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Paper: Oil paint on composite board.

Edition Number: Unique

Size: H 1 800cm x W 7 200 meters.

Created: 2013


SIGNIFICATION: Textarea is an abstract work with a spontaneous brush application. The silence of spaces, city structures, landscapes, grids and signification, which may be at once symbolic and impossible are my subject. One can imagine people transferring across and within the city, walking and travelling. To invoke a city is to allow its ‘voices’ to be heard. Consider that “[t]o generate the voices of the city itself is to venture into the realm of sensory intimation” (Amin and Thrift 2003: 9). Taxi hand signs, performed by the ‘presence’ of millions of commuters over the years in Gauteng, are the ‘trace’, the silent voices that make the most visual noise, filling the ‘nothingness’ of time and space. The person responding to the taxi hand sign is the addressee or the driver. Hence, the Derridean ‘trace’ or ‘graphie’ which is the textual schema correspondingly read in art terms as the mark, image or object, sets up the visual scenario for signification and communication in the artwork.

THS. Signification - Textarea

  • SIGNIFICATION: Textarea stemmed from a vision of the communication between commuters and taxis. Paradoxically, the thousands of minibus taxi drivers collecting and offloading passengers in Gauteng must rely on commuters’ coded taxi hand signals to say where they want to go and to ensure each driver’s livelihood. As much as taxi hand sign narratives are shaped by the city environment and narrative, so also are the spaces in the city altered by the presence of these shared and observable performances. Many commuters, pedestrians and motorists may have come to expect seeing taxi hand signing on the streets of Gauteng as an everyday occurrence.


    The concept for SIGNIFICATION: textarea thus evolved out of the notion that taxi hand signs are prevalent in the symbolic and material landscapes of public culture in a way that affects the character of how Gauteng may be perceived or experienced. The silence of spaces, city structures, landscapes, grids and messaging, which may be at once symbolic and impossible are the subject.


    The material work is essentially a two-dimensional format, seven metres wide by one metre in depth and consists of four panels, which are joined and read as one work. Textarea in the title is used to describe the return route when weaving thread across the weft of a loom. It also refers to a continuum because of the linear markings that suggest a progressive movement forward. Textarea also contains the word Text. Although there are no actual written texts to address signification in the artwork, the brush strokes or marks as the signifying elements create a narrative and to represent the taxi hand signs and the process of signification. The mark or code made on the surface of the artwork stands for the ‘object’ or taxi hand, which is signing. The taxi hand determines the shape of the sign depending on where it is referring, one may imagine the same of the brush stroke. Brushstrokes and smudges interrupt what at first begins with an expanse of uninterrupted space on the surface of the work, which essentially presupposes the existence of infinity and further informs the moment the first mark shatters that space, and the second mark creates an address. Thus the absence of recognisable taxi hand signs may be represented by marks, lines, smudges, dots and brush strokes that are in themselves like the places that taxi hand signs code for.


    The places left empty on the canvas are a means of  suggesting a vastness or space where transferal  of messages might be imagined to be present. In the main, these are spaces where networks of communication may be perceived,  as  millions of commuters communicate to taxi drivers with silent hand gestures.  Vacant spaces may suggest distance and when interrupted only with one or two spontaneous lines or paint marks they imply movement back and forth, perhaps across the city by millions of commuters and taxis leaving traces of having been there.


    As movement is a part of the conceptual vision, the artwork encourages the eye of the viewer to scan the artwork from one focal point in the work to the next. The movement of the eye across spaces of symbolic landscapes and reflections of structures and streets is equivalent to following a message as it transfers from commuter to driver (signifier to addressee)  over time.

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