Tiger Bones forms part of Nigel Mullins’ Chaotic Region curated by Tanya Poole in 2013 as part of the Scifest at Rhodes University in Grahamstown (today Makhanda). Described by the artist as the generative exhibition for the underlying concerns that still persist in his practice today, Ashraf Jamal suggests that the show “confronts painting with the spectres of the digital, conceptual and relational” where Mullins “fuses the experience of painting with his experience of the digitally mediated world”.1
More broadly, the exhibition reveals Mullins’ painterly transition from photographic representation to the use of heavy impasto which has come to be a defining component of his recent work. Sitting at the beginning of this trajectory, the subject of Tiger Bones is betrayed by its darkly suggestive title where a lithe, sun dappled Bengal Tiger is depicted prowling beneath tropical foliage.
As Tanya Poole noted in her opening address of Chaotic Region; “Our natural environment is plundered in order to furnish ourselves with charms that we believe can give us health, prosperity and a brighter future… the extraordinary tiger is massacred and milled for its bones to be consumed for health and virility”.2
Placing the bleak reality that shadows the exquisite execution of his work, Mullins concludes; “I think I’m a nihilist medium-termist. Geological time, the size of space, the rate at which China is growing, or the number of people killed in the Second World War are significance crushing. But I love the fact that there is a rover on Mars, that science allows us to know things beyond our senses, and it’s worth saving the tiger”.3
1. Ashraf Jamal (2017) In The World: Essays on Contemporary South African Art. Milan: Skira. Page 131.
2. Tanya Poole cited in Ashraf Jamal (2017) In The World: Essays on Contemporary South African Art. Milan: Skira. Page 127.
Everard Read, Cape Town.
Rhodes University Alumni Gallery and Standard Bank Gallery, Grahamstown, Nigel Mullins: Chaotic Region, 13 to 20 March 2013.
Everard Read Gallery, Cape Town, Nigel Mullins: Chaotic Region, 11 September to 25 September 2013.
Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein, Nigel Mullins: Chaotic Region, , 15 July to 3 August 2014.