Josh Lilley Gallery

The exhibition Rug & Gut & Gum by Carla Busuttil features work as colourful as the artist’s homeland of South Africa, with characters just as exceptional and historical.

Inspiration for Busuttil’s figures includes well-known subjects and often purely representational personalities that rely on Busuttil’s visual cues. The influence of primitive, African art is also found in Busuttil’s strong, bold colours on large canvases which make their stance and presence known to the viewer either as passport identification or family photographs.

Memories are a vital importance to Busuttil’s paintings as they become imbued in her paint brush which delivers paint to a canvas with a deeper meaning that relates to feelings of diaspora to her Armenian heritage and sense of community amongst those she has chosen to subtly represent in her paintings. Her many characters range from Afrikaans in Pride and Judas (2010), to gang culture in Zig Zag and the Delta Force 5 (2010) and even her own haunting rendition of the Armenian genocide in Headstack (2009); furthering her to reconsider her own feelings towards humanity and the future.

Although Busuttil essentially tackles her themes from a subjective point of view, her palette conveys an emotional relationship to her subjects, no matter whether they are acknowledged as sources from primary or secondary examination. Political figures seem to be treated more harshly than her other personalities, becoming abstracted and disfigured to the point of wearing ghoulish make-up and bearing a menacing company to their peers as noticeable in Front-Row Seats with The Filthy Lucre (2010). However, they also tend to be interpreted as cartoonish caricatures, more so than her gentle portraits of French, Dutch and Imperial commanders.

The spur behind her depiction of her figures’ solitude and loneliness has a history with Edvard Munch whilst some of her more faded pieces seem vaguely familiar to another South African artist, Marlene Dumas, for her paintings and portraits that seem to only distance the viewer from the artist’s country by means of photographically inspired technique. This similarity becomes increasingly evident in paintings such as Step aside, there’s a good chap (2010) and Pride and Judas.