Absa L’Atelier Winner Marguerite Kirsten Opens Virtual Exhibition

Capetonian fine artist and winner of the 2018 pan-African Absa L’Atelier Art Competition Marguerite Kirsten has opened her new show, Dignifying the Diseased Body, via live-stream. Watch the recording here and experience the 3D Tour here.

Marguerite won the overall Absa L’Atelier Award in 2018 for her very personal installation Embodiment, a collection of 50 glass containers of her urine. Having lived with chronic kidney disease (CKD), among other medical conditions, her whole life, Marguerite used her experience of living in a ‘blunted’ body as a starting point for her work, which is informed by the internal workings and ‘disappointment’ of her body.

“I use various bodily fluids, including my urine and blood, and intravenous fluids, to represent the transient nature of my body in my work. These materials decay over time, reminding viewers of their own visceral flesh,” explains Marguerite. By using liquid, glass and copper as a medium, Marguerite intended to strengthen and dignify her physical body in the face of ongoing objectification and scrutiny, as she believes “my body has become an instrument of the medical fraternity”, having been the subject of medical examination her whole life.

Personal, powerful and honest

These are just some of the words used to describe Marguerite’s work. Her new exhibition, Dignifying the Diseased Body, comprises of large wall hangings and installations. The exhibition takes a deep dive into the physiological experience of living with a chronic or serious illness, but more specifically the enforced routines that dictate that experience. In this work, she continues to make use of organic substances by working primarily with her urine, organic material like dissected kidney and mohair, and medical materials, like latex gloves and syringes.

Dr Paul Bayliss, Senior Specialist Art Curator at Absa Gallery comments on the Absa L’Atelier winner’s latest work: “Marguerite has a special ability to convey to the viewer the emotions that accompany living in a vulnerable state with a chronic illness. Her work is brave and passionate, much like the values we embody as a financial institution. Absa L’Atelier is not just a once-off win for our contestants but a journey that we walk with them. It’s recognised as a launchpad for a successful career in the visual arts as clearly evidenced by previous winners who have gone on to do great things, of which we’re very proud.”

Absa L’Atelier is one of Africa’s most prestigious art competitions, and 2021 will see the 35th iteration of the competition. This year’s competition (2020) has been cancelled. Held in conjunction with the South African National Association for the Visual Arts (SANAVA), Absa L’Atelier nurtures young talent and serves as a platform for young and emerging artists to make their mark in the African art world.

Absa L’Atelier rewards young visual artists, aged 21 to 40, with the opportunity to develop their talents abroad and the benefits and experience they enjoy by participating. Marguerite, as the winner of the Absa L’Atelier Art Competition in 2018, enjoyed a six-month residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, among other benefits.

Dignifying the Diseased Body by Marguerite Kirsten

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