Fire drawing on the plaza below
the Kulturhuset in Stockholm
to mark the opening of 'Dreams
and Clouds' in October

A perforated drum being lit

'Frontier Erotics' series

'Frontier Erotics' series

'Frontier Erotics' series

'Knowing, or Just About' series
On 'Bringing Up Baby'

'Knowing, or Just About' series
On 'Bringing Up Baby'

A fire drawing on the District
Six Sculpture Festival in 1997

Masks of Van den Berg and his lover
form part of Men Loving, on
'Faultlines', in the Cape Town Castle,
in November 1997

The Mine Dump Project
1st Johannesburg Biennale, 1996


Clive van den Berg
(November, 1998)

Modus operandi:

Clive van den Berg is perhaps known best for his iconic and large-scale "fire drawings" on such sites as mine dumps, the wasteland of District Six, and most recently the plaza in front of the Kulturhuset in Stockholm. The blazing outlines of these drawings have attracted wide public attention and have been commissioned to mark major art events. He is regarded as a leading figure in the established generation of South African artists. A concern for human rights and more specifically gay rights has always underpinned his work, which deals with unwritten history and with the intersections of space, memory and identity.

Artist's statement:

"The contradictions of our country's history are what presently define what is legitimate for the nation to mourn and memorialise. The love or lust between men and the implications of those states are definitely outside those boundaries. I like to work in public space and to use alternative narratives of history, presenting an imaginary truth rather than the commonly represented factual one."


Van den Berg's new show 'Frontier Erotics' opens at the Mark Coetzee Fine Art Cabinet on November 3 (see listings). For this series, Van den Berg visited the sites of battlefields around the country, studying the structures which memorialised the event, then drew on this to create his own series of highly charged small paintings. "The battle field is a symbolically complex site. Their collective distribution is one means of establishing or charting the vicissitudes of colonialism. Viewed from one perspective, the efforts of clashing masculinities is deeply erotic, yet these places are the most guarded preserves of patriarchy."

In the large space at the Cabinet, Van den Berg has installed a 45 degree slice of veld, rising three and a half metres high in the gallery space and covered with living grass. On to this, video footage of naked men running across sepia fields, dragging others, wounded, from a river, or making love is interspersed with archival images from the Boer War.

Van den Berg's video Memorial Without Facts is on the 5th Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, running in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town this month - and also on the 'Dreams and Clouds' exhibition at the Kulturhuset in Stockholm.

Most recently:

Van den Berg was flown to Paris recently to receive one of six FF45 000 prizes in an international competition held to mark 100 years of the Michelin tyre symbol Bibendum. For the final 25 entries, Michelin erected a perspex gallery in the Tuileries, so beyond the artwork, the gardens could be seen. Van den Berg's submission was a parable of life, a video of a little burning man running up and down a mountain who must go through many trials to survive.

Before that:

Van den Berg was one of the participants in the 'Bringing Up Baby' exhibition curated by Terry Kurgan, which had its first showing at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown before moving to the Cape Town Castle.

Next up:

Van den Berg will be showing at Canada House in London next May on 'The New Republics', an exhibition involving artists from this country, Canada and Australia in a post-colonial discourse.

He is also part of team that has won the competition to build the new Northern Cape Legislature Buildings in Kimberley, starting next year. The architect is Luis Ferreira da Silva. "It's another part of what I do - designing a detail like a floor, or considering the major forms of the building, which will be sculptural and also have a narrative quality."


Clive van den Berg lives in Johannesburg and works in a variety of media and spaces. In addition to gallery-based exhibitions he has been active in the realm of public art for more than a decade, completing projects both here and abroad ranging in scale from the domestic to the monumental. These have been sited in spaces as diverse as a mine dump and a palace. He is a lecturer in the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Witwatersrand, and is also known for his curatorial activities.

...ZA@PLAY   MWeb

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