Mixed media artist Gina Waldman’s work deals primarily with the concept of perfection and the slippages that seemingly perfect surfaces make. Her interest lies in the ways that seemingly perfect moments, objects and relationships are constructs set up to create a seamless illusion.
Since completing her Masters in Fine Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2003, Waldman has developed her own unique style, which as distinct as it is, is also constantly evolving. The themes in her work are myriad and complex, but recurring motifs include kitsch, excess, collecting and consumerism.
Known for her obsessive, claustrophobic compositions of kitsch paraphernalia, Waldman is interested in the philosophy of kitsch and its many complications in terms of value, decoration, excess, nostalgia and perfection. She works with a sort of self-consciousness about romanticising a world where there is some- thing that lurks beneath the surface, like a stain or an imperfect mark. The symbiotic evolution of kitsch and consumerism infuse her work with the notion of kitsch as associated with femininity in the same way that craft has been applied to “woman’s values.”
Waldman questions the belief that women favour pretty and decorative art, preferring idealised beauty to truth, and the notion that sentimental emotions are linked to femininity and weakness. She often uses “women’s work” techniques like embroidery, weaving, collage and tapestry in the creation of her art- work. The hand-crafted work takes a very long time to construct— labour is a very important part of the art process. The more involved or larger the art- work is, the more excessive it becomes, excess becoming another recurring theme in the artist’s work.
Between 2005- 2012 Waldman co-founded and ran the fashion label Boom Factory, noted for its range of girls’ underwear, then launching the label Two with her sister, Caren Waldman. They created a popular brand of clothing that mixed current trends with wearable, functional clothing. The garments pushed conventional boundaries expressing individuality and a unique style, becoming one of the best-loved brands in the local market. The blurring of boundaries between the art and design world is another recurring conceit in Waldman’s work.
The artist tends to incorporate materials used such as glitter, representing obscene beauty and perfection; objects like fake wood, fake gold, fake birds with real feathers and artificial silk roses which represent nature, but will never wilt, so symbolising the ideal. However, upon close inspection, these objects may be considered kitsch, i.e. very poor taste. This is also Waldman’s way of exposing and celebrating commercial art projects which pretend to be high art but are actually fake.
The use of bright colours and quirky media (zips, textile flowers, sweets, Christmas lights, glitter, etc) is ubiquitous in Waldman’s work. Artifice is exposed only through the excess and perfection of the romanticised idea of perfection. This perfection seems to be carried along by a horror vacui that seeks to en- courage the capitalist consumer notion that too much is never enough. Her work aims to expose the excesses of consumerism and capitalist kitsch, while also taking aim at ‘art as décor’ and society’s notions and representations of ‘high art’.
Waldman is interested in the ways that we decorate our spaces and uses a lot of domestic objects in her work—safety pins, pot scourers, dishcloths, servi- ettes and jewellery, for example. The desire is to draw attention to the work itself while simultaneously posing thought-provoking questions.
Waldman’s numerous solo shows include those at the Bell Roberts Gallery, Obert Contemporary, Standard Bank gallery and she has taken part in many group shows locally and abroad. Her work can be found on the walls of private residential collections as well as in corporate buildings and developments. She is currently working on a number of private commissions and exhibitions.
Cattivo Gusto, curated by Lucy MacGarry for Mesh, Keyes Art Mile
In Silva, curated by Dineke van der Walt, KKNK
Small boxes, curated by Sarah Grace Fraser, Priest Gallery
FNB Art Fair 40m wire, thread, steel and fabric installation for Everard Read gallery booth
In Silva, curated by Dineke van der Walt as part of the outcome the Fulcrum Suzanne Shaw Creative Award 2018- and support from the Bag Factory, BASA, Kalashnikovv Gallery
In The Forrest of the Night, large scale installation, Circa
Summer sculpture show, Everard Read
Collaborative work Disclosure, video and stills, exhibited at Oliewenhuis Museum, Bloemfontein
Collaborative work, Ubulungiswa Justice, video and stills, exhibited at AVA gallery, Cape Town
Women’s Work group show: Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town
This Place, This Space, Moor Gallery group show curated by Julia Meintjies, Franschhoek
Portraits group show, Tinsel Gallery
New works, watercolour and ink drawings, David Krut Bookshop
Group show curated by Julia Meintjies, Cavalli Art gallery
Collaborative work, Ubulungiswa Justice, video and stills, exhibited at Michaelis, Cape Town
Group show curated by Julia Meintjies, Tokara
Collaborative work Disclosure, video and stills, exhibited at Iziko Natural History Museum, Cape Town
Play Make Play Workshop with British Council with Anthea Moys
Turbine Art Fair, Art Source
Collaboration Disclosure, video and stills, The Karoo Tinsel Campaign, Tinsel Gallery
Sentimental Value with Geraldine Fenn at Liz Loubser gallery
Marie Claire Prix D’Excellence award
Gina Waldman, Wolves Cafe, Johannesburg
Nine Takes craft project for Department of Arts and Culture
Merit Award, Sasol New Signatures, Johannesburg
Christmas Tree curated by Liza Essers for Anglo corporate
5 Roses group show, Mary Sibanda, Lawrence Lemaoana, Gina Waldman at SA Fashion Week
Solo exhibition, Shrines, Obert Contemporary
Collaborative live painting with Kudzi Chiurai, The Play Beautifully challenge, for Nike: Trigger
Succulents curated by Teresa Lizamore, with Bronwen Findlay and Retha Buitendach at Artspace
The David exhibition, The Michelangelo Hotel
Solo show, Threads, Bell Roberts gallery
LG ArtCool, Bell Robert Gallery
Featured Spring artist, Visi Magazine
Featured Winter artist for in-store art display Woolworths nationwide
In-store Art Residency, Woolworths Eastgate and the Trinity Session
Finalist in the Brett Kebble art awards, Cape Town, Makeshift at Johannesburg Art Gallery
Solo exhibition, Excessive Surfaces at Bell Roberts Gallery
Woolworths Be More You campaign, nationwide
Solo exhibition, Decorating the Damaged at Standard Bank Gallery
Solo exhibition Patinas of Perfection, Masters Show, High Street Gallery in Melrose Arch
Group show with Emily Stainer at Gertrude Posel Gallery
Finalist in Absa Atelier Awards at Absa Gallery
Tretchikoff retrospective, KKNK curated by Lucia Burger