Josh Lilley is pleased to announce Carla Busuttil’s third solo exhibition at the gallery.
Busuttil’s disobedient, lurid painting style allows for a portraiture that can, through subtleties in handling, capture the fertility of life or castigate the powerful and entitled. The Super-Suburb Defence Authority combines a new group of oil portraits with elements from a conceptual project, Mosquito Lightning (realised in collaboration with Chris Saunders and Gary Charles), that sees the artist expand for the first time into the realm of disruption and social engagement.
The exhibition draws on the artist’s study of South African private security, a loosely regulated industry—employing more people than the police force and the army combined—that serves as a militarised gatekeeper between the rich and poor. Following extensive research in Johannesburg, Busuttil founded her own firm, Mosquito Lightning, modeling its website, promotional film and printed materials on the tone and texture of actual security companies. Busuttil highlights the absurd mechanics of a service that demands an amplification of fear in order to profit from the promise of its eradication. And she offers viewers a website to visit and a phone number to call.
Mosquito Lightning is a commedia dell’arte or culture jam, a parody and heavy subversion of the real world, yet it pierces a membrane of plausibility. Fear is a currency and isolation a lifestyle in Busuttil’s work, and the starkness of these propositions infects the paintings on display. The privileged are painted in formation, with the staging of official photographs from private schools and private business. Blank, brightly hued backgrounds suggest a space both generic and otherworldly. Men and women in uniform have poise but no purpose—they could be bored as much as brainwashed. Long faces rendered as masks, painted on cricket pads salvaged from thrift stores, conjure colonial ghosts. Humour turns to terror, and back again, in an instant.