Being an artist usually entails a struggle. These days it comes with the unexpected baggage of being a member of the privileged classes - being part of the system. Hashtag awkward.
Further complicating this position is the fact that abstraction and formalism are the modes du jour -centred on form, process and materiality - all self-absorbed pursuits that are conceived as having little to do with the rest of society and all its ills. Hashtag super awkward, given the country's current state of affairs. Making beautiful pieces is also a difficult one for artists to negotiate. Is it décor? Art with no substance? In the wake of conceptualism, is this the death knell of art?
Dale Lawrence, a 29-year old Michaelis graduate, seems to have settled on a solution to these art conundrums. He's making abstraction art that consciously engages with the privilege of being an artist.
In his new solo exhibition, Look Busy, at Smith Studio Gallery in Cape Town, he draws attention to the ways in which he "works", first by creating art that's labour intensive (very intricate patterned linocuts) and, second, by generating titles that refer to the privilege of a secure financial position, like his workTrust Fund or Rocking Chair.
The prints are so precise, finicky and perfect that they speak of a serious work ethic - he has something to show for his efforts despite the fact that they don't fulfil a higher purpose. The works are beautifully delicate and this characteristic is their purpose.
The quirky titles direct us to the ''every day-ness" the artist tries to assign to his work, like Folding Underwear.Guidance Counsellor, a work which lists and muddles professions, preoccupations and predilections (such as thrill seeker), is the only piece where he states the theme that underpins this show literally. For the rest, he indulges in monochromatic patterns. The result is a pleasing form of self-flagellation, subtly convincing you to let him off the hook.