Nothing bad | Michaela Younge

Thu, May 9, 2019 to Sat, June 8, 2019

SMITH is pleased to present Nothing Bad, a solo exhibition by Michaela Younge and her first with the gallery. Younge has made a vast collection of Merino wool on felt works in her signature style.

Cupid is wearing a thong, a cat is playing the trumpet, and a naked man is lying in the cold cuts counter. Someone is braaing in the art museum, and someone has lost an arm. There are adverts for Carling Black Label and Maserati, a DVD rental store, a peep show. And everywhere animals. Michaela Younge’s felted compositions appear as scenes from obscure fables; not ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’ but rather ‘Used Cars and Lobsters’. She weaves together popular culture, urban legends, myths and stories into rich narrative scenes. They are at once playful and violent, dark despite their colours. Her work appeals to dream logic, which is no logic, set in places at once familiar and strange.

Younge’s tableaux are dense with detail. The walls are patterned, the floors tiled. There are candlesticks and pot plants and empty beer bottles, trinkets, posters, neon signs. She meticulously pricks and sticks each scene into shape, working dyed merino wool into a felt backing with a barbed needle; stabbing death and drama into its very fibre.

More recently, Younge’s attention has been drawn to adolescence and its attendant anxieties, its confusions. “In high school, I ended up on the C Team in netball,” she says, “which was pretty good seeing as no one ever explained the rules to me, and I actually had no idea what was going on. Basically, it was a sham; I was a fake team player. I have no idea how I lasted that long. I knew where I should be standing, and I just stayed there.” The high school of her felted works is an imagined place of prom nights and team sports and drum majorettes. But it is an unsettling place too, disconcerting, foreboding; ‘Sweet Valley Twins’ meets ‘Twin Peaks’. In Promise Roger All Your Kisses, two girls perform a cheerleading routine in a bedroom. They wear matching outfits, their jerseys embroidered with large blue ‘R’s. The scene is uncertain; nothing bad, perhaps, but nothing good either. There is darkness in the detail – the teddy bear has lost its head, and posters of aliens are pinned to the wall. A box of Cluedo lies on the floor, promising murder and deception and Colonel Mustard in the kitchen with the candlestick.

Nothing Bad opens on 9 May at 17h30. For press enquiries or to request a longer format essay on the exhibition written by Lucienne Bestall, please contact Jana Terblanche at jana@smithstudio.co.za.

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