The Firestation, at The Heritage building at 16 Baker Street, is appropriately named for a beautifully built brick building dating back to 1939, in the now-trendy shopping suburb of Rosebank. The building was redeveloped as part of the Rosebank Precinct renewal over the last few years.
The working spaces for the original actual Rosebank Fire Station have been gradually turned into offices and retail spaces. Gallerist and dealer Teresa Lizamore, who previously ran a gallery in nearby Parkwood on Jan Smuts Avenue, cleverly negotiated to use the extensive, high-volumed atrium space of the new office building as a pop-up art gallery, which has now become a semi-permanent arrangement.
The current work on show, which is technically two separate exhibitions in one space — one of sculpture, one of painting — takes full advantage of the high inner volumes of the walls for Tamara Osso’s often large scale paintings, and the gleaming floor space for Jenny Nijenhuis’s playfully serious sculptures.
Titled Playing By The Rules, sculptor and multidisciplinary artist Nijenhuis seeks to subvert and interrogate society’s gender norms. Often using misogynist tropes such as ‘throwing like a girl’ or the patriarchal injunction to ‘be a man’, the poignant and yet good-humoured sculpted figures disobey these rules and mores. Focused on the human body in such subversive spaces, her smaller figures on the show are more successful, their scale enabling a better kind of wry undercutting of the subjective and gender identity politics she is focused on.
Nijenhuis graduated from Wits in 1993, and subsequently went into corporate marketing. Since returning to the field full time over the last few years, she has been successful in many art competitions and has participated in several group exhibitions.
The other show in the space, Tamara Osso’s group of paintings entitled The Paradise of Normality is a deeply personal, autobiographical rendering of healing post-trauma. Osso’s son suffered from focal seizures resulting in her family living in a constant state of emergency. In 2019 he underwent successful brain surgery and her family found personal reprieve at a time of extreme crisis during the Covid-19 pandemic. The body of work speaks about the process of release from the impending prospect of trauma or even death. Despite the notion of trauma that underpins the intent behind the body of work, this group of acutely observed landscapes, often abstracted beyond the natural world they ostensibly observe, conveys a minutely detailed sense of calm.
That is not to say they are zen-like — each work also conveys a dynamism and strong sense of movement, one emerging, says Osso, from her own background in choreography and professional dance. They are also full of surprisingly sinister touches, a shadowy figure disguised by dense foliage, or a sense that the humans in her paintings will be overwhelmed by the undergrowth — just like the dangers that lurk in every garden. Osso completed her MAFA degree (with distinction) at Wits in 2014. This is her first solo. Both artists are worth keeping an eye on.
• The show runs until June 12. Contact Teresa at email@example.com for more information.