Pauline Gutter, a Free-State-based South African painter and intermedia artist, was born in 1980. She obtained her BA Degree in Fine Arts (cum laude for painting) at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein. She was awarded Honours Colours in Arts and Culture from the same university. She is the winner of the prestigious 2013 ABSA L`Atelier competition and was also awarded the Helgaard Steyn Award for painting in 2011. In 2012, she received the Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans Award.
Gutter’s works are included in the following museums and corporate collections: Bibliothèque nationale de France (France), Luciano Benetton Collection (Italy), Oliewenhuis Art Museum, University of Stellenbosch, North-West University,
University of the Free State, William Humphrey’s permanent collection, the Standard Bank, Sanlam and ABSA Collections, the ATKV Collection, Dabar Wines and Ingcali Engineers.
My themes incorporate the landscape, farm activities and human reflection on this sensitive resource. Growing up on a cattle and dry land crop farm in the arid parts of the Free State region, I learned the humble values of hard manual work, respect for the land and connectedness to the soil. The layeredness of old implements being devoured by the timeless landscape shaped me. Old machinery and rusted implements eaten away by the vast desolated landscape and remarkable monumental inventions made by my father. My mother, a classically trained ballet teacher, exposed me to the magical world of theatre, costumes and the discipline of movement and dance.
The impact of violent crime on the agricultural community has shaped me since an early age. This lead me to explore themes like land expropriation, environmental degradation, drought and pollution. I use cattle as a metaphor to portray the voiceless, including the brutal slaughtering of approximately 3500 South African farmers and farmworkers since 1994. In addition, I look at violence exerted through the general activities of farming in South Africa. This is aggravated by the adverse effects of globalisation on the South African agricultural sector.
The dramatic changes inflicted onto farmers’ changing living and working conditions forced them away from their prevailing identities and archaic understanding. My work fluctuates between the unsettling and expressive evocation of embodiment and disembodiment in flux. Additionally I question the gender inequalities and emasculations pervading Afrikaner traditions and customs. In this context I invite viewers to discover and face land, animal and human existence in extremes.
Striking agricultural analogies between the materials and the physical execution of painting with the working of the stubborn land characterise the methods in my processes. In painting and drawing I use layers of oil and pigments (this layering is also explored in other media, including audio-visual and interactive installations) as means of suggesting the texturing of land and a sense of cultural and communal complexities. I further enjoy incorporating landscape elements rooted in sublime landscape traditions, but re-appropriating such elements in strange and conflicting ways. The latter are formally and conceptually interwoven, as human and environmental motifs become mutually interacting forces to mediate and re-mediate complex rural conditions. In some of my paintings and installations I comment on agricultural and customary practises in ironic ways. For example, in the video installation Die Huwelikaansoek [The Marriage Proposal], I have sourced dialogue from a reality show, Boer soek ’n Vrou [Farmer Seeks a Wife] and combined it with the semen-tapping procedure in cattle. This serves as a metaphor for voyeurism and exhibitionism about constructs regarding gender. Viewers are drawn in by the thick and thin applications of paint or a conceptual practice of making strange.
In a recent video work I explore perceptions of colonialism, post-colonialism and the role media plays to uncritically convey social expectations. I am currently delving deeper into the roots of farmers’ traditions and ideologies.