Berni Searle has become one of the most visible of South African artists, increasingly peripatetic, undertaking art projects and participating in exhibitions across the globe. Trained as a sculptor, the Cape Town artist now utilises large-scale digital photographic prints and combines them with found materials to make her compelling installations.
Using her own body as subject and point of departure, Searle experiments with the surface of her skin, allowing it to be clad in layers of coloured and aromatic spices, leaving her bodily imprint on drifts of spices on the floor, or staining certain areas of her body with various substances, suggesting trauma, or damage.
The spices are in part a reference to the spice trade, which brought white colonists to the Cape of Good Hope in the 17th century, and in interbreeding with the local inhabitants and slaves brought from other parts of Africa, produced children of mixed race, or 'Coloured'. Searle's work confronts head-on this history and the obsession with racial classification that ensued.
"Without providing any definite answers, I think my work raises questions about attitudes towards race and gender. I think it operates on different levels and reflects different racial and political experiences - but I don't think my pieces are limited by