This winter the UJ Art Gallery connects to the soil with Pauline Gutter’s new exhibition titled PRIMORDIAL that will be hosted from 9 June to 21 July 2021.  Having lived on Free State farms for the better part of her life, Gutter has a deep connection with the soil.  This innate relationship between the human psyche and the earth is beautifully reflected in the themes of PRIMORDIAL.

The opening on 9 June 2021 will take place virtually on the UJ Art Gallery’s innovative online platform MOVING CUBE and will feature a virtual walkabout with Pauline Gutter and Ashraf Jamal streamed from 18h00.  Growing in popularity the MOVING CUBE space offers audiences from around the country, and the world, a chance to discover and connect with new artists and their work.

Gutter is known for her monumental works addressing issues of power and land through the analogy of the unstable situation in the agricultural sector. She now focuses on universal themes of negligence, decay, and conflict: the duality of frugal survival versus the excessive waste brought on by exploitation of natural resources, but with the underlying hope of regeneration.

“Our anxiety levels in reaction to global circumstances and reliance on technology force us to persistently move towards the simulacrum of survival and security.  Connecting with responsibility   with the raw earth is a proactive acquired discipline vital to human survival”, she says

Gutter’s imagery stems from her direct experiences in nature during the past three years, incorporating the landscape, farm activities and human reflection on this sensitive resource. She populates her work with animals and insects (often alluding to powerplay) serving as metaphors for concepts of new beginnings and transformation.

She explains: “I use cattle as a metaphor to portray the voiceless; dealing with power structures where bulls become analogous to beasts – simultaneously powerful and fragile”.  The new growth within the detritus and decay left behind by drought, floods and fires, is for her an indication that life still prevails in never-ending life cycles outside of the fast track of technology

She approaches her subject with intelligence and keen observation – working with layering of colour frequencies and texture to provide a bold and in-depth experience to the viewer.  Striking agricultural analogies between the materials and the physical execution of painting with the working of the stubborn land characterise the methods in her processes.

“In Gutter’s case, there is the matter of unbreachable scale, her animality, the wild dervish-like movement of brush and hand, the obsessive-compulsive mark-making. But, over and above technique, there is the human being, the beast who paints”, writes Ashraf Jamal in an essay on the PRIMORDIAL exhibition.

Her oil paintings are on flax linen, linen and wood with wax, pigment, clay and prepared gesso. The drawings are charcoal, oil bar and masking liquid on 300 gsm BFK Reeves paper and 365 gsm Waterford Hot Pressed paper. New lithographs and monoprints were all printed by master printer, Leshoka Joe Legate, at LL Editions in Johannesburg.

To commemorate individual experiences during the lockdown period, the body of large charcoal drawings (commenced in lockdown 2020) references the Covid-19 pandemic. The work evidences the use of masking liquid, which is partly erased and traditionally used with watercolours, which in turn denotes the obsession with protective masks. About her experience of life during the pandemic, Gutter considers the specific body of works for this exhibition as resonating with a variety of complex nuances.

“Covid-19 brought many structural changes to the world we are living in. We have become confined to social media, walking virtual gallery spaces, experiencing virtual artworks. Some works address the spatial and emotional relationship between two extreme events we are enduring within the current phase of the pandemic: being subjected to tactile distancing while we are essentially haptic human subjects ourselves. This is the significance of the use of reticulation and of the tusche washes of lithography,” she states.

She finds that life has become less rushed, and that people have developed a mindful and less consumer driven approach.  “Through these convoluted cycles, nature still prevails”, she says.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic no public opening events will be hosted at the UJ Art Gallery during 2021. A virtual walkabout with Pauline Gutter and Ashraf Jamal will be streamed online on 9 June 2021 from 18h00.

The artworks can also be viewed by appointment for the duration of the exhibition on Wednesdays between 09:00 and 15:00.

CLICK HERE to book your one-on-one appointment.

Walkabouts will be hosted on Wednesday 7 and 21 July and Saturday 12 and 26 June and 17 July 2021 from 10:30 for groups of ten people.

CLICK HERE to book your appointment

The physical exhibition at UJ Art Gallery ends on 21 July 2021 while the 3D exhibition can be viewed  on Moving Cube until May 2022.

Audience Responses

Very, very impressive. Paulene Gutter wil be an investment for the future.

Lizette • Attended June 9, 2021, 6 p.m.



SILVIA • Attended June 9, 2021, 6 p.m.



SILVIA • Attended June 9, 2021, 6 p.m.


Pauline’s artworks are very powerful and the exhibition looked excellent. I hope to see them in the flesh soon. The discussion during the walkabout was very interesting and gave insights into what she as an artist responds to, which is always fascinating to hear.

les • Attended June 9, 2021, 6 p.m.


The feed wasn’t great – it was jerky. Could have been my connection though? But lovely to see Pauline’s work and listen to her comments.

Jenny • Attended June 9, 2021, 6 p.m.


I joined late but what little I saw was fascinating.

Penny • Attended June 9, 2021, 6 p.m.