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Reasons for Descending the Staircase

In her latest solo exhibition artist Usha Seejarim explores time and chance by manipulating ordinary objects found around the home.

With the recent incidents of violence against women increasing countrywide, Usha’s work is timeous and on point. The exhibition, Reasons for Descending the Staircase, creates a platform for open conversations around gender-based violence, economic empowerment, stereotypes and expectations imposed (often self-imposed) on women. The compositions, created from repetitive objects, give us a clue about Seejarim’s major preoccupation. Usha’s latest work is captivated by the shortfall between the idealised representation of women merely for the male gaze, and the droll reality of so many women’s lives. In everyday domestic work, there is something performative about the way women use the same tools daily, in the same way, throughout their existence. Director of Fried Contemporary, Johan Thom had this to say about the work: ‘Seejarim’s artistic investigation into the space of the domestic is delightfully serious. The humble clothes peg, a comb, an ironing board and even a floor brush appear as meaningful objects that populate and embody her world and her worldview with wit and just a touch of unexpected menace. Simultaneously charming and disarming.’

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Seejarim is an accomplished sculptor, print-maker and public artist whose ability to find new ways of presenting familiar items, traverses the line between form and formlessness. There is something distinctly Dadaist and humorous in her use of common materials like washing line pegs, toothpicks, safety pins, a household scrubbing brush and an old ironing board. The dream of domestic bliss, or at least the idea of the functioning home, is re-interpreted as a darkly humorous drama. Art history’s cherished reclining nude is pictured as a woman embodying a mass of safety pins, or wooden skewers within her perfect form. The title of the exhibition asks us to question why Marcel Duchamp’s subject in his key work of Modernism, Nude Descending a Staircase, was prowling around naked in the first place. If the figure is indeed female, then we find ourselves wondering whether she was in the throes of escape. Or was she just enjoying a moment of abandonment from the expectation of female composure? In Seejarim’s new works, as in Duchamp’s painting, we ponder the identity and agency of the individual.

The exhibition will be at Fried Contemporary Gallery, 1146 Justice Mahomed St, Brooklyn, Pretoria. Gallery Contact – Shenaz Mahomed: 073 177 2579 or | Opening date: 22 June 2017Closing date: 22 July 2017 | Time: 18:00 | Entrance fee: free.

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