Marlene Steyn & Gabrielle Kruger

Garden Smoothie

22.11.18 – 23.02.19

Stellenbosch

SMAC Gallery is proud to present Garden Smoothie, a collaborative exhibition of the work of studio mates, Marlene Steyn and Gabrielle Kruger.

Created within and around a greenhouse within a gallery space, Garden Smoothie finds inspiration in the very idea of something growing – a fluid mush mash of thoughts and concepts, slithering freely across their environment – and, somewhat like a real smoothie, this exhibition presents itself as a selection of organisms with the potential to mutate into any form.

Their first exhibition together, Steyn and Kruger’s recipe of work is intended to mirror their studio practice – a contagious space, literally overgrowing with art. And like the fruitful and well-watered character of their studio, Garden Smoothie comes as a thick and creamy exhibition – generous with gestures and information, yet cultivated, nurtured and contained within their very own greenhouse garden. Not set in stone (paint and ceramics rather), the work, like the artists, is experimental in nature and constantly in a state of becoming. They’ve taken the world, blended it up and condensed it, and swallowed it – inviting us into their unique synthesis of unconventional ingredients. Taking direction from both the materiality of the paint and the opportunistic nature of plants, Kruger and Steyn have created an Eden of sorts; bushy and lush, feminine and full. It’s almost a smoothie of forbidden fruit – tantalising and playful, the images are both blatant (nudity! Sex! Snakes! Leaves!) and subtle (meaning concealed by a camouflage of plasticised shrubbery), making reference to the sensual, and framing Eden as a paradise of pleasure and delight. And yet, what makes this garden so remarkable is its understanding of the immeasurable disposition of nature – their greenhouse is at once untamed and cultivated, sumptuous and contained, wild and stylised – while the viewer is both looking at, and existing within, the work. For Steyn, just like a woman domesticates her wild, natural self, Garden Smoothie comes as an exhibition somewhat “like shaving your leg hair.”

Adept at choosing telling details, Steyn reviews familiar objects to create uncanny motifs through repetition and unpredictable combinations, and, in Garden Smoothie, uses anchor points – such as the female figure (a biographical self), braided ropes of hair, and snakes – both to reinforce the symbolic visual language that has become synonymous with her method of working, and to elaborate on the visual generosity of this particular, collaborative recipe. While Steyn’s practice sees a playful and figurative approach to image-making, Kruger’s is informed by the material itself – her plants growing from process. A blend of acrylic modelling paste (paint) and pigment, Kruger’s plasticised natural environment formula has been developed solely for her use, and allows her to mix the contents to her liking (“it’s like baking”) – the white of the acrylic, modelling paste diluting the pigment to create milkshake-like, smoothie-esque colours and textures.

In Garden Smoothie, the idea of growing comes as a movement to inform composition, where the growth of Steyn and Kruger as both studio mates and artists is central to the exhibition. For these two artists, painting is like gardening for your mind, and a conversation in the studio is a visual one. Here, there has been a deliberate blurring of boundaries – between studio and gallery space, between plant and human, between wild and contained – presenting the ecology of the garden as idea, place and action, and paint as concept, surface, image and medium. Theirs, truly, is a smoothie of all things wild, wonderful and of utmost deliciousness.