Tiago Rodrigues

GOOD GRIEF

07. 07. 18 – 11. 08. 18

CAPE TOWN

SMAC Gallery is proud to present ‘Good Grief’, sculptor Tiago Rodrigues’s debut solo exhibition with the gallery. Rodrigues’s central preoccupation with this latest body of work lies in acts of transgression, and the irrevocable shifts which result from these acts. Directly concerned with pushing against material, ideological, and psychological barriers, the artist enacts a number of repetitious and highly laborious processes in order to locate a formal beauty in subverting signifiers of violence and control.

In prior bodies of work, Tiago Rodrigues’s sculptures have referred to predominantly Catholic iconography in order to critique the misappropriation of religious belief into oppressive patriarchal structures of control and penitence. While retaining religious ceremonial iconography, such as the candles in Common Purpose and an installation of shattered windows/vessels entitled Still Waiting, this new body of work expands its scope of inquiry to look at power dynamics in a broader sociopolitical sense.

As a case in point, the hanging belts of The Hardest Pill to Swallow serve as a literal threshold which viewers are required to cross in order to access the exhibition. Here the embedded power dynamics are dependent on the viewer’s psychological experience of the threatening presence of the belts which, in keeping with the exhibition’s themes of transgression, are surmounted by passing through them.

A recurring theme throughout is that a consequence of transgression is the impossibility of return to a prior state. In the sculptural text piece Never Better – and its accompanying video HELL BENT – the large wooden letters which make up the word ‘SUBMISSION’ are set alight and irreversibly burnt. In another work, candles inscribed with the phrase ‘Here Today, Gone Tomorrow’ are left to melt into amorphous viscera of wax.

When Rodrigues shatters the reinforced glass vessels of the Still Waiting series through a variety of ‘anarchic’ signifiers: hammers, crowbars, and shotgun blasts (among other means), the care and attention which goes into the construction of the works is starkly contrasted with the cathartic abandon with which they are desecrated. Skirting the line between masochism and sense of punk anarchism, Rodrigues’s work delves into the conflict between the aestheticisation of rage and resistance as a form of containment, and the purgative release of contravention.

Ideas of barriers and boundaries inform both the iconography and the actual materials adopted by the artist. While obviously alluding to the apathetic cool of the titular Sex Pistols track, the ‘Pretty Vacant’ spelled out by the chain-link text piece Pay Attention also seems to serve as a signifier for the stagnant rot of closed-off vacant lots; an idea the artist relates to a fixed view of historical narratives.

Similarly, the language of fencing as a means of demarcation and access is referenced in the hand-carved imbuia barbed wire of Holding Thumbs. Playing into the idea of labour as penance or a form of stoicism, this meticulously-rendered sculpture is imbued with a tension between its seductive aesthetic qualities and the connotations for which it stands: a symbol of violent access control and enforced borders.