Beth Diane Armstrong: In perpetuum 3 August to 30 September 2017 | Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg

This exhibition of work by Beth Diane Armstrong, recipient of the 2017 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art, highlights her use of sculpture to explore different expressions of density and looseness. The title in perpetuum suggests something which is ongoing and everlasting. In the sense that Armstrong applies the term, it refers to negotiating a pull between the desire to be overwhelmed and subsumed by a sculpture and the drive to resolve and contain the idiosyncratic challenges posed by it. Armstrong’s process is informed by the translation of fleeting, abstract experiences into the permanence of a physically demanding material such as steel.

in perpetuum displays Armstrong’s mastery of the medium of sculpture, confirming that she is one of the leading South African sculptors of her generation. The exhibition accentuates her meticulous processes, her attention to detail and her ability to switch between intricate smaller works and imposing large-scale masses of steel. This body of work encompasses themes and motifs drawn from her career as a sculptor over the last eight years.

Armstrong grapples with the ways in which bodies experience space and translate this experience into structures, both perceptual and physical. The works continuously shift between two binaries. Recognisable forms such as trees and rhizomes serve as metaphors for rootedness and adaptation/reaction, and are juxtaposed with elusive abstract arrangements of steel beams. Ideas of orientation and stability are contrasted with impressions of chaos and perplexity. New video footage – capturing the interplay between light and lens – continuously pulls in and out of focus. The expansive aesthetic idea of the sublime is contrasted with the contained resolution of the beautiful.

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