Born in Johannesburg in 1971, Justine Mahoney is a figurative sculptor whose work holds up a mirror to South Africa’s fractured past even as it projects a fantastical, hybridised future.
Her sculptures and collages have captivated audiences for their deceptively innocent approach to exploring the dark side of human existence. Drawing inspiration from the disparate realities of growing up white in 1970s Johannesburg during some of the most tumultuous decades of Apartheid, she is deeply influenced by her childhood experiences. Using her own memories as a source of inspiration, she alludes to both innocence and its loss, while simultaneously depicting an inner determination to move forward in the face of adversity.
In Tainted, her 2017 solo exhibition, Justine explores emotional and physical states of struggle through convoys of toy-like sculptures. These childlike figures — referred to by the artist as “an army of toy soldiers” — offer an inspired view into this world of collaged fantasy, as well as her own observations of gender, landscape and oppression.
Her sculptures represent the fears, nightmares, dreams and aspirations of children, and are based on stories told to her by her childhood nanny. Like her photo collages, her bronze figures stitch together contrasting worlds, frequently combining elements taken from Classical mythology, traditional African art, popular culture, art history and the media.
Justine matriculated from the Johannesburg School of Art, Ballet, Drama and Music, and gained her National Diploma in Fine Art from the Technikon of Witwatersrand in 1991.
Now based in Cape Town, she has exhibited her work all over South Africa and at international design fairs such as Design Miami, Design Miami/Basel and The Salon Art and Design in New York.