Pretoria Art Museum
09.07.2016 – 02.09.2016
Banele Khoza grapples with short sharp emotions in his solo exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum. Entitled ‘Temporary Feelings,’ the exhibition is very personal, yet critically engaging with issues of relationships, communication, social media and sexuality. He brings his vulnerability into the gallery space: what it means to be lonely, even though surrounded by people.
“With the Temporary Feelings, I acknowledge that feelings are something that are in a constant flux, that what you feel today will be totally different tomorrow,” he says.
The gallery space is full of satisfying colour with bold visible brush marks and flat washes of pastel hues. The works are mostly portraits but they are abstracted, ghostly and childlike, embodying a sense of sadness.
It’s all Temporary My Darling, sets the tone for the other works in terms of subject matter and style. It comprises two canvases. One has the title in bold blue text on a pale yellow background, while the other shows a figure with crossed arms and floating flowers on a blue vertical rectangular block. In the text meaning is discarded but not forgotten as the words become images and shapes, expressing a subtle beauty and order. The words add rhythmic patterns that are both seen and read. In other works the text is smaller, requiring you to step closer. Khoza refers to the text as ‘sticky notes,’ important as records of fleeting moments.
Our bed, an installation of the artist’s bed sits in the middle of the gallery, covered in white bedding and small pen and watercolour drawings that are pinned all over the mattress. Our bed is treated as a diary, a space that is intimate, personal and private. The stories illustrated and penned here make for very provocative imagery, speaking both about past relationships and contemporary longing. For instance, there is a watercolour drawing of a figure with legs spread open, text on the meanings of
a ‘fuckboy’, expressions of hoping to meet someone, etc. Altogether, Our bed is a sincere conversational piece on thoughts of sex, relationships and daily activities that are not explicit or offensive. Privacy is removed in a gallery space but there is still a mysterious sense of secrecy that lingers – what has taken place on this bed? Khoza opens up to truth-telling about his relationships but does not give the viewer a complete reality of his experience.
There is an absent other in most of these artworks: Our bed, His Bed, Lonely Pair, The Imagined Bae, etc. The digital print series makes this absence palpable, with comic-like accounts of memories. In light of the bed installation, these provide some glimpses of detail on this absent other. Here sexuality and sexual favours engage with the nature of everyday relationships. There are depictions of sex between male and female, male and male or female and female. Even so, none of these figures show any expression of happiness; they appear desolate and lost. There is also a skeleton figure in works like His bed and Let’s go. The skeleton places symbolism on metaphoric thinking between truth, suggested by the long-lasting life of bones, and death, with one work, Let’s go, having text that reads ‘HIV.’
Khoza seems aware and critical of the social interactions that are present in his generation, this is manifested in his titles such as Blesser: a person who is older and provides monetary favours to a younger person in exchange for sex – a present day sugar daddy.
Overall, such relationships are fleeting moments, temporary feelings, and loneliness seems to be the initial drive. This exhibition serves as not only a personal intervention on feelings but also a public and social interrogation of the times we are living in. Khoza’s engagement with the public puts much considered importance on the gallery space as well as accessibility to these spaces. A place such as the Pretoria Art Museum has often been criticised for its failure to create a platform for younger, black artists. As a museum, it is known to place importance on rotating its permanent collection. Therefore, it is important to support young artist’s exhibitions of this caliber which aim at interrogating and disrupting elitist structures.