Sacred Ground

Shaliza Juana
Sacred Ground
Mixed Media
225cm (h) x 305cm (w) x 273cm (d)

Written by Zoey Moo

The various components of Shaliza Juana’s Sacred Ground occupy the wall and floor and dangle from the steel bars above, inviting spectators to walk through the installation, hence becoming part of the work. Shaliza likens her work to a metaphor describing the “game of life”, where successes and failures are unpredictable. To symbolise the precarious journey to achieve success, the ladders are built with tilted rungs, while the road to failure, represented by a coiling black-and-white snake, can be deceptively attractive.

Suspended within the installation is a cage, which ensnares a bunch of colourful handcrafted snakes within it. The trapped snakes are not only a physical indication of the monochromatic nature of the project for the spectator, but also function as a mental reminder of sorts to the artist herself to eschew colour and instead unleash blacks, whites and greys to create her new installation.

Shaliza’s body of work up till this exhibition characteristically displays an explosion of bright, joyful colours. However in Sacred Ground, her work takes on an interesting contradicting quality when deprived of all colour. Playful elements like giant dices, ladders and toothy snakes are clad in comparatively-austere hues, alluding to life, which can be serious and yet whimsical at the same time.

Miniature paper discs are arranged within two wall-hung frames. On each of these discs are mixed media drawings or collaged images of characters from popular culture, such as comic superheroes and fairytale princesses. Whereas the protagonists are usually depicted in striking colours and villains in darker hues, here these characters are treated in mostly black, grey and white. Thus, not only does the Sacred Ground underline the importance of colour in determining identity; it reveals the difficulty to differentiate one’s intentions in fantasy – and real life – without relying on the usual visual cues.

As light shines onto the various elements in Shaliza’s artwork, shadows are cast onto the white walls behind, which act as a metaphorical backdrop of life. The fleeting forms of the shadows as they move and merge reflect the momentary and at times, ambiguous encounters we have with other people in life.

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