Live Virtual Auction, 26 - 28 July 2020

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R 68 280
Diane Victor; Tityus Tormented by a Vulture, from the Birth of a Nation Series
Lot 289

Lot Estimate
R 60 000 - 80 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium and VAT
R 68 280
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About this Item

South African 1964-
Tityus Tormented by a Vulture, from the Birth of a Nation Series
signed
charcoal and sepia wash on paper
89 by 139.5cm excluding frame; 124 by 168.5 by 5cm including frame

Notes

Birth of a Nation, a major series introduced in 2010 at the Goodman Gallery in a show titled Transcend, is drawn from the artist’s studies of classical and Renaissance works made while travelling in Europe. The series takes a familiar set of classical stories and myths and superimposes on them African and South African themes and landscapes. The abduction of Europa, for example, is transposed into a story about the ravaging of African fauna and flora. In this series, Zeus the bull is a rhino, and rather than carrying Europa off to rape her, he is prone beneath a huntress whose AK-47 leans against his flank. The story of Leda and the swan becomes a violent encounter between a semi-autobiographical female figure and a white-backed vulture – not unlike the Marabou stork that menaces the infant Ganymede (in a visual pun on the story of the stork who delivers the babies).

The current lot, a typically authoritative drawing from the series, uses the fate of Tityus, the giant from Greek mythology, as its source. In a story similar to the Prometheus myth, Tityus, stretched out in Tartarus as punishment, has his liver torn from his body by a vulture every night, only for it to regrow the following day. Victor’s work references Michelangelo’s drawing of the same subject, The Punishment of Tityus (1532), now in the Royal Collection.1 She uses the same composition as her Renaissance precedent, but the bird is replaced by a tow-truck driver (nicknamed ‘vultures’ because of their propensity to prey on hapless motorists), identified by the vehicle depicted in the top right corner. He presents his bill to the accident victim on the ground and pokes the man in the ribs, not so much in the area his liver might be – which is higher up on the other side of the body – but in a gesture reminiscent of the wound the crucified Christ suffered when he was stabbed in the side by a Roman soldier to determine if he was dead. The biblical reference is perhaps reinforced by the tattoo on the driver’s arm – an indistinct figure with widespread arms within a circle of thorns.

Victor’s presumably deliberate spelling of the name as ‘Tityus’ rather than the ancient Greek ‘Tityos’ suggests a covert reference to the genus of scorpion by that name. She has altered the position of Tityus’s arms from Michelangelo’s drawing and they now suggest a scorpion’s pedipalps and pincers. Perhaps the ‘victim’ is capable of striking back?

In Transcend, Diane Victor shows once again that her rigorous processes are directly linked to the themes and concerns she explores. These new works demonstrate an extraordinary control of materials and subjects but also show that Victor is willing to work in new mediums. Her characteristic confrontational style is given new weight with the allusions to mythology and the introduction of a host of powerfully symbolic figures.

1. Karen von Veh (2020) ‘Classical Mythology as Satire: The Realities of a “New” South Africa in Diane Victor's Birth of a Nation Series’, IKON: Journal of Iconographic Studies, vol. 13, June, page 386.

Source of additional information: Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg.

 

.

In Transcend, Diane Victor shows once again that her rigorous processes are directly linked to the themes and concerns she explores. These new works demonstrate an extraordinary control of materials and subjects but also show that Victor is willing to work in new mediums. Her characteristic confrontational style is given new weight with the allusions to mythology and the introduction of a host of powerfully symbolic figures.

Source: Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg.

Exhibited

Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, Transcend, 15 April to 22 May 2010.


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