Tony Gum’s exhibitions are by nature a dual and deeply engaging experience. In the first instance, it is an intimate still life, human encounter with the artist. Her arresting spirit captured as photographic canvas means, the viewer’s gaze lingers as though in conversation with the artist herself. A second aspect of the experience with Tony’s work is the story and narrative explored. Each aspect replies on and is, seamlessly woven into another. Her physical form and photography extended as methods of instruction, relaying the stories and personal perspectives of her world. Perhaps Tony Gum’s artistry offers a third dimension to ponder. The opportunity to witness life held constant, a reminder that in essence, each of us are works of art; we manifest in the physical, as canvas and vessel holding together our unique life’s story. Like the different stories in this exhibition series, our individual story comprises the spiritual expression of who we ‘really’ are; our ‘calling’, our ‘song’, our life’s ‘poem’ and ‘ode’.
Tony’s new work, ‘Ode to She’ is an invitation to experience the narrative of transition and transformation; the journey in Xhosa tradition known as, ‘intonjane’ when, a young girl ‘intombi’, bare chested, adorned in traditional beads and ‘imbaola’, a traditional natural body clay, becomes a woman ‘umfazi’ and later, ‘umama omkhulu’ or ‘ixhego’ – old lady. Different rooms in the gallery, symbolic of the distinct stages and processes of transitioning among Xhosa women, will also reflect the tapestry of rural life, thatched kraals, dry veld and cloud filled skies, symbolic of the complexity of early life years. In the foreground, each stage captures the extent to which women in particular, navigate multiple narratives. ‘intombi’ for instance straddles the dualities of rural and urban lifestyle. The use of an ‘Apple Iphone’ synonymous with 21st century lifestyle and the voyeuristic culture where the ‘selfie’ itself posits a ‘rite of passage’.