Past Exhibition

Christine Dixie “The Astronomer, The Princess and the The Order of Things”

8 Spetember – 16 October 2022

When my daughter was five years old, the same age as Princess Margaret Theresa in the painting Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez, I became obsessed with the painting. Indeed it was because my daughter was the same age, and with her long, blond hair bore a passing resemblance to the princess, that this compulsion began.

The Astronomer, the Princess and The Order of Things is the latest response to this painting in an ongoing project that began ten years ago. The multi-media installation, To Be King (2014) which re-imagines the court of King Philip IV in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, was my first engagement. This was followed by the exhibition The Santiago Cross: Invisible Trade (2015). More recently the exhibition Blueprint for the DisOrder of Things (2022) features the princess as a conduit for both creativity and disorder.

The moving and insightful essay by Professor Bronwyn Law-Viljoen, ‘The Dog in the Night: Christine Dixie’s Blueprint for the DisOrder of Things’, is a response to the exhibition and also includes a reference to the latest body of work The Astronomer. It is these two bodies of work Blueprint for the Disorder of Things and The Astronomer which make up this most recent exhibition. The Astronomer consists of collages and cyanotypes, each of the characters that appear in the painting Las Meninas is given an alternative identity, an identity that is part fiction and part drawn from historical references.

In Velázquez,’s painting ‘otherness’ is highlighted in the figure of the macrocephalous dwarf Maribarbola. In many portraits of dynastic children throughout Europe, the royal child was deliberately placed against the figure of a dwarf, thereby emphasizing, and making visible the hereditary right of royal lineage.

In my re-vision, Maribarbola becomes an astronomer, the character who has far-sighted vision. Instead of her place on the periphery of the painting, her status is reconfigured by making her the title character to this series. She is the one character that can see beyond the hierarchical, restrictive, and constructed charade that lies at the heart of the court and by extension, humankind. It is the dwarf-astronomer Maribarbarola who, looking through her telescope at worlds beyond the scope of the earth-bound court, moves to the foreground in this latest exhibition, The Astronomer, the Princess, and The Order of Things.


Christine Dixie is an established South African artist, who has regularly exhibited in that country, the US and Europe. She is primarily a printmaker, but her art also finds expression through films or elaborate installations.

Her work challenges the ways gender roles have been historically conditioned by society, myths, and image-making. The manifestation of the colonial history that haunts the town of Makhanda, (the Eastern Cape city where she lives) has compelled her preoccupation with Europe’s legacy in Africa. Her practice and aesthetic rely on archival imagery and in-depth research.

Her work is included in national and international collections including The Iwalewahaus, Bayreuth, Germany, The New York Public Library, The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, The Standard Bank Gallery, The Johannesburg Art gallery, The Durban Art Gallery, the Iziko National Museum of South Africa, and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Museum of Art.

International group shows include Earth Matters: Earth as Material and Metaphor curated by Dr. Karen Milbourne (2007) and The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists curated by Simon Njami (2012), both of which opened at the Smithsonian Museum of African Art. Her installation To Be King was part of the Personal Structures exhibited at Palazzo Bembo in Venice (2017) and was shown at the International Festival at the Coronet Cinema in London and the Kaunas in Art Festival in Lithuania (2018) and the Iwalewahaus, Bayreuth, Germany (2022).

Recent exhibitions include, @ Bathurst St., Makhanda at the Gallery of the SARChi chair at the University of Johannesburg and her series of prints Harbouring Fanon at the Graham Contemporary Gallery (2022). Blueprint for the DisOrder of Things which Things opened in April 2022 at the Wits Art Museum is a body of work which continues themes that are linked to her To Be King installation and The Astronomer, The Princess, and The Order of Things.

Featured Artwork

Past Exhibitions

New Day Spring Group Exhibition

3 November 2022 – 22 January 2023

Warning: Attempt to read property "classname" on string in /usr/www/users/cubegfvdxh/ on line 3050 Warning: Attempt to read property "ID" on null in /usr/www/users/cubegfvdxh/ on line 515 Warning: Attempt to read property "classname" on string in /usr/www/users/cubegfvdxh/ on line 3050 Warning: Attempt to read property "ID" on null in /usr/www/users/cubegfvdxh/ on line 368