Visual entanglement: Political and aesthetic connotations of Gladys Mgudlandlu’s work
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This study focuses on how we can interpret political meanings embedded in Gladys Mgudlandlu’s work by concentrating on her landscapes, murals, and portraits during the period of the 1960s – 1980s. The core of my thesis is to question whether the artwork of Mgudlandlu was political. The thesis argues that Mgundlandlu’s talents and interventions have been overlooked and undermined. Engaging with a deep analysis of the context in which Mgudlandlu lived and worked, a visual analysis of her paintings and a discussion on the meaning of her life and work from various vantage points across time substantiates the above argument. The study engages with three fundamental approaches. Firstly it approaches Mgudlandlu’s work through how it is articulated and historicized as part of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa before 1994. Here I disrupt the idea that her work was out of touch with reality and that her work was of a naivety that isolated herself from the struggles of black people. I further argue that her work transcends the norms and expectations of black artists during this period. Her work in many ways challenges stereotypes and broke social conventions by painting landscape: something which was mostly associated with older white male artists. Thus I advocate for a reconsideration of her work by revisiting her landscape painting which carries most of the weight of my argument regarding Mgudlandlu’s political stand. My second approach is to explore the production and process of her work by concentrating on cultural workshops and their role in South African art during the apartheid period. Mgudlandlu’s creation and production process was very different from her counterparts which is explored through a careful analysis of Mgudlandlu’s paintings.