Phoenix Rising will be Ballenden’s second solo exhibition with Gallery 2, her first being city of gold – Cash for Scrap in March 2019.
Ballenden’s art has grown and developed throughout her career, shifting between figurative and abstract work. Currently she is engaged in a process of cutting and destroying old unresolved works which, she then reconstructs into new works in their own right.
Inside my studio are plastic boxes filled with cut up unresolved works, waiting for the chance to be reconstructed, art waiting to find a place in the world.
“Art, no less than wisdom, waits on life” – Louis Bourgeois.
The obsessive cutting in the process of my work is cathartic helping me to cope with the challenges in my life. Many artists have inspired me over the years but the real reason for my process is very personal. Feeling undervalued as a child became an ongoing influence in my making process as an adult.
My history in art is figurative, drawings not good enough were burnt or cut up violently. I consistently destroyed my work and threw it away. In 2015 I received a residency at The Bag Factory, an experience that led my work into abstraction. I found a way to use my destructive process as a more positive creative journey, cutting up failed works and reassembling them into the abstract works I produce today.
‘Toni -Ann Ballenden has been working in downtown Johannesburg for the last three years. Immersed in the processed daily life of the city, its busyness, chaos and dirt, Ballenden has spent her time reflecting on the vibrancy around her. Far away from the prosaic suburban studio she worked in for many years, Ballenden’s End Street Studio is a space not dissimilar conceptually speaking to the informal recycling depos scattered through the streets beneath her End Street work space. It is a place where her thoughts, her drawings, paintings, sculptures and the detritus of her mind are processed, recycled, cut-up, reorganised and finally re-birthed. As such, Ballenden’s new work is deeply responsive to the place around her. Sometimes brutal, sometimes sensitive, upon completion of each masterful piece Ballenden is able to capture the portrait of Johannesburg with uncanny likeness. To Ballenden the ‘city-of-gold’ so ubiquitously used when describing Johannesburg is not only a description about its history of mining and its mineral wealth, it’s also a description of its burgeoning creativity and immense productivity carried out by its people every single day.’