at once both soldiers and citizens, their identities hidden with crudely anthropomorphic masks. Child soldiers proliferate, together with unhinged aristocrats, powerless lawmen, tribesmen, scoundrel children, and the bystander, all lurching towards some unrecorded fate. The mask plays a definitive role, perhaps the ultimate motif in representing the abuse of freedom. In some instances it is used as concealment, a way of hiding or relinquishing responsibility from the perpetration of crimes. In others it bestows the wearer with a surrogate personality, a new identity — a kind of liberty. It is also presented as a prejudicial stereotype. Her film records all these entities: aggression, excitement, and the repetitive behaviour of children.
Busuttil is psychologically affected by her surroundings, and the paintings are a regurgitation of those forces. She consumes images, almost overdosing on them. The works become a suggestion, an offering, where the ambiance provided does not present a conclusion or an overt message. Instead it records moments of confusion and paralysis: a society in shock, rumbling out of control.
Carla Busuttil (b. 1982 in Johannesburg, South Africa) lives and works in the UK. Busuttil completed her MFA at the Royal Academy Schools in 2008. Previous solo exhibitions include Exit Mode, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg; 2012 and Rug & Gut & Gum, Josh Lilley, London, 2011. Selected group exhibitions include Creative London, Space K, Seoul, Gwacheon & Gwangju, 2012; British Art Now, Saatchi in Adelaide, Australia, 2011; and Gifted, Josh Lilley, London, 2011.