By Tara Bennett
The Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge is gearing up for its involvement in P.3+ BR by showcasing the work of South African artist Anja Marais.
The exhibit, titled “The Ballast,” will be held at the Firehouse Gallery, located at 427 Laurel Street, from October 17 to December 12. This exhibit was assembled especially for P.3+ BR, Baton Rouge’s regional section of the art biennial Prospect 3 New Orleans. Her selection was due to the powerful use of water as subject material for her artwork, which coincides with the P.3+ BR theme “Notes from Upriver.”
“Water is a powerful subject and a pervasive theme in Anja’s work,” says Arts Council president Eric Holowacz. “There is mystery in it, and life. There are hints of hidden human forms, and a mystical relationship to the earth that Anja turns into a visual language. The water is like a metaphysical chant that reflects and connects everything.”
The opening reception for the exhibit will be held on Friday, Oct. 17 at the Firehouse Gallery from 5:30-8 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public. Marais will be in attendance to speak about her art and her process.
Marais is a Miami-based contemporary artist, but was born in a small town in the African Bushveld. Her career as an artist began by apprenticing with a well-known regional landscape painter. After graduating with a B.F.A. from the University of South Africa in Pretoria, she immigrated to the United States. Marais has also held residencies in Japan, Korea and Russia, and following the opening of The Ballast, Marais will travel to Finland for the Arteles Art residency. She currently works and lives in South Florida and splits her time between studios in Miami and Key West.
“I love Anja’s work,” said Holowacz, who knew her work from running an artist colony in Key West. “She’s very prominent in South Florida, and she fits the theme of the Prospect biennial this year.”
The majority of the exhibit will focus on Marais’s sculptures, video work, works on paper and mixed media oil paintings on panel. Her work has been critically reviewed by Florida International Magazine, Art in America, SALT, Irreversible and ARTnews.
According to Holowacz, Marais’s work is very connected to the earth, the human figure and landscapes, which focuses on how people experience change and stagnation. Her video work will include a sepia-toned stop-motion animations, which she filmed and created in St. Petersburg, Russia. The narratives follow a mysterious female figure that reoccurs much in her work. Upon looking at Marais’s art, it has a strong sense of the supernatural in their ethereal qualities.
“[Her work] is kind of haunting, and mysterious and other worldly,” said Holowacz. “I think that her exploration of the earth and water and natural objects fits really well. With the River being such a strong part of Baton Rouge and New Orleans as well, it seemed like a fit for contemporary art.”