“Even an experience (erlebnis) is not, and never is, perceived in its completeness, it cannot be grasped adequately in its full unity. It is essentially something that flows, and starting from the present moment we can swim after it, our gaze turn reflectively turned towards it, whilst the stretches we leave in our wake are lost to our perception.”
Daniel Birnbaum, Hospitality of Presence, p. 26
The image of Table Mountain viewed from the sea or from Blaauwberg beach is one of the most ubiquitous in South African artistic iconography. In creating this version of that view I have attempted to embed historical narrative into the image by means of symbolically rich impressions taken from coins that speak to the context of this landscape, aiming to produce a meaningful assemblage that is encoded with the history of South Africa.
Table Mountain is an exercise in the limits and possibilities of printmaking (for the image is constructed of hundreds of individual rubbings of coins) and drawing (for these small pieces of paper with their individual marks are then juxtaposed to create the image of Table Mountain). In some ways Maria used traditional media in a way analogous to digital technologies in which an image is constructed from single pixels of light-bearing information.
The sky is made up of one-pound coins with the head of Queen Elizabeth upside down (a reference to the South African War of 1899-1902). The lower portion of the work is constructed from coin rubbings showing former National Party ministers and an old coin featuring Jan van Riebeeck, placed in a random pattern. The sea is created out of many rubbings from old half-cent coins, the very lowest denomination, which can perhaps be seen to be representative of the modesty and frugality of ordinary people in South Africa. Finally the imposing landmass of Table Mountain is made up from impressions of the head of Nelson Mandela from a South African R5 coin. This work was created before his death and now takes on a special poignancy. The mountain, permanent and immovable is the visual focus of the work. The legacies of colonialism and apartheid exemplified by the coins showing the old Queen and the apartheid-era leaders are sundered by the dramatic and imposing mountain, a reflection of the moment Mandela has come to symbolise, one that has changed South Africa and leads to a new history.