FNB Art Joburg
Sandton Convention
Centre, Johannesburg,
South Africa

Exhibition of Interest

A balancing act between consistency and progression

with Rosie Mudge

While mimicking the overindulgent, glossy and bedazzled nostalgia of the y2k Rosie Mudge is able to maintain the beguiling (elusive) aesthetic of early 2020 social media. Speaking to both eras, the practice mirrors the chaotic confusion of contemporary life. An invitation, beckoning vulnerability, the work’s coyness also presents a boundary, making the audience question how close they can go. For this week’s ______ Of Interest, we talk to the artist about balancing progression with consistency.

With a style that is as distinct and consistent as hers, it’s easy to assume that Rosie Mudge’s practice is generative. Charged with material messaging and a detailed process, it isn’t. A once-off melding of varying colours of automotive paint and glitter, for each work, no two works are the same. Then, working with automotive paint (a non-traditional medium of masculinised machinery associated with hostile environments) to make dreamlike softscapes, Mudge’s process comments on the importance of acknowledging the unseen parts that inform the presented visual.

Concerned with materiality, gender, visual linguistics and intimacy as they manifest in pop culture, Mudge is best known for her mega-sized, shimmering colour-gradients. Using non-traditional mediums, Mudge’s large-scale works consume their audience into a dreamlike colourscape offering brief breaks from life’s incessant hostility.

Even though Mudge uses non-threatening colours, the excess of glitter is deliberately overwhelming. “My work materialises toxic positivity. It’s that anxiety of continual joy, of trying to be relentlessly positive,” she explains.

An encapsulation of what toxic positivity feels like, Under Pressure uses pop culture signals found in mainstream music to demonstrate how normalised perfection and incessant winning is. Taken from Kanye West’s 2007 anthem, Stronger, the words inscribed on the diptych Work It (Harder) assert the notion that working harder makes things better, faster and stronger. Leaving no room for weakness or rest, this stance is further ingrained and rewarded in works like Hiding All The Tears in My Eyes ‘Cause, (Boys Don’t Cry) and Leave All My Fears Behind.

Not to condemn humanity’s absorbent ways, Mudge admits to also giving in while Under Pressure. “A lot of these things are buried deep in our subconscious. They’re not laid out as meticulously as our history lays them out to be,” sighs Mudge. “It’s like watching a child grow up. When they’re an infant, you can’t imagine what they’ll look like. But when they’re older and you look back, you realise that was their face all along.”

A shimmering and pretty, patriarchy-free dystopia, Under Pressure does not offer hope. However, in continuing to colour a brutally unreasonable reality with a child-friendly palette, Mudge’s messaging stays inviting because in acknowledging the hurt, it’s a welcomed break from being gaslit.

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