Erica Hibbert recently held an exhibition at the Botswana Craft Gallery. The exhibition explored the common characteristics of the human condition. Hibbert said that the exercise began as an exploration of the commonality of the human condition. She also mentioned that her artwork may generally be recognized as strong individualistic and referring most often to intimate, singular and particular experiences of her. The work developed during a period of looking beyond the idiosyncratic. She further continued to say that “although the concept of sin was not comfortable, I explored this idea during a period of intense religious probing”. She uses the writing of Thomas Aguinas (1224 ÔÇô 1274) to form the background for the series 7 deadly Sins. Known as the Angelic Doctor, Aguinas was an Aristotlist, famous for his investigations into the vices and virtues of life. As a model for self ÔÇô examination, Aquinas’s ideas around shared human characteristics developed into renowned Catholic principles of seven deadly sins.
When entering the Botswana Craft exhibition hall my attention was caught by a series of 7 lithographs on the right hand side of the Gallery.
According to the artists, each lithograph represents one of the 7 deadly sins as they are manifested in her character. She made our life easy by giving us the meaning behind the seven sins. Each sin has its own name or title. Gluttony depicts a clenched hand and a wine glass refers to crude physical greed and excess. The fist indicates frustration and self- loathing. Apathy illustrates the passion flower that refers to Christianity. It is also called spiritual sloth in some translations of Aquinas. She recognizes this sin in herself disguised as disdain and cynicism and so the hand signals ‘hate’ in sign language. Anger, the character is identified with violence. The knife forced into the flesh refers to self-mutilation, anger experienced as self- destruction. Pride, the breast-feeding child, alludes to basic, instinctual pride in one’s children.
Hibbert experiences this with dismay as the indication is that the children are of oneself or belong to oneself, and this claiming of another person through the sin of pride is the ultimate denial of their own individuality and separateness, according to Hibbert. Lust is one of the sins which depicts the hand raised in shock as her sign for sexual passion recurs in her work. She said that the sin of lust may be hazardous and painful, but nevertheless results in an exquisite serpentine gesture as the hand arches and pulls away. The other Seven Sins is Avarice which she describes as stupid worldly greed. It is a green purse and a hand signaling ‘love’ implicates the artists in this desire to surround oneself with possession and trappings. Further said that the artists like Aguinas, attributes this sin to the fear of death. The last seven sin is Envy showcasing a tired hand, heavy with want, contains the envious eye that desires that which others have. The mysterious sin with no benefit in it. The origin of discontent.
On the other side of the gallery wall, that is far right, there are a series of 10 ink drawings of Aloe on fabriano paper. She continues to develop an interest in the extremes of representation and visual metaphor.
According to the artist, the aloe plants are represented with an acute awareness of their individual characteristics and particularities. “This part of the work is executed laboriously as I’m drawn into the intricacy of the particular, local, specific and unique,” Hibbert said. Each curl or crease or tonal shift suggests a depth of experience that is recognized and engaged in the focused, meditative process of drawing from observation. The specificity of individual experience celebrated in the aloe drawings, draws away from the centre, the political, the generalized and the dominant. She said that, engaging through the drawings, with a minute is a kind of resistance to aspects of contemporary life that demand broad and generalized, impersonal ways of interpreting the world. Classing and categorizing, mapping and establishing rules and governance denies the intimacy of individual experience and threatens the integrity of the individual.
In addition, each aloe drawing is twinned with a very different drawn component: stylized, schematized and simplified line drawings function as references to the role of drawings as universal signifiers. These line drawings, gleaned mostly from the 20th Century self-help manuals, suggest easy of interpretation and common human readings. But, of course, the schematized drawings, as well as the words in the works individual titles, are reinterpreted and redefined each time they are ‘read’ by viewer, so questioning the idea that there can ever be such a thing as a ‘universal symbol’.
The aloes are specimens mostly from her garden. The subjects for the drawings are generated, as always in her work, by investigating personal experience. “My initial personal ‘meaning’ starts the process of interpretation and reinterpretation that becomes the extended ‘meaning’ of this series of work.”