Carla Busuttil / Choice. Click. Bait / 2016
Goodman Gallery Johannesburg
In her latest solo exhibition, Carla Busuttil reflects on the parallel themes of growing wealth inequality and information abundance. Concerned with a global shift toward increasing wealth and technology-based isolation, Busuttil seeks to uncover and skewer the historic and present day foundations of this observed trend.
Taken from one of her paintings, the title Choice. Click. Bait. refers to modern methods of delivering and receiving information. With multiple 24-hour news networks, social media, free daily papers, and the infinite expanse of the Internet, we have almost unlimited access to information about the world we live in. And each source competes for our attention. Yet this access does not always result in clearer understanding, or a more informed outlook. Instead we experience a sense of confusion induced by the incessant blur of conflicting data. Yet the act of painting, by definition, slows this fast-paced consumption of imagery, information and pressing concern. The interaction between Busuttil’s painted and digital worlds forms the visual backdrop to much of Choice. Click. Bait.
South Africa is used as a starting point for investigating the impact of increased global wealth inequality. The tendency towards societal retreat is explored in an ongoing project realised in collaboration with fellow artists, Chris Saunders and Gary Charles. Modelled around a fictional company, Mosquito Lightning, the work evokes the present-day obsession with private policing in South Africa. The project explores the realities and absurdities related to an industry many have come to accept as normal, or everyday. “I see these companies as a device, or totem, reflecting one of our most important contemporary socioeconomic issues – inequality and the wealth gap,” says Busuttil. The project is represented in the show through installation, replete with company branding, advertising, fabricated uniforms, a website, social media, photo, video and a secured area with sentry shed and boom. The work is a result of research conducted into the private security industry; engaging with firms, undergoing training regimes, and appropriating the real-life visual language and marketing messages for their own creation, Mosquito Lightning.
In addition to present day concerns, Busuttil seeks to explore historical foundations that may serve to expand upon current debate. Through paintings and film, Busuttil directly questions the legacy of British colonial action in Africa – an unresolved debate, as evidenced recently by the emergence of the #rhodesmustfall movement. Busuttil states, “My work deals with the politics of power. The content of my work tends to reference historically charged spaces. Issues around race, gender, status and nationality are key to our understanding of how power can be used to shape and control societies.” Through the use of masks and crude, often humorous, imagery, Busuttil seeks to neutralise the characters that appear in her work. This process allows for the distortion of identity, and the erosion of potential sources of classification. “I feel it allows the viewer to get closer to the subject matter”.
Although she is branching out in new directions – installation, conceptualism, as well as performative video work – Busuttil’s exhibition Choice. Click. Bait. centres on her inimitable style of painting. “Painting remains my default mode,” Busuttil says, “and regardless of what other avenues I investigate, painting seems to be my route in and route out.”
Carla Busuttil (b.1982, Johannesburg, South Africa) completed her postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy Schools, London following a degree in fine art at University of Witwatersrand. She has held solo exhibitions in London, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Milan and Seoul, and has featured in major exhibitions including Newspeak: British Art Now at the Saatchi Gallery, London and British Art Now at Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. Her work is included in the Deutche Bank Global Art Collection, Saatchi Collection, Kabin Collection, and the Franks-Suss Collection, London. Busuttil also features in the recent publications 100 Painters of Tomorrow (Thames & Hudson), Painting Now (Thames & Hudson) and Picturing People (Thames & Hudson). She lives and works in Oxford, UK.