In 2005 a series of power blackouts swept across the city and suburbs of Johannesburg. Mary Wafer had just moved into an eighth-floor apartment in Braamfontein from where she had a spectacular view across an often dark and silent city. This extraordinary sight – of a city that should be brightly illuminated laid out in almost-total darkness – generated a deep anxiety about the unpredictability not only of the blackouts, but of things in general. It suggested to Wafer our inability to predict anything with confidence, to be sure of what might happen next. This experience filtered into her painting in the form of building interiors imbued with a sense of the sinister. She sought to convey a sense of the unsettlement one feels over something that has not yet happened, to suggest the threat of something that is always imminent, never arrived at or concluded.
Wafer’s new prints and paintings crystallise many of the interests evident in earlier works that draw on images related to the architecture of movement and transport. In these, her references to alienating peripheral structures, such as freeways, bridges and highway underpasses, suggest exclusion and marginality in relation to space. The new works extend and intensify these concerns, making their sense of unease more provocatively interior.
Mary Wafer grew up in Durban. After three years of study at the University of Kwazulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, she relocated to Johannesburg and completed her Advanced Diploma in Fine Art at the University of the Witwatersrand. In 2003, Wafer travelled to London and Copenhagen where she was a fellow of the Royal Danish Academy but returned to South Africa in 2005 to pursue a Master’s in Fine Art.
The images below are for the concurrent exhibitions that ran in Johannesburg and Cape Town in 2011. For available work, please click here.