artthrob artthrob

Archive: Issue No. 38, October 2000

Go to the current edition for SA art News, Reviews & Listings.


Do you recognise this mark?

Something to ask? A comment to make on ArtThrob? Email us at All queries answered by Paul Edmunds, Feedback Editor.

From: Leora Farber-Blackbeard
Subject: Artthrob review (17.10.00)
Date: 22 October 2000 17:09

It was with disappointment that I read the Artthrob review 'Mark Hipper, Jeno Gindl and Leora Farber at Joao Ferreira' (17.10.00). I cannot speak for others on the show, but know that I, as a serious, committed artist, felt that more than a superficial, glib response punctuated with factual errors, would have been appreciated.

A critic, like any reader/viewer will, of course, respond to the work in whatever way they find appropriate. What seems to be lacking in Williamson's review however, is acknowledgement that, her response is exactly that - a response (informed or otherwise). Critical observations are made in a way that appears to conflate opinion with fact.

For instance, it is not a given fact that my earlier work is closed or didactic. Williamson may have found it so, but the numerous academic texts that have been written on those works in recent years, by respected members the South African art community, point to the possibility that for others, the work opens up rich debate regarding gender construction. Most of the articles to which I refer*, discuss the work's relation to the construction of femininity and its relevance to gender and identity politics.

Given Joao Ferreira's insightful curatorial juxtapositioning of my work with that of Mark Hipper, who deals so clearly with the construction of masculinity, it seems that the construction of gender may have been an interesting point from which to engage with the work of both artists. In so doing, it may have emerged that there is more to the wax sculptures than a reductive reading (i.e. understanding the work as a simple clothing/skin metaphor) offers.

Please note that the lightboxes do not 'hold video stills', but, as correctly labeled on the image printed to the left of your review, are cibachrome prints. They depict a different surgical procedure from those that appear in the video work (noted in the titles of the lightboxes and video work respectively). Although they deal with similar subject matter to the video, they are separate works. Technically, it would be impossible to get such clear resolution from a video still in print form.

I do not use paint on any of the wax sculptures. Pigments and shellac are processed in specific ways to achieve flesh-tones.

Rather than being 'the direction of my own thinking', the 'irritable male voice' preceding the operations in the video, reflects the thinking of director David Cronenberg. It is a sound bite taken from his film 'Dead Ringers' - the same reference that formed the title of the show - 'Endless Renovations.' The two references to Cronenberg's film were deliberately chosen, given his portrayal of the misogynist attitudes and actions of twin gynecologists towards their patients. I found this attitude relevant to the show as a whole. In an effort not to impose my own opinion in the form of text onto the images, I felt that my position regarding cosmetic surgery could be effectively expressed through a considered reference to contemporary media culture.

Leora Farber.

* I would be happy to provide a complete bibliography on request.

Sue Williamson replies:

Describing Farber's wax pieces, my words were 'seems closed,didactic' - clearly an opinion formed by this reviewer, and certainly not presented by me as a 'given fact'. I have no doubt that any number of other reviewers may have reacted quite differently.

Regarding the question of the cibachromes in the lightboxes, I apologise for referring to these as video stills. I thought at the time that they were of exceptionally high quality for video stills, but obviously erroneously, gained the impression that that was what they were. I should have checked more carefully.

On the question of the male voice in the video: even if I had seen David Cronenburg's 'Dead Ringers', I may well have not recalled that particular scrap of dialogue, and I don't really think it should matter where it comes from. One can't expect one's viewers to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of contemporary culture. In any case, the dialogue has to stand on its own in a new context. If it does not reflect the way the artist feels about misogynist attitudes in the practice of cosmetic surgery, what is it doing in the work?

The point I was trying to make was that Farber's video, with its beautifully shot yet horrifying images of essentially invasive and often - but not always - unneccessary medical procedures was powerful enough to provoke questions in the viewer without the line about the woman's body being all wrong. Less is more. (And I did say that I thought the introduction of the line was a minor flaw).

From: Leon Marnitz
Subject: Stuart Johnston
Date received: October 22

Dear Paul I have a painting by Stuart Johnston dated 1922. Where can I find out more about the artist?


Leon Marnitz

Leon, I'm not sure if Stuart Johnston is South African or painted in South Africa. If so, and if he achieved any degree of fame, he may well be found in Esm´┐Ż Berman's Art and Artists of South Africa. Otherwise, a similarly comprehensive international book such as Helen Gardiner's Art Through the Ages may be able to help you. Failing that, an internet search, your local provincial art gallery or a helpful reader may be able to help.

From: Nissen Avroy Davis
Subject: Nerine Desmond
Date received: October 10

Dear Paul Edmunds,

My late mother, a Cape Town resident, gave me a lovely painting many years ago by a South African artist named Nerine Desmond. It shows the head of a Cape Malay woman. My daughter is a gifted artist who adores this painting. She has been asking me about Ms. Desmond and I have been trying in vain to find information about her on the Internet. Is there a website which you can direct me to that contains biographies of South African painters? I also have paintings by other RSA artists - Peter Lamb, Don Madge, Paul Suchtung and Johann Blatt (the latter two were from Namibia.) Any information you can give me will be greatly appreciated.

Nissen Avroy Davis
Rancho Palos Verdes

Nissen, I have managed to find out a little. Nerine Desmond was born in 1908, I'm unsure if she is still alive. She was largely self-taught but did also study in London and worked in both watercolours and oils. Roundabout 1938 she became well known for paintings of Voortrekker subjects, and from 1966 - 7 was curator of the Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg. Her work is held in many public collections here including that of the South African National Gallery in Cape Town. Peter Lamb was born in 1905 and died in 1963. He lived in both the UK and USA as well as South Africa where he became well known for portraits and paintings of the Indian communities and markets in Durban. His work is also in the National Gallery. Johann Blatt was born in Germany in 1905 and died in 1973. He moved to Windhoek in 1913 and to Cape Town in 1961. I can't establish whether his work is held in the National Gallery's collection, but he is featured in a catalogue of theirs from 1962. You can contact the South African National Gallery at Unfortunately I can't tell you of any website where you may find more out about any of these painters or the others I wasn't able to track down.

From: Louise Maxwell
Subject: Tretchikoff
Date received: October 12

I have in my possession 5 signed prints by the artist V. Tretchikoff, namely Self Portrait, Herb Seller, The Lady from the Orient, Resurrection and Xhosa Chief. I also have an original of some sort - I'm not sure what it is, but you can see it is an original. Where would I be able to have these valued.

Thanking you
Louise Maxwell

Louise, I can't speculate on the value of the works you have, but I can tell you that we almost have more enquiries about Tretchikoof than anyone else these days. He certainly seems to be enjoying some revived popularity. The best companies to approach are Stephan Welz and Co on 685-2220 ,where you should ask for Michael Stevenson, or, Christies on 686-4344, where you can speak to Deon Viljoen (both are Cape Town numbers).

From: Leanne
Subject: Shmuel Hirzenberg painting
Date received: October 15

Dear Paul,

I have received a request from overseas to establish the whereabouts of a work by Shmuel Hirzenberg, entitled Sie Wandern (They are wandering" or Exile). Hirzenberg was a popular late 19th / early 20th Century artist. Apparently the work was last seen in a Christian mission in South Africa in about 1940. If anyone knows the whereabouts of this work or any other works by Shmuel Hirzenberg, please could you contact me. Thank you.

Kind regards,
Leanne Engelberg

Good luck, I hope someone reading this can help you.

From: Piet Delport
Subject: Mayer Erich
Date received: 07 October

I would appreciate if you could point me in the right direction to find out more about the artist Erich Mayer.

Piet, Erich Mayer was a painter born in Germany in 1876, where he studied. He lived in South Africa for some time, where he was a contemporary of Pierneef. He was well-known for his depictions of rural South African life and scenery. You can find out more about him in the following books:

Bouman, A.C., Kuns in SA, Haum, Cape Town, 1935
Bouman A.C., SA Painters, Haum, Cape Town. 1950
Berman, E., Art and Artists of South Africa, AA Balkana, Cape Town, 1983

From: Ant Turner
Subject: Tretchikoff
Date received: 29 September

do you recognise this as his mark.......?

please let me know as i have this on a print of his and dont know what to do with it....


We are trying to track down an authority on Tretchikoff, and will be in touch.

From: Judy (Fink) Peterson
Subject: Jeff Koons
Date received: 30 September

I just read about Jeff Koons on your web site. I only recently found out just how famous he is. I am not part of the art world...I went to high school with Jeff. I would be interested in finding out how to e-mail him just to drop him a line. Thank you for your assistance.

Judy (Fink) Peterson

Usually, ArtThrob is only able to help with South African artists, but as it happens, the head of Jeff Koons' sculpture studio is a South African artist - Justine Wheeler. If you email her at, I'm sure she'll pass your message on.

From: Artefatto
Subject: Artthrob issues 1-35
Date received: 30 September

Dear friends,
I will be interested to receive all the issues of Artthrob (from no.1 to no.35) if you can do for me a special price.

I have published different books and catalogue on African Contemporary Art. I work with several african artist. See my collection in

Waiting for your news.

SARENCO International Negative Avantgardes African Contemporary Art
via san vitale 35
37129 VERONA Italy
phone: 39.045.590795
fax: 39.045.8048896

Sarenco, ArtThrob is not sold, only published on the internet. All the back issues, the copyright of which is held here, are accessible via the archive and thus can be downloaded. Thanks for your interest.