Opening speech
By Karel Nel

We are surrounded here by a squeaky clean and challenging show with works which project out at us in many ways. The importance of Alborough's work is that it does away with traditional illusionism which in turn is replaced by allusionism.

The allusions in the work are complex and subtle; they are a result of his attempt to respond directly to the sociopolitical environment in which he finds himself trying to create something relevant without being blatant, something aesthetic but challenging, a strong but not overt statement that in the end involves analogy rather than description.

In trying to come to terms with the work over the past week, words and images have whirled and shuffled around in my head. I have tried to order them, to grasp then, then let them go to see them float back again, into their natural complexity.

The works remind me in many ways of poetry. They are richly layered, words juxtaposed and used in new ways, to create nuances, ambiguous readings and meanings. Alborough's works are physically layered, glass over glass, words and images ricochet to create new meanings, revealing and obscuring at the same time. Materials are carefully chosen for their associative meanings: soap - a cleanser, a ritual cleanser, a social cleanser; paper - fragile, wrinkling like skin; blackboards; steel and copper. The aesthetic qualities are seductive, pulling you in, enticing you into the work, then bouncing you out by their impersonality, and then their delayed charge. Painfully exquisite traceries in broken glass, or sutures carried out with medical precision leading one to ambiguous responses.

Most of the works have their origin in well-known children's games - Noughts and Crosses, I Spy With My Little Eye, Hangman, and others. The innocence of the game is laced with sinister underlying motifs, alluding to the fact that that social interactions are all games and are a means of socialising children. They seem to naturalise a system of death in Hangman, of voyeurism in I Spy With My Little Eye.

In Crosses, Xs allude to kisses at the end of a letter or could in fact relate to crossing or cancelling out an image or a life. The crosses are carefully constructed of white Lux soap with its associations of luxury and seductive femininity. The word "revolting" appears on the panel scratched out, seemingly alluding to both revulsion and revolution simultaneously. In Noughts, the Os are made of red Lifebuoy soap with the word "tiring" under them, obversely referring to the tyre necklance in which a lifebuoy becomes a dead boy.

In Love and Kisses, one is aware that love, death, passion and hate are closely allied.I Spy With My Little Eye leads to the series of works with security spy holes, immediately making one think of privacy and security. The room of works becomes a cerebral passion pit: looking through the eye holes as a voyeur would, one sees hearts deeply etched into copper. Words bombard one - in/out, hard/soft, wet/dry, dirty/clean - then bat the mind this way and that like a ball in a pinball machine, evoking in a situation which approximates theatre of the absurd.

Neck Loss and Head Loss in the Hangman series relate to socially sanctified forms of institutionalised death or capital punishment. The glass sprayed with bullets seems to refer to hit squads, the titles refer to decapitation by guillotine, necklaces of the people's court or to hanging; all these possibilities seem to be contained within the penumbra of meaning.The image of the stylised figure or huge floor signs carry a sense of authority. Ale or female toilet signs or radioactivity signs are ones we learn to respect and behave in particular ways towards. Alborough's signs can be read, but their meaning ricochets and changes, not allowing them to become mere puzzles.

Finally again in the Hangman series - Spelling Death. I think we have all played the word game Hangman at some point, where guessing the letters of a word chosen by your opponent leads to a situation where, for each letter incorrectly guessed, you build a scaffold of lines, a head, body and limbs, until you have metaphorically hung yourself within a set number of guesses. Decoding Alborough's work seems dangerously similar.

Spelling Death, with its glass set into a densely bolted frame seems to be a window into a gas chamber; it gives access to the gaze but does not allow one to physically enter, one is controlled. Almost a high tech form of torture seems to prick the mind, reminding one of clinical forms of death. A blackboard is used for its associations with teaching, spelling and communicating on the one hand, and on the other hand wiping the slate clean, a metaphor for death. The commercial Sunlight soap sign is used and inverted, a trivial image becomes transformed into a sunrise/sunset metaphor of life/death issues and the advertising language is bizarrely subverted.

We do not create within a vacuum. It is particularly interesting to see the concerns of the 60s reappearing in the 90s - i.e. social issues, conceptual art, formalism - and seeing them being reinterpreted by the younger generation.

Here one cannot but be aware of the legacy of Duchamp with the readymades and the Large Glass; Beuys's blackboards or the pop qualities of Warhol's Campbells Soup Cans when looking at the soap wrappings or sunlight soap. The aesthetic may have similarities but when the social connotations of Lifebuoy and Lux come together in The Gardener and the Madam, one is painfully reminded of the legacy of the colour bar and race of our history.

Alborough is aware that he works within this continuum of a shared visual language that develops in complexity but his own particular source has been looking at images of power, of representations of crime and punishment at the SA Police Museum which has been a primary source.

This is a show carefully, intelligently crafted with both hand and mind. One is in the end reminded that these images are not about the gentle and seductive sweep of a sable brush over primed canvas, but about the impact left by high velocity bullets, violent products, expunged of personal identity with an unnerving glamorousness that leaves one uneasily situated foresquarely in the culture of violence in which we find ourselves.