Frances Goodman

Article Bio Works Merits Projects Images www
emptiness, everyday life, language, longing, love, memory, people, perception, stereotype, writing
Media Arts (multi media installation, sound art)
Visual Arts (installation art, portrait, sculpture, text)
Africa, Southern, Europe, Western
South Africa, Belgium
Johannesburg, Antwerp
created on:
June 9, 2003
last changed on:
Please note: This page has not been updated since November 8, 2005. We decided to keep it online because we think the information is still valuable.
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Frances Goodman
Frances Goodman


Obscure Dark Places

Born in 1975 in Johannesburg, South Africa, Frances Goodman studied Fine Art at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. She then moved to London to join the MA course at Goldsmiths College, graduating in 2000. From 2001 to 2003 she lived in Antwerp where she was artist in residence at HISK, Higher Institute for Fine Art. Her atmospheric soundpieces, presented as installations, audio monologues and sound sculptures, cross the boundaries between visual and media arts and explore everyday routines, obsessions and social interactions.
ARTIST’S STATEMENT - Frances Goodman, 2003

The mundane, the ordinary and the trivial have always been of interest to me, as I believe they all obscure dark places - issues and emotions that people do not wish to confront.

I began my investigations into this area with work dealing with routines. More specifically: the fine line that exists where daily routines become obsessions, when they become unacceptable to society. Paranoia and neuroses about specific and seemingly insignificant things often hide deep-seated fears, resentments and prejudices. I used the example of people’s fear of germs as a reaction to the physical structures, in which they are forced to operate, where there is a distinct lack of space.

After working with a number of media I eventually found that words and language had the uncanny ability to unnerve and get under people’s skins in a way that visual images and modes could not. Words function in a similar way to my concerns: on the surface they seem simple and clear, and yet they are often full of innuendoes and subtexts. They to have a dark underbelly. This is because they do not hold a sacred position in society, which often seems the case with many art forms. They are the raw matter of life, the buildings-blocks of relationships and social interactions.

I work with everyday issues such as relationships, violence, personal impressions and memories, all of which seem to be based on collective emotions that are experienced individually, and feel deeply personal and unique to everyone. I love listening to POP songs on the radio because no matter what mood I’m in I will eventually hear a song that expresses the way I feel. I intend my work to function in this manner because the subject matter is deeply personal, while being broadly based which makes it accessible and familiar to the listener.

FRANCES GOODMAN is described by South Africa’s Artthrob contemporary art magazine as an emerging young artist ´fast making a name for herself as an artist to watch´. She moves freely across the disciplines of visual and media arts, creating installations using audio recordings, writing, language, sculpture and other media to build up a compelling portrait, atmosphere or emotional state.

Her work ‘Portrait’ was selected for the ‘VIPER Basel 2002’ festival of international film, video and new media. A study in self-portraiture ´somewhere on the crossways of fiction and reality´, it used a collage of opinions and memories collected from a large number of people to construct an ever-changing outline of the ‘individual’. The viewer becomes complicit, both as voyeur and potential subject of the work.

Co-curator with artist Robyn Denny of the exhibition ´Juncture´ presented in London and Cape Town in 2001, Frances Goodman sought to extend the narrow framing of South African art abroad. She exhibited audio pieces ´Voice of Reason´ and an embroidered bedspread covered with injunctions about ´proper´ hygienic behaviour entitled ´A Guide to Modern Living´. Art historian Jacqueline Nolte wrote in the catalogue:

´In Frances Goodman´s sound installation the body is less an object of desire than a source of all manner of fears associated with its being a shared frontier. It is signified as part of a system of defence, antagonistic to all, its infinite enemies the result of neuroses. Goodman´s gestures are directed toward an interrogation of both the pristine confines of personal space, as distinct from contaminated public space, and the gallery space, as distinct from its more soiled surrounds. Goodman pursues anxieties to the point of phobia; the process of living represented as inherently invasive, alien and dangerous. Unwanted waste products comprise part of an inevitable cycle of decay within which we are caught, this matter of our lives always resisting our control. Our bodies become reminders of the impossibility of control, no matter our withdrawal from all interactions and the accompanying risk of change. The debris of life adheres…’

She concludes: ´Goodman´s work is a chilling commentary on legacies of antipathy, antipathies sanctified in the formation of nations such as those in South Africa, as well as England.´
Author: Judith Staines


Frances Goodman was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1975. She studied Fine Art at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, graduating in 1998. She continued at Goldsmiths College in London and gained an MA in 2000. From 2001 to 2003 she was resident at HISK (Higher Institute for Fine Art) in Antwerp, Belgium. Goodman creates installations and sound works using a number of media to examine issues and emotions that people do not wish to confront.


The Triumph of Painting

The title of this work is a reference to the seemingly all-powerful Charles Saatchi, and his current exhibition, “The Triumph of Painting”, a five-year exhibition that celebrates the ‘return’ of painting. The irony of this ‘return’ is that Saatchi championed the YBA movement, the majority of which was conceptual and installation-based. The challenges and provocations within this work are multilayered. The piece is obviously not, in the traditional sense, painting. And yet, it masquerades as painting in the tactility of its surface, in its form and ultimately in the way it is presented. The markers of painting are there, but they are misleading. This trickery asks what defines painting and what are the material limits of this newly ‘returned’ form? The work itself does not set out explicitly to answer any of these questions. Instead, sub-genres within the painting tradition (landscape, nudes, still-life, vanitas etc) are played out in a seemingly kitsch, domestic material – sequins - that feigns opulence. The charade, in all its theatricality, toys with these tropes.

Young Guns

Film / TV,
Young Guns accompanies two modern-day heroes on their quest for perfection and ideal beauty. Young Guns is a large-scale DVD installation comprising image and an audio soundtrack. Accompanied by visuals of the young men executing formal competitive poses, an audio-track examines the controversial and much-maligned sport of bodybuilding. A soundscape of music, interviews and recordings of training sessions capture the two young bodybuilders’ passion for the sport and reveal the obsessive extremes to which they will go in order to reach their goals. Through the young guns’ accounts of childhood heroes and icons, a particular version of masculinity emerges. And as the narrative unfolds, the viewer becomes aware of a blurring of boundaries between scrupulous preparation and raw narcissism. This slip between definition of self and judgment by others raises questions around contemporary ‘ideals’ of beauty and the limits to achieving them.

Love Smells Like Death

Exhibition / Installation,
2004 Silk, embroidery, wire, embroidered satin cushion, glass box and wooden plinth Life size Photographs on Metallic Paper, Gold Frames and Glass 340 x 280mm The starting point for the series of work is a text written by George Bataille on flowers, coupled with the provoking image of Miss Havisham in Charles Dickens’s novel “Great Expectations”; both reference the decay of flowers, the withering of an ideal.

Exhibitions (Selected)

2005 Threat Zone, Triangle Project Space, San Antonio, Texas, USA. 2005 \prologue reclaiming Europe from a new feminist perspective, Cornerhouse, Manchester, UK. 2005 Art out of Place, Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, Norwich, UK. 2005 Double Check Re-Framing Space in Photography: The Other Space, Parallel Histories, Camera Austria, Kunsthaus Graz, Austria. 2005 Petite Mort, Solo Exhibition, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa 2004 Wanting, Solo Exhibition, KULAK, University of Kortrijk, Belgium 2004 Double Check Re-Framing Space in Photography: The Other Space, 2004 Parallel Histories, Gallery of Contemporary Art, Celje, Slovenia 2004 David, Gallery in the Round, SA National Festival of the Arts, Grahamstown, South Africa 2004 Goodman Gallery Booth, Basel Art Fair, Basel, Switzerland 2004 Your Heart is No Match for my Love, The Soap Factory, Minneapolis, USA 2004 Mo(NU)ment@Bornem, Weert, Hingene and Bornem (Klein-Brabant), Belgium 2004 Show Us What You’re Made Of, The Premises, Johannesburg, South Africa. 2004 After Hours, In/Out, Hisk, Antwerpen, Belgium 2003 Something about Love, Casino, Luxembourg 2003 Opzij Ven Het Kijken, Watou Arts and Literature Festival, Watou, Belgium 2003 Distance of Memory, Nairs House of Culture in Vulpera Tarasp, Nairs, Switzerland 2003 ´Intimate Moments´, Process Room, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland 2002 ´Viper´, Basel New Media Festival, Basel, Switzerland 2002 ´Sound Space´, De Appel, Amsterdam 2002 ´Sensing Sculpture´, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, UK 2002 ´Fluid´, Bonnington Art Gallery, Nottingham, UK; Middlesborough Art Gallery, UK; Howard Gardens Gallery, Cardiff, Wales, UK 2002 ´Unprincipled Passions´, John Hansard Gallery, Southampton, UK 2001 ´JUNCTURE´, The Granary, Cape Town, South Africa; Studio Voltaire, London 2001 ´Body: Rest and Motion´, Oudtshoorn Festival, South Africa 2000 ´EAST International´, Norwich School of Art and Design, Norwich, UK 2000 ´Goldsmiths MA Exhibition´, Goldsmiths College, London 2000 Two person exhibition with Moshekwa Langa at the Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa 1999 ´Celsius: (new) art from the (new) South Africa´, IFA Gallery, Bonn, Germany

David (sound installation)

Exhibition / Installation,
2002-2003 Sound Installation Surround Sound Speakers, Sound System, Mirrors and Wooden Flooring Dimensions Variable Collection of Artist A woman pays a visit to David, her unattainable Adonis. The stark contrast of the reality of his grey world and the bright, mirrored cacophony of his dreams casts the viewer into the loop in which they are both trapped. David seeks to examine the emptiness of various unobtainable ideals: those of the body, the dream, beauty and love. David is an audio-based narrative installed in a space made to resemble a gym hall. The viewer enters a room of wall-to-wall mirrors and sprung wooden flooring. A number of headphones hang from the ceiling. The only light source in the room is the light reflecting off a still mirror ball. The sound piece comprises, music, found audio sound-bites and narrative, which transport the viewer to the world of David and his anonymous guest.


2005 Recollets, Recollets International Accomodation and Exchange Centre, Paris, France
2003 Irish Museum of Modern Art, Artists Work Programme, Dublin, Ireland
2001-03 HISK (Higher Institute for Fine Art), Antwerp, Belgium

2004 Werkvbeurzen, Flemish Community, Belgium
2002 Ernest Oppenheimer Memorial Trust Scholarship, South Africa
2001 Ernest Oppenheimer Memorial Trust Scholarship, South Africa
1997 Martienssen Prize, First Prize Winner, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
1997 University of the Witwatersrand, Anya Millman Travel Scholarship
1997 University of the Witwatersrand, Sculpture Merit Award


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the partner institutions.


(10 May 01 - 26 May 01)



Contemporary art magazine & listings in South Africa

EAST 2000

work exhibited at EAST International 2000
Young Guns
Bead Series
Love Smells Like Death