Justine Mahoney’s sculptures and collages have captivated audiences for their deceptively innocent approach to exploring the dark side of human existence. Drawing inspiration from the disparate realities of growing up white in 1970s Johannesburg during some of the most tumultuous decades of South African apartheid, Mahoney is deeply influenced by her childhood experiences.
In Tainted, her 2017 exhibition, Mahoney explores emotional and physical states of struggle through convoys of toy-like sculptures. These childlike figures — referred to by the artist as “an army of toy soldiers” — offer an inspired view into this world of collaged fantasy, with themes centered on her own observations of gender, landscape, aspiration, and oppression. “I portray emotional states like resilience and braveness in the face of adversity, and see my child soldiers as standing steadfast and strong…Their role is to bring on a sense of one’s ability to move forward through extreme situations.” Julian McGowan of the Southern Guild Gallery aptly describes it as “Malice in Wonderland.” Mahoney is a graduate of Technikon Witwatersrand (’91).