Bitches Brew


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Bitches Brew
Mar 23 – May 6, 2023

A group exhibition by Lucinda Mudge, Lady Skollie and Sanell Aggenbach

Curated by Sanell Aggenbach

“It is not known where the album title came from, and there are various theories as to where it originates. Some believe it was a reference to women in Davis's life who were introducing him to cultural changes in the '60s. It marked his continuing experimentation with electric instruments that he had featured on his previous record, the critically acclaimed In a Silent Way (1969). With these instruments, such as the electric piano and guitar, Davis departed from traditional jazz rhythms in favour of loose, rock-influenced arrangements based on improvisation.”

 "Miles Davis and the Making of Bitches Brew", Paul Tingen for JazzTimes. 


“I am failing as a woman. I am failing as a feminist. To freely accept the feminist label would not be fair to good feminists. If I am, indeed, a feminist, I am a rather bad one. I am a mess of contradictions. There are many ways in which I am doing feminism wrong, at least according to the way my perceptions of feminism have been warped by being a woman.” 

 - Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay


Behind this collection of powerful and provocative works – some lewd, some cunning, all in the spirit of dark humour – is the concept of Mother Nature’s Wrath meets Bad Feminism.

South Africa is a battlefield, especially for women. Every day we are confronted by and reminded of sexual violence and femicide. It is unprecedented, harsh and relentless, occurring at a rate five times the global average*. This makes for an even more complex society which is already rooted in colonialism, slavery, exclusion and patriarchy. Yet we have a robust and active civil society, guided by a progressive constitution, free speech and freedom of expression. In South Africa, humour (especially dark humour) is a coping mechanism; it’s a way of showing resilience and agency.

Lady Skollie’s work is a complex meeting point of history, popular culture, indigeneity, violence, sex and sexuality. “(Her) work goes beyond artistic commentary on sex, politics and racial identity as a coloured womxn in post-apartheid South Africa. Instead, her multimodal body of work reaches into uncomfortable realms, so that it is a site of protest and a means of education,” writes Danielle Bowler.  In her large explosive works Lady Skollie uses ink, watercolour and crayon to defy taboos and talk openly about issues of sex, pleasure, consent, human connection, violence and abuse. Her work is simultaneously bold and vulnerable, expressing the joy and darkness of the erotic and the duality of human experience. Being trapped, having been told about the trap for centuries, but then ending up inside of it anyway is the regret Lady Skollie thinks about in her contribution to 'Bitches Brew'. 

STICKY ICKY: Venus fly trap with a bird in a cage and Mgodoyi Attack: In the premonition I didn't have a knife but I have a knife now are among the new works she will be exhibiting. She explains: “Following the bread or the sugar syrup trail; thinking 'This time it will be different because I am different'. But what if someone prepares you for the trap so that you only stay in it for a short time, meditating about what brought you here. Sometimes the shackles aren't even locked, they're just heavily resting on your wrists, it's giving Stockholm.” 

Lucinda Mudge uses humour, irony and mockery as a way of asking authentic questions, some of which make the viewer uneasy. There is an ambiguity: are her views serious or not? She describes her work as unruly pottery art: “I may have a dark view of the world because I have life experience here. However, everyone has something that sent him or her reeling, so I like to make work that is honest about heaviness. My work actually embraces difficulty. It is not in denial but is ultimately beautiful and uplifting.” The paintings she has made for 'Bitches Brew' are an extension of her work as a ceramic artist. Mudge’s expressive and detailed paintings and vases embrace an absurd, deadpan sensibility. They are playfully satirical, and in them everyday human interactions are swallowed and digested into a strange new world behind waterfalls. You are invited to join her in her travels through a frenetic female-led biographical dreamscape, wherein she filters the mundane through a sense of playful wonder and an unguarded sense of humour. With titles such as Humanity I Love you humanity I hate you ( after ee cummings), Honestly Nevermind and True Story, Mudge extends her wordplay to graphics and pattern.

Sanell Aggenbach uses humour and visual layering similarly in her paintings and sculpture. In 2017 Anna Stielau wrote: “Sanell Aggenbach practices a kind of feminist mycology. She excavates dark things in dark places, submits them to study, turns them inside out and pulls them apart.” Her works for 'Bitches Brew' expand on themes introduced in previous exhibitions 'Atopia' (2015) and 'Bend to Her Will' (2017), foremost among these a concern with the social and subjective experience of rootlessness. Atopia means to be without a territory, and the exhibition revolved around the artist’s fraught relationship with her Afrikaner heritage. To explore the bio-cultural alchemy of belonging, Aggenbach splices botanical specimens and engineered hybrid flora in wood, resin and metal. Her large bronze sculptures often introduce a lighter satirical approach to her subjects, parodying Western masterpieces by Michelangelo, Henry Moore, Warhol and Pierneef, taking a refreshing look at these pivotal references from a woman’s perspective. New works for the exhibition include a large bronze, a carved jacaranda crocodile skull with gold-plated teeth titled Blesser no.1 (South African slang for 'sugar daddy'), and several botanical paintings and sculptures which she describes as “new hybrids, indicative of existing plants yet formally and physically new and otherworldly”.

A brew of sorts, mixing alchemy, traditionalism and absurdity. 

Bitches Brew opens in March 2023 at the Everard Read Gallery in Johannesburg.

*  Dr Nechama Brodie