By Courtesy of Durban Art Gallery
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“Animals have been used extensively in art in the symbolic depiction of relationships and emotional baggage. In this work the mechanical energy of the ‘Foo Dog’ and its size in the frame speaks
directly to the essence of a world power rapidly claiming dominance. These guardian lions rendered in stone, bronze or gold have traditionally guarded Chinese Imperial palaces; imperial tombs;
government offices; temples; the homes of government officials and the rich. In Western societies dogs are often used as to safeguard and defend property and in this rendition the small animal
struggles to make his voice heard in the space, metaphorically referring to ever expanding Chinese trade movements in Africa. But is the ‘Foo Dog’ a real threat or is this just a xenophobic
reaction to legitimate Chinese economic influence in Africa. The ‘Foo Dog’ appears to occupy the role of a mechanism that cannot be stopped – a juggernaut.
The artist cleverly plays with the two ‘dogs’: one is indeed a canine dog; the other exists as a ‘dog’ in name only but both exist as dogs in another sense, as a kind of proxy soldier a la the dogs of war.
The subdued palette can be seen to reflect a moral, ethical ‘pollution’ of commerce and industry through the somber use of colours associated with manufacture. A spiritual unease is also evident in the colour range and through the limited picture plane. A vain attempt at negotiation takes place at the front of the picture plane compounding the sense of unequal power relations.
This work was used on I Did Have a Dream, an exhibition exploring 20 years of democracy through the DAG collections held at the Durban Art Gallery in 2014. Presented in a non-linear approach, the exhibition wove together various sub-themes that explored a number of dimensions of the democratized society’s aspirations after the demise of the apartheid system. One of these was ZEN-OU-FOBIA and it was within this sub-theme Faye Spencer’s The Rising Beast-Intellectual Paranoia Series was placed as the subject matter engaged with issues of borders, of refugees and popular politics that that exploit the differences in society for short term gains.”
Curator: Durban Art Gallery