The Rat Race

The Rat Race by Marlise Keith is a 2011 winner of a Business Day BASA Award. The work measures eighteen metres in length, is exceptionally detailed in its design and highly complex in its use of colour. Click here to visit the official showcase of this artwork, which allows you to examine the piece in detail.

The reverse, or indirect, method of mosaic was used to create The Rat Race. This technique is more complicated that the direct mosaic method, but often leads to astonishing results. As the name suggests, the mosaic tesserae is built up in reverse, and involves using a temporary surface (brown paper) to transfer the mosaic to the artwork’s final location site. Tesserae is stuck face down to brown paper with soluble flour glue. The paper is then reversed and pressed into an adhesive. When set, the paper is sponged off to reveal the faces of the tesserae. The exceptional quality of the work already produced, and the ease with which the students have adapted to the intricacies inherent in Keith’s contemporary design give much cause for optimism.

Living in Kalk Bay and often inspired by the sea, Keith elaborates on her design for The Rat Race:

The sea has always been a symbol of inspiration and change, from the times of the ancient mariners to the present day rat race. Today, it is also important for us to understand what life water brings. The movement of undertow, rip currents and tides are simulated in the design by the repetition of lines and shape. We are constantly surrounded by motion or are in motion, just like the sea; and even more so at Hollard where the highway roars past, aeroplanes fly by and people jostle and bustle on their way to work. In all this movement, there is mystery. One wonders where these people are going, looking sad, happy, agitated, or lost. What is happening under the surface? The work reflects on the futility of those in authority who endeavour to regulate humans by rules and signs.

- Marlise Keith, 2010

Keith is a practicing artist based in Cape Town. She completed her BAFA degree at the University of Pretoria, at the top of her class. In 2000, she presented her first solo exhibition and completed her Masters in Fine Arts, at the University of Stellenbosch. Keith’s works can be found in various collections in South Africa, America, Australia, Britain, France, Germany and Sweden. She has also participated in several competitions and was a top ten finalist in the Absa L’Atelier in 2007. Keith also lectured in production design at AFDA for two years and currently teaches History of Art at the Spier Arts Academy.


Artist: Marlise Keith

Date: 2010

Location: Hollard Campus, Parktown, Johannesburg


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