Jann Peta Cheifitz
Born in Cape Town, South Africa
Lives and Works in Brooklyn, NY
Jann began her career training as a fine artist, but like many artists soon found herself engaged in design. With a rich history designing clothing and home furnishings under the moniker ‘Lucky Fish’, she wished to return to what she calls her elemental roots and restarted her focus on creating singular pieces of art.
The series of prints titled ‘Loose Change’ is a return to the clear ideas and methods that the artist has always found wanting in the technical and aesthetic application of her design work, and which also finds her working directly on paper rather than fabrics. Her large-scale printed and painted textile wall hangings exploring African consumer packaging and iconic power symbols were a notable feature of the South African art scene in the early ‘90s, featuring on international biennales in Johannesburg, Seoul and Havana.
The current series of hand-printed works on paper uses the idiomatic palette of images displayed on South African bank notes in the first post-apartheid issue of new currency designed to dispense with a previous range that had depicted leadership figures from the eras of colonialism and white minority rule. Thus “Change” as double-entendre, signifying both cash and South Africa’s celebrated liberation from white supremacy. But the term also highlights the ambivalence of the post-apartheid experience, particularly among the impoverished majority that have often been short-changed by the political transition. The new currency symbols reflected a country seeking to put a traumatic past behind it, adopting instead a series of African animal power images.
The hand screen-printing technique used in these works also connotes the tradition of ‘struggle art’ used by anti-apartheid activists in the 1980s. But where that popular art tradition involved large print runs for mass audiences, here she has inverted the technique to produce an edition of small hand printed and pressed foil prints in jewel tones that connote luxury and exclusivity.