Writing Art History Since 2002

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Art South Africa Volume 12: Issue 02

Kilmaney-Jo Liversage, Misako Teah. Acrylic and spray paint on canvas. Courtesy of Worldart.

“Future-retro” is the add-on attached to the street art and indoor wall-work – or paintings – by Kilmany-Jo Liversage. Like all good descriptors, it’s catchy, accounting for the endgame of contemporary art where everything’s been done and what we are left with is the recurrence of the same. Sounds cynical, but this view, famously punted by Arthur C. Danto, makes sense in a globalised hall of mirrors in which everything goes; everything meshes with everything else in a graded blur. Hailing from Bloemfontein – the “city of roses” – Kilmany-Jo Livesage’s personal definition for what she does is “visual funk”, a fall-out from Motown, but also a state of mind which, in the 21st century, conveys ennui, exhaustion, or a bluesy narcotised languor. To be in a funk also means to flinch, shirk, then find oneself caught in the doldrums. Looking at Kilmany-Jo Liversage’s paintings, along with her recent street art commissioned for the 55th Venice Biennale, doesn’t suggest, to me at least, anything funky – which is also a descriptor for something that stinks. Instead, there’s an electrified vitality to the work; a crazy bling over-the-top quality that reads as excess, an earsplitting loudness or harsh glare. After Jean Baudrillard, this is work that’s visible … all too visible: designed to nuke the hang-over of penetrative insight; keeping things on the surface, and, on that surface triggering a fuselage of fire-crackers. Liversage’s work, literally, explodes. Its pop affect – flat portraiture check-mated by jagged bolts of kinetic colour – captures the psychedelic noise of the current moment.

Ashraf Jamal is an editor, writer and academic – Media Studies, CPUT.

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