Mrs Faye Spencer with some of the art in her Office
 Politics exhibition which is being showcased at the
 Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg.

Office Politics – Scenes from a Sinking Ship, is the title of UKZN lecturer Mrs Faye Spencer’s latest collection of art work being showcased at the Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg.

The exhibit, comprising paintings, drawings and prints, explores the power plays and idiosyncrasies of the working world.  Animal forms, particularly dogs, play a metaphorical role in the works and are used to depict both the darker side of human interaction – violence, aggression and suspicion – and the more docile – trained and obedient.

Spencer, who lectures at the Centre for Visual Art (CVA) on the Pietermaritzburg campus, believes that ‘given the considerable amount of time most people spend at work, the absurd, peculiar and sometimes humorous engagements that occur in the office space are worth reflecting on’. 

Spencer says although the art works were a direct reflection of how she perceives and experiences her work environment, this was not the objective.  They speak to a much bigger context and reflect problems that are prevalent in the country and the world.

Spencer was also influenced by some of the material she has been reading for her PhD, for example, Zygmunt Bauman’s Society under Siege which looks at sociological concerns such as why we are here in this communal space and how we deal with a workplace that is not always comfortable.

Vivid colour and aggressively worked surfaces characterise the paintings which, said Spencer, contribute to the central narrative therein.  The use of different mediums such as acrylic, charcoal and wax contribute to the rough and ready look of the works and the unnatural colours in some of the paintings also depict an awkward and hostile space.

During an interactive walkabout of the exhibit, Spencer explained that the titles were important to the works.  She said that although many of the paintings appeared innocuous and cute, this was not why she created them.

Each work’s title, such as While Rome Burns, Lost-No Guidebook, Ability Confronts Duty and Incentive Reward said something about human behaviour and the nature of the working world. 

‘Many of the characteristics – character flows – depicted in the paintings are evident in abundance in office space and corporate environments. Situations wherein protagonists with very different agendas are obliged to interact and cooperate.’

Spencer said only three of the pieces in the collection had been seen before.

Spencer said she enjoyed exhibiting at the Tatham: ‘The work looks really lovely in the Olive Schreiner Gallery – it is such a beautiful space and I feel very privileged to have had the chance to show there.’

Office Politics runs until December 2.