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Archive: Issue No. 44, April 2001

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


24.04.01 Opinion: Reflections on the FNB Vita Awards 2001
17.04.01 FNB Vita Art Prize 2001: Nominees Announced
03.04.01 Oudtshoorn Preview
03.04.01 Public Eye Auction
27.03.01 Arts and Culture Trust Annual Awards postponed - again

Vita nominees

Vita nominees from left to right:
Jan van der Merwe
Robin Rhode
Kathryn Smith
Kim Lieberman
Clive van den Berg
Missing: Moshekwa Langa

Opinion: Reflections on the FNB Vita Awards 2001
by Virginia MacKenny

It is no longer, in fact, an official criterion that you have to have exhibited in Gauteng to be considered for the Vita Award nominations (as the editorial on the Contents page of ArtThrob suggested last week) but you would be forgiven for thinking it is. The first thing many people have noted is that it is a Gauteng line-up and the second the absence of Alan Alborough from the list of nominees. Having had one of the most critically successful solo shows to tour nationwide last year it would seem the only failing of the Alborough show was that it had not yet reached Johannesburg so the selectors there had not actually seen it at the time of selection.

Whilst this observation might raise eyebrows it does highlight one of the problems of trying to acknowledge not only the broad diversity of contemporary artistic production in this country, but also its geographical location. Storm van Rensburg, NSA curator, raised this point in his welcoming address at the announcement of this year's nominees. Highlighting the continuing 'centre versus margin' debate he pointed out that discourse tends to remain localised and that location remains a defining factor in determining who is seen and who is not.

Ironically this is the year the Vita organisers attempted to address these very issues; the final exhibition will not be shown in Johannesburg but in Durban and, in addition, a selector from Durban was also part of the process. This attempt at inclusivity is to be lauded, but brings with it its own problems and these are not necessarily new. The Rembrandt van Rijn Triennial of the eighties collapsed under the call for greater representation - attempting to be all things to all people, it failed to please anyone and the sponsors withdrew from the battlefield leaving those in the arts to fight it out for themselves and artists the poorer for it. More recently KwaZulu Natal's 'Jabulisa 2000' gamely attempted to present a representative provincial show which, whilst genuinely diverse, became unwieldy and lacked curatorial focus.

The FNB Vita Awards, to their credit, have attempted to adapt to changing times. Selection this year accommodated Robin Rhoode's iconoclastic production which very often operates outside the traditional confines of the gallery and artists such as Kathryn Smith and Clive van den Berg were selected not only for personal exhibition work, but were acknowledged for extending their own creative endeavours with curatorial projects. Broadening the scope of inclusion has, however, left the criteria for selection a little vague. Four years ago the FNB Vita Awards organisers changed the exhibition format from a rather bulky thirty or so exhibitors with work selected directly from solo exhibitions that had been held in galleries in Johannesburg to a show that ostensibly could accommodate artists nationwide who were seen to be producing challenging work. In addition, in an attempt to be more democratic and also gauge and engage public interest the public were encouraged to vote for an artist of their choice.

Supported by a catalogue and educational supplements the Vita plays a considerable and important role in promoting quality contemporary art and giving artists a valuable platform to strut their stuff. The final exhibition is more streamlined and potentially more demanding with artists selected commissioned to do new work especially for the Vita exhibition (this year the commission envelopes contained cheques for R12000 for each artist - the first R8000 sponsored by FNB and a further R4000 generously donated by Linda Givon of the Goodman Gallery).

Questions, however still remain. Can Vita follow its own rather ill-defined brief effectively? What of South African artists producing work overseas? Perhaps Vita biases should be more openly acknowledged? Whilst FNB certainly puts its money where its mouth is perhaps some of the placing of that money needs to be reconsidered: for the official announcement all the nominated artists, bar Moshekwa Lange who was not available, were flown down to Durban for a couple of hours to hear their names read out to a small audience of press and a representative of FNB - then they were flown back - no doubt a bit bemused by the whole process. Whilst achievement needs acknowledgement the vaguely corporate nature of this event seemed inappropriate.

Robin Rhoode

Robin Rhoode
In Performance

Clive van den Berg

Clive van den Berg
Leak 200
Mixed media: wood and light bulbs
2 X 2.8m

FNB Vita Art Prize 2001: Nominees Announced

Always awaited with curiosity and expectation, this year's FNB Vita Art Prize 2001 nominees were announced at a function held at the NSA Gallery, Durban on Tuesday, April 17, 2001. The nominees are:

Clive van den Berg has been nominated for an exhibition that featured new multimedia works at the Goodman Gallery last year. Van den Berg was born in Kitwe, Zambia and studied for a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree at the University of Natal. After lecturing in Durban for several years at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg and the Technikon Natal in Durban, he joined the Fine Arts Department at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1989. Van den Berg has been exhibiting both locally and internationally for many years, and is currently the Visual Arts co-ordinator for the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival.

Kim Lieberman, who is nominated for her exhibition 'Blood Relatives'. Born in Johannesburg, Lieberman obtained a National Diploma in Fine Art from Witwatersrand Technikon, which she followed with B Tech Degree (Fine Arts) from the same institution. She is currently doing an MA (Fine Art) at Witwatersrand University. 'Blood Relatives' was Lieberman's third solo exhibition. In recent years she has participated in numerous groups shows both in South Africa and internationally.

Jan van der Merwe who is Pretoria-based and is a senior lecturer at the Arts Faculty, Technikon Pretoria. He has been nominated for the work Weft and Warp seen at the Civic Gallery, Johannesburg, last year. Van der Merwe, has over the past few years been producing art works in which he incorporates found objects, images, junk materials- objects inherited, bought, picked up. He says that the shapes and textures of these objects, coupled with images, memories and sentiments, serve as a starting point of the art making process.

Kathryn Smith, was born in Durban in 1975, relocating to Johannesburg in 1994 and completed her MA (FA) in 1999 at Wits University. She currently works as an independent artist, writer. Career highlights thus far include travelling to Iceland for A.R.E.A 2000 (Museum of Art, Reykjavik), exhibiting and key-note speaker for the 'open-circuit exhibition and conference at the NSA Gallery in 2000, co-curating 'Two Icons - The Atom, The Body' with James Say for Urban Futures 2000 and curating the 1998 exhibition 'Histories of the Present'.

Moshekwa Langa, who is currently based in the Netherlands, has been commissioned for the exhibition held at the Goodman Gallery. Langa has featured in an hour long documentary about Africa and modernism which was aired in Belgium, Austria, Germany and France. He has a solo exhibition at Centre d'Art Contemporain, Geneva in February 1999 and has been presented at the Sao Paolo Biennale, amongst others.

Robyn Rhode is a graduate of the Technikon Witwatersrand, Rhode has exhibited in several groups exhibitions in both South African and abroad. In a statement, Rhode says "I have been working extensively with video and performance art, showing a keen interest in the depiction of my social identity by recording frames of reference. I try to reoccupy spaces with a presence previously excluded, combining an uncomfortable criticality with popular reference".

The FNB Vita Art Prize was launched in Johannesburg some four years ago. The founding principles for this visual art prize are to promote contemporary art in South Africa and to provoke interest and debate around new artistic developments. Based loosely on the Turner Prize in London, the selection of the commissioned artists includes input by the general public who can nominate artists they think deserve recognition and a panel of visual art experts who make the final decision re who to commission. The selected artists must have exhibited work during the past year. The selection panel this year included Julia Charlton, Pat Mautloa, Willem Boshoff, Virginia MacKenny and Natasha Fuller.

The FNB Vita Art Prize, historically based in Johannesburg, will now be presented in other venues in South Africa. This year it makes a move from the Sandton Civic Gallery to the NSA Gallery in Durban where the award winners exhibition will open in August 2001.

The final winner of the competition receives a prize of R35,000. Previous winners of this prestigious prize include Steven Cohen, Jo Ractliffe and Terry Kurgan. For more information contact FNB Vita Awards, Tel 011 442 8435/fax 011 442 8423


Luan Nel

Luan Nel
Onthou Vergeet (detail), 2001
Steel, water
Each letter 2m high

Wim Botha

Wim Botha
Communion: Suspension of Disbelief, 2001
Bibles, steel, surveillance cameras, monitors

Christian Nerf

Christian Nerf
Detail from Candid Camera: Working with Tom, 1999
digital prints
dimensions variable

Oudtshoorn Preview
Kathryn Smith gives a rundown of the visual arts section of the Klein Karoo Kunstefees.

Art is once again being taken seriously at this year's Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees. Director Clive van den Berg has commissioned and devised a series of exhibitions that shows an appreciation for what festivals are and how they can operate as important opportunities for experimentation and a certain amount of risk-taking.

In his introduction to the utterly must-have catalogue that incorporates all the major exhibitions with extensive artists' statements, curatorial commentary and excellent design and illustration, he states: "For me the whole point about a Festival is that it is an opportunity for viewers to see new things and hopefully experience fresh ideas and challenges. Why travel to Oudtshoorn to see culture that could just as easily have been seen in Cape Town or Johannesburg, or worse, that you have already seen there, or on another Festival? This is a forum for experiencing art that is fresh, exciting and hopefully takes you a bit by surprise. My premise has been that a sponsored Festival is a rare opportunity to expand the possibilities of contemporary culture. This seems to be particularly pressing as many local art institutions shrink, die or abrogate their responsibilities, or their initiative to international curators."

Sponsored predominantly by Sasol, with additional funding from Basa, two curated group exhibitions, 'switch on/off' by Marcus Neustetter and 'body: rest and motion' by Kathryn Smith, were commissioned for this year's programme.

'Switch on/off' is designed as an introduction into new media art, a discourse which is extremely young in this country, but was given a major boost at last year's Urban Futures conference with an exhibition curated by Neustetter. He returns with this one, saying of his rationale, "Viewing works of new technology calls for an alternative approach. Works start to use different languages and aesthetic qualities and viewing often requires interaction." To facilitate such interaction from audiences and help their understanding, Neustetter has selected two works from each of his artists - both related in subject matter, but one realised in digital format and the other in one of the more traditional media. "On or off the screen - switch on/off." Norman Catherine, Abrie Fourie, Brad Hammond, Kim Lieberman, Stephen Hobbs, Robin Rhode, Mark Edwards, Tracy Gander and Stefanus Rademeyer bridge the lotech/hitech divide.

'Body' is designed as a two-year programme, with this year being the first instalment. 'Rest and motion' investigates the place of the body in South African visual culture, this year focusing on the phenomenon of flux and change and how bodies, both our own and those of others, are used as points of entry and departure into constructions of identity both fixed and transient. Artists include Christian Nerf, Paul Stopforth, Penny Siopis, Dave Southwood, Brett Murray, Kevin Brand, Lisa Brice, Tracey Rose, Robert Hodgins, Stephen Hobbs, Sharmila Samant, Jose Ferreira, Richard Penn, Dorothee Kreutzfeldt, Amichai Tahor, Frances Goodman, Minnette Vari, Natasha Christopher, Greg Streak and Sam Nhlengethwa.

'Self' is a three-year project that made its debut last year. An exhibition that requires artists to produce a linocut self-portrait that is at least life size, last year's show was phenomenal, despite those artists who reneged on the conditions and didn't use the medium. The exhibition is designed as a challenge to artists who are often known for work in other media, as well as a challenge to our preconceptions about linocut as a 'poor' medium. As Van den Berg, who conceived of and curated the show, comments, "I suggested lino because it seemed to me to be a medium that could take further investigation, despite its established place in South African art." Personal favourites this year are Anton Kannemeyer, Usha Seejarim, Jeremy Wafer and Diane Victor.

Luan Nel has a solo public project entitled 'Onthou en Vergeet', destined for a large playing field in the town. Large letters are set into the earth and filled with water, spelling out the words of the title. Wim Botha presents his first solo exhibition entitled 'Commune: Suspension of Disbelief', in which the figure of the crucified Christ has been carved from stacks of bibles in his signature method. The installation incorporates surveillance cameras and monitors and promises to be something awesome.

Other features of this year's main programme are Brett Murray and Conrad Botes ever-popular 'Boogie Lights' , 'Waver' from a group of Belville artists, and a series of collector's T-shirts by Brett Murray, Marcus Neustetter, Peter Schutz and Harry Kalmer.

The festival expects some 150 000 people passing through this year between the opening and closing dates of April 7 and 14. Try to be one of them.

     See Reviews

Zebulon Dread

Zebulon Dread

Public Eye Auction

Street poet and writer, editor and distributor of Voetsek! Zebulon Dread played auctioneer at a recent dinner celebrating the second year anniversary of Public Eye. The Cape Town group of artists dedicated to bringing art to public spaces have moved into the third floor of the old Bijou Cinema in Observatory, and invited 60 friends and supporters to the fundraising event. Guests included SBYA winner Alan Alborough, Cultural Weapon editor Mike van Graan, gallerist Joao Ferreira and collector Jean Marc Leber. Using a mixture of scathing insults, witty comments and astute remarks about the work being auctioned, Zebulon Dread raised more than R17 000 for Public Eye's projects. On the block were smaller works by organisation members Lisa Brice, Brett Murray, Kevin Brand, Sue Williamson, Andrew Putter, Lizza Littlewort and Robert Weinek. One of the top prices of the evening, R2 000, was paid by artist Beezy Bailey for a small male figure of unknown provenance chromed and submitted by Public Eye member and owner of Cape Town's trendy Jo'burg Bar, Bruce Gordon.

Arts and Culture Trust Annual Awards postponed - again

The annual Arts and Culture Trust of the President Awards, given to individuals, companies, organisations and the media judged to have most succesfully supported the arts in the previous year, have once more been postponed. The Awards, which were instituted in 1998, recognise excellence in eleven categories, eight of which carry monetary prizes. The winners of the monetary categories receive R10 000 each.

Originally the awards for the year 2000 were to have been announced on November 28 of that year. In October, a letter was sent out to nominees telling them that since the ACT offices would be moving from Cape Town to Johannesburg, the awards had been postponed to March. Recently, a new letter has been circulated, which reads: "We have had to re-look at this event and with the assistance of our founding trustees have decided to re-design the awards. As a result of this we need more time to plan and present a prestigious event. Based on the amount of work still to be done, the final date of this event will most likely be in September. The re-design of the event will necessitate re-opening the call for nominations. Your nominations will be held over for the next awards and therefore you need not re-apply."

One hopes that the money which should have been awarded last year to the nominees will not now go into the planning and presentation of the "prestigious event". And will the new awards be for the two year period 2000/1, or what?

We apologise for any inconvenience this might have caused but we promise an unforgettable event later this year. Your understanding and continued support is much appreciated and we ask you to keep watching our website at: for any new developments in this regard. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you require any further information.
Yours sincerely
Lulu Khumalo
Chief Executive Officer