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Archive: Issue No. 42, February 2001

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MONTHLY ISSUE NO. 42 FEB 2001



Cape
20.02.01 Isolde Krams, Matthew Haresnape and Dorothee von der Osten at the AVA
20.02.01 Justine Mahoney at Bell-Roberts Contemporary Art
13.02.01 'Juncture' at The Granary
16.01.01 Hoerikwaggo - Images of Table Mountain
Gauteng
23.01.01 '!Xoe ...Off Site' for Oliewenhuis
Kwazulu Natal
23.01.01 'Jabulisa 2000' at the Tatham


Isolde Krams

Isolde Krams
Untitled
Latex and paint
22 x 6 x 8 cm



Isolde Krams

Actress Clare Watling
in Krams' sculpture performing
'I am Miss World'.



Matthew Haresnape

Matthew Haresnape
Working the Seam' series Bronze




CAPE

Isolde Krams, Matthew Haresnape and Dorothee von der Osten at the AVA
by Sue Williamson

Isolde Krams is an artist who plays to her own tune, and it is a little difficult to sort out just what that tune is. Krams works with latex, casting and colouring it into editions of sculptures in which a fish is bound to a world, Marat dies in his bath, a tramp sits on a wall, the figures of a man and a woman are bound, the head of one touching the feet of the other. From piece to piece, the style of execution varies, and there seems little connection between them beyond the unusual and attractive medium and the scale. In the current exhibition entitled 'Orb' at the AVA, these sculptures are placed on plinths of straw surrounding a crinoline skirt of swathes of flattened green latex grass dotted with more of Krams' objects - a bright pink ear, a hooded falcon, etc. Small green speakers attached to the skirt emit squawks and squeaks. A video monitor plays back a performance which took place on opening night (and will be repeated on February 24) when actress Clare Watling clad in a towering yellow wig popped out of the top of the crinoline, gazed around and performed a monologue written by Tracy Murinik . This started "I am Miss World" and went on in theatre of the absurd style to indicate that Miss World found her world an odd and discomforting place. Mine would be too if I had to depend for a reading of it on the curious jumble of art history, symbolism and tourist kitsch which seems to inform Krams' work.

Apparently Krams intends to use her small sculptures as maquettes for life size figures which will all take part in a yet-to-be-written operatic event. Before this happens, one hopes Krams will sit down and write out what issues she is addressing or what it is she is actually trying to say.

In the Long Gallery, Matthew Haresnape is showing a collection of small scale bronzes entitled 'Working the Seam'. The artist states that this title is intended as a play on the casting process in which the two halves of the piece are hollow and cast separately and then joined, and that he has deliberately not removed all evidence of this seam to make viewers aware of the 'cast' nature of the work.

In fact, this seam is very little in evidence, and even if it was, I would have to ask myself if my knowledge that the piece was made of two halves meant anything at all to me, and I would go on to wonder if Haresnape thinks that this technicality in any way lifts his well modelled but very conventional figures into a contemporary mode.

Upstairs on the ArtStrip, newcomer Dorothee von Osten paints little scenes on driftwood in an outsider kind of way, and her kitschy, occasionally charming pieces with the their low price tags have predictably drawn the most red stickers.

All shows until March 3.

AVA, 35 Church Street, Cape Town
Tel: (021) 424-7436
Fax: (021) 423-2637
E-mail: avaart@iafrica.com
Website: : www.ava.co.za
Tue - Fri, 10am - 5pm, Sat 10am - 12pm


Justine Mahoney

Justine Mahoney
Big Girl 2000
Bronze, enamel



Justine Mahoney

Justine Mahoney
Big Girl 2000
Wood, enamel



Justine Mahoney

Justine Mahoney
Flashback 2000
Wood, PVA, enamel



Justine Mahoney at Bell-Roberts Contemporary Art
by Paul Edmunds

I felt quite safe in the gallery. The lightboxes of Kid Front and Kid Back blocked my view of the street, and the walls were covered in beautifully produced, tastefully presented objects, photographs and paintings. Mahoney, for this her first show, entitled 'Wallflower', has deliberately created this environment, mirroring her upbringing in the 70s and 80s in Johannesburg's northern suburbs where she was more aware of a magazine reality than the harsh political landscape just over the eight foot wall. She has made a series of tableaux which concern themselves more with anodyne suburban existence, the awkwardness of adolescence and the fruitless search for physical perfection dangled in front of our faces by numerous glossy magazines. A lot of the work is very seductive and one buys into its escapism quite willingly. The feeling of safeness, however, I felt, was almost too pervasive. The works are perhaps sometimes too polite and their critique doesn't quite surface. This may be in part due to their flawless production and apparent lack of risky behaviour. Consequently, I left longing for some raw expression.

The strongest works, I would say, is the series of small bronzes which chronicle the artist's coming of age. Entitled Kid, Bikecrash, Beestings, Sunburn, Fat and Big Girl, flawless little figurines (perhaps about 7cm high) bear testimony to the perils of a sheltered suburban upbringing - injury, the trials and tribulations of adolescence and, finally, some measure of maturity. The modelling (the originals were in made in Fimo) is quite exquisite and the cartoonish expression is just perfect. They took me back to the interior reality one's toys inhabit as a child. Each figure is accompanied by a larger two-dimensional painted cutout of the same image. I'm not sure of the purpose of this but for me the larger scale doesn't work; the smooth surfaces which are a feat of great modelling skill on the small figure become large areas of neglect on the paintings. The cartoon expression works on the scale of a comic but looks deranged any larger.

Next to these works is a mosaic-like arrangement of several small paintings entitled Flashback. Each pristine white surface contains a large coin-sized face somewhere near the bottom and a smaller figure somewhere else on the format. One recognizes some of these from the figurines nearby. The funky cartoon faces with chunky short hair are more 'Tank Girl' than 'Peanuts' and their shapes seem to be determined more by the flow of thick enamel paint rather than careful drawing. Such abstract qualities lend an element of chance, ease and impermanence to the work which is absent from most of the other pieces on exhibition. The expression on the faces change as they encounter memories of growing up or, in one case, a stylized ghost.

Safe and Sound is a series of small interior tableaux made from carpet, wood and various veneers. A group of rooms are furnished in a very bland straight-from-the-catalogue fashion. While I certainly get the message I feel that these works would have benefited from a more obsessive treatment. Don't worry everything is going to be okay addresses similar issues in a more successful way. An ordered arrangement of astroturf squares are lawns with modular houses, customized swimming pools and a benign assortment of toys. A carefully coiled garden hose lies harmlessly in one garden. I like the way this refers back to the modelled figurines and the imaginary landscapes that fill so much of a child's psyche.

Safe Safe Play House is written on the wall in upholstered mauve bridal satin. It doesn't look quite as pristine as it might be. Stretch is a wallpaper-like construction made from mounted cutout photographs of Mahoney either in combat with herself or maybe just working out. She brandishes as weapons an absurd collection of instruments such as a frying pan or a four pound hammer. When one discerns that there is a complex repeat pattern, there is a satisfying rhythm at play. Further to this though is what I feel characterises the show as a whole. I buy the idea, the works are well produced, but they lack a raw edge. Although Mahoney's poses (and even fake blood in one instance) are pretty much adequate, this work is neither as styled as it could be and neither is it as absurd or accidental as it might require. She is neither absolutely pristine nor completely ridiculous and consequently the critique she presents is not quite as convincing as it should be. Having said that though, her formal sensibilities and skills are never in question and she must too be praised for her willingness to examine the flaws and shortcomings of the ignorant bliss in which she grew up, fraught as it was with dodgy values and aspirations which assume so much importance in an adolescent or child's life.

The show closes on March 10

Bell-Roberts Contemporary, 199 Loop Street, Cape Town
Tel: (021) 422-1100
Fax: (021) 423-3135
Email: dps@icon.co.za or suzette@bell-roberts.com
Website: www.bell-roberts.com
Gallery hours: Mon - Fri 8.30am - 5pm, Saturday 10am - 1pm


Moshekwa Langa

Moshekwa Langa
The Mountains of my Youth - A Novel
Red lino, fax paper, cotton reels
Installation view at The Granary



Ben Pruskin

Ben Pruskin
Plastikamglampanroco
Video installation

Click here to view an mpeg movie



Don Bury

Don Bury
Don Bury Presents
The Sound of Music
Video still



Harold Offeh

Harold Offeh
Alien Communication
Video still



Bernie Searle

Bernie Searle
Still
Digital prints, flour
Installation view



Erica Tan

Erica Tan
From China to Chintz
Mixed media
Installation detail

Click here to view an mpeg movie



Robin Denny

Robyn Denny
Air, Earth, Fire, Water
Four screen video projection



Robin Rhode

Black Noise perform at the opening
under the direction of Robin Rhode.

Click here to view a Quicktime Movie, 2.8 Mb.



'Juncture' at The Granary
by Sue Williamson

Some years ago, at the Sao Paolo Biennale of 1998, participating artist Moshekwa Langa proposed an alter ego for himself named John Ruskin to answer questions like: 'Where is the Africa in your art?' A similar resistance to the "narrow framing of South African art abroad" and to the over eager search for the pain or exoticism that is seen as peculiarly African, is what led Frances Goodman and Robyn Denny to spend two years putting together 'Juncture'. By choosing to show five young South African artists alongside four others of the same generation but from other parts of the world, the curators sought to make the point that "the issues South African artists find relevant also pertain to people of other cultures and countries". It is not at all a question of disavowing one's identity, but of a refusal to play the politics of national context.

In an expansive piece which even since its opening at The Granary last week has already been recreated by the artist in Madrid, Moshekwa Langa here shows The Mountains of my Youth - a Novel. Langa's fascination with maps - in his early work, he annotated city streetmaps page by page - spills into a mapping of human experience. On a red lino floor, strips of white fax paper mark intervals, and the bright threads of dozens of reels of varying sizes - which could be seen as visual metaphors for people or events - lie in intricate tangles. The utter simplicity of the elements the artist has chosen resonates with the richness and the possibilities of interpretation within the words set out in vinyl letters on the wall, in three languages, poetic phrases like 'The Burden of her Innocence'. The title of the piece is masterly - suggesting an autobiography made visual, but at the same time calling it 'a Novel', and thus, a fiction. Within the simple confines of his piece, Langa allows infinite space for reflection.

Down the hall, and in an interesting counterpoint to Langa's work, British artist Ben Pruskin uses two real novels - Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho and Glamorama - in Plastikamglampanroco, a sharp investigation into how the word can be made electronic. Again, the setup is simple. In a small, darkened room, viewers sit on a low platform facing a monitor set at an oblique angle. Two other monitors off to one side emit changing flat colours from their screens, and a dull but insistent techno-type soundtrack. On the main monitor, words taken from Ellis's text flash on to the screen, black on white, one by one at first. The intervals between them are long enough for us to begin to wish the action would speed up a bit. And then it does. As words like 'knife' and 'her' begin to indicate that we are being led into a scene of violence, the text on the screen moves into another gear and whole phrases are now going by so fast and throbbingly that we can only pick up a word like 'cunt' or 'slash' or 'wet' from the relentless stream as Ellis' protagonist acts out his perversion. Climax is followed by anti-climax. Words disappear from the screen in a series of flashes to be followed by blankness. The viewer is left breathing faster. The attempts to read the text and the earlier desire for more action have led to an uncomfortable complicity.

In a very different piece of re-editing, Don Bury turns his gaze onto three blockbuster movies, Planet of the Apes, Top Gun and The Sound of Music. In Don Bury Presents, the artist extracts scenes from each in which there is no female presence, and by slowing down or repeating camera moves, emphasizes glances and physical actions between the male players which now appear to be homo-erotic. The Sound of Music as homo-erotic? This treat alone is worth a visit to the exhibition. To a wailing, bluesy soundtrack of 'C'mon baby, I wanna be with the one I want - and you know just whom I'm thinking of...' a suave, trilby hatted Christopher Plummer as Captain von Trapp crosses a darkened courtyard to meet the akward gaze of the young, blonde suitor of one of his daughters ... Bury made his piece in response to Laura Mulvey's seminal 1975 essay, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, in which she puts forward the proposition that the chief role of the leading actress in a film is to play the love interest. In this way, any latent attraction that might occur between the main male characters is extinguished and neutralised. Watching Val Kilmer suggestively twirling a silver pencil as he eyes up Tom Cruise in the Top Gun sector, I found Bury's re-reading playfully convincing.

Harold Offeh, too, plays with 'The Gaze', and the relationship between screen and spectator, turning the camera on himself and taking on the triple role of director, cameraman and actor in Alien Communication, his 1999 video. Each of us observes the world and the people with whom we come in contact through a lens refracted by our own upbringing, experiences and prejudices. Offeh forces us to recognise that this invisible lens exists by presenting us with a distorted view of himself, as if on the receiving end of our critical glance. Through the interventions of a magnifying glass or a split screen, his face is pushed towards the grotesque. The uneven scale renders his mouth enormous. He is saying something, and it must be important, because his mouth is filling half the screen, but we cannot catch the words, and because his eyes are on a separate part of the screen, they do not seem to help us in our earnest attempts at interpretation.

By contrast, in her piece, Voice of Reason, the words of Frances Goodman's speaker are only too distinct. The artist sets up six bus-station type red chairs in a row, each with a nearby headset. On the soundtrack, the woman's voice is clear, perfectly modulated, middle class, articulate. "The other day as I was sitting reading my book, I happened to look down and see a long, fine blonde hair on my shirt... it was not my hair by any stretch of the imagination, and how it came to be attached to me was a mystery...'. So begins the speaker's reflection on a mundane incident which leads into a more and more detailed deliberation about hairs found in public places and what disease they might carry. In other sections, Goodman's character addresses the horror she feels at someone else's body lying in her bed, or her disgust at people who, for instance, pick at pimples in public. As in Pruskin's piece, the dialogue, at first relatively rational, seems to become more and more unhealthily obsessive. In the combination of elements: the kind of chairs often found in grubby public places, the headsets which one soon becomes aware have so recently sat upon another pair of ears, the cool voice playing out its speculative scenarios, Goodman succeeds in drawing us into a strange, neurotic world.

In recent years, Cape Town Berni Searle has become known for her work into the dissection of her own identity, saying, "I want to re-invent myself. Presenting myself as various mutable entities resists categorization: personally, politically and historically." For 'Juncture', Searle presents Still, a sequence of eight images of the artist enacting a ritual in which, seated on the ground and dredged in flour which defines the contours of her dark body, the artist uses her hands to work the floury dough into a mound, then breaks it into pieces. The eight square images are suspended from the ceiling and themselves arranged in a square. In the centre of this space is a soft heap of flour imprinted with the trace of the lower half of the artist's legs. It's as if we have come into the very place where the ritual has been enacted. The evidence is there, the images of what has occurred, a private ritual of an age old act of women, an act of nurturing and feeding. Only in its staging does the piece look contemporary. The soft, bronzed monotone colours of the digital prints, the timeless pose of the strong-bodied woman give the piece the glaze of history.

Erika Tan, too, born in Singapore and living and working in England, plays with the idea of reconstructing colonial history as we know it. One of the complex notions From China to Chintz explores is the effects of trade. In Tan's installation, issues of cheap labour and poor working conditions are raised by handsome bamboo bird cages with small blue and white china drinking vessels. The cages are empty and the latches are open, but the cries of the birds fill the air, and at the end of the room, a net curtain covers a screen which represents a window, against which the hovering shapes of the birds seem to occasionally batter themselves. The artifice used in creating this environment is deliberately left on display: these are not genuine tea chests. The stencils that have been used to mark them are leaning against the wall.

In one of the long, underground cellars, Robyn Denny has taken the theme of the four elements, Air, earth, fire and water in a four screen projection in which images constantly mutate, with sinuous bodies dissolving into glowing coals, or hands into water. Denny describes herself as a painter, and says that she uses the textures of the images captured on her videos as a painter would on canvas, but though the images are often beautiful and eminently watchable, there does not seem to be enough substance in the concept for the piece to burn itself into memory, as much of the other work on the exhibition does.

The last, but not the least of the artists is Cape Flats-born Johannesburg-based artist Robin Rhode. Rhode is currently working through a series of events or performances in which he combines drawn elements with his performance - a simple yet extraordinarily effective device which allows the artist the freedom to pursue all kinds of ideas. On opening night, in a collaboration with rap group Black Noise, Rhode dressed the group in white boiler suits (by designer David West). The high-energy group then went through an wonderfully frenetic rap and break dance set, all the while throwing handfuls of charcoal dust on the floor, slowly becoming smeared with the dust themselves. In his exhibition piece, Street Gym, photographed from above by Barend de Wet, Rhode takes his inspiration from the recent Olympic Games, and lying on the street in various positions, appears to go through a routine on the high bar. The photos were then put together in a simple animation to achieve movement. The artifice involved is unconcealed, and the pleasure of the piece is how well Rhode appears to achieve his high ambitions.

The curators are to be commended for their fine achievement in putting together and mounting the cohesive 'Juncture', and it is regrettable that the show will be seen only in Cape Town before it leaves for London.

Opening: Wednesday February 07, 6pm
Closing: Saturday February 24

The Granary, 11 Buitenkant Street, Cape Town
Tel: 083 694-5385
Email: juncturemedia@hotmail.com
Gallery hours: Tuesday - Saturday 11am - 7pm


Katherine Bull

Katherine Bull
Positioning the Cape: a spatial engraving of a shifting frontier, 1999
Installation detail



Thomas Bowler

Thomas Bowler
Table Mountain, from Kloof Nek Road above Cape Town, 1837
Watercolour



Hoerikwaggo - Images of Table Mountain
by Paul Edmunds

Table Mountain, or Hoerikwaggo as it has also been called, looms large in the consciousness of Capetonians. It loomed big in my own consciousness when I first relocated to Cape Town. Always in the periphery of my vision, I had not climbed it, was not familiar with its slopes and as such it stood to constantly remind me that I was not quite a 'local'. This exhibition reveals how the mountain has always featured in the mythology and history of South Africa and, in particular, the Cape of Good Hope. 'Hoerikwaggo' is an old Khoi word meaning 'Mountain of the Sea' and is regarded as the first name ever given to Table Mountain. This exhibition is a landmark in itself in that it draws on the collections of various Cape Town museums that together comprise Iziko Museums of Cape Town. Artifacts and objects from each of these formerly separate collections have been used to show that "Table Mountain is� a multi-layered, polyvocal symbol that speaks 'through' various people� with astonishing clarity, variety and diversity", in the words of curator Nicolaas Vergunst.

Vergunst has structured the exhibition in a way which is easy and satisfying to follow. Developing broad themes such as Table Mountain as a Name, Table Mountain and the New Dawn and Table Mountain and the Picturesque Vergunst demonstrates how these principles operate similarly in both the earliest and most recent depictions of and projections onto Table Mountain. Each theme is introduced by an explanatory paragraph and quotes from a variety of sources and widely differing times in large letters on the wall. Under the first-mentioned theme, Vergunst traces the earliest descriptions in map and record of the mountain and places these alongside Marc Cianfanelli's Atlantis, shown in Cape Town in 1998. This broader overview produces interesting juxtapositions which illuminate all of the works and artifacts presented.

Dominating the centre of the Liebermann room is Katherine Bull's Positioning the Cape: a spatial engraving of a shifting frontier. This work, aesthetically seductive as it is, is even more compelling when seen in the midst of a variety of sources on which Bull has drawn. Interestingly it serves to illuminate many of these sources which are to be found nearby. It goes some way, in fact, to suggest that Bull's work encompasses even more than the artist could ever have intended.

Interplay between the themes Vergunst has chosen often happens, but making these links is left largely up to the viewer (the exhibition is large and absorbing and this does require some diligence). A collection of 19th Century paintings of Table Mountain by Thomas Bowler, Heinrich Hermann and others is used to explore the notion of Table Mountain and the Picturesque. Text thoroughly discusses this theme and I found myself glancing back to an earlier part of the exhibition where enlarged postcard photographs by Gerald Hoberman are displayed and noticing how both depictions employed similar distortions and emphasis to similar ends. There is much discussion, in various parts of the exhibition, of physical distortions used in depiction of Table Mountain. Often these are purely formal devices, on other occasions they subtly reveal political motives; sometimes they were merely informed by ignorance.

Vergunst does a good job of exploring the image of Table Mountain in recent artmaking, much from the struggle years, demonstrating how this symbol, often used in a very personal way, is often the background to strong political feeling. Views which are depicted are very revealing in the directions from which they are taken. Before 1996, one doesn't see photographs which include or are taken from Robben Island, because this was illegal. When such views do become commonplace, we learn how, for political prisoners, their view of the mountain and bay represented freedom. Vergunst goes so far as to suggest that the popular view from Bloubergstrand "signifies colonial occupation, the island-view democratic freedom".

In its depth and size I found the exhibition quite challenging and always very thorough. Perhaps more space could have been given to the mythology and beliefs of the original habitants of this area, but perhaps this ventures a little too close to Anthropolgy. For myself, and given the broad fields which the Iziko collections encompass, I would have liked to see more geological and geographical depictions and facts. As objective as the sciences purport to be, we know that they are always the product of the society which produces them. Again though, perhaps this is a little too far out of the ballpark. It is interesting to look at historical depictions of Table Mountain and see how they so obviously reveal their worldviews and political intentions. More recent images, one would like to think, include a greater self-awareness and consciousness of their social and political constructs. Perhaps in the future sometime, we will look back on these supposedly balanced and informed views which we hold and see that they are no less revealing of time and place than maps, images and ideas held by people in the early years of the colonialised Cape of Good Hope.

Opening: November 25
Closing: April 01

South African National Gallery, Government Avenue, Company Gardens, Cape Town
Tel: (021) 465-1628
Fax: (021) 461-0045
Email: sang@gem.co.za


Greg Streak

Greg Streak Hermet
Mild steel, paint




GAUTENG

'!Xoe ...Off Site' for Oliewenhuis
by Sue Williamson

The energetic Mark Wilby, director of the Ibis Art Gallery in the small back-of-beyond town of Nieu Bethesda in the Eastern Cape could serve as a model for all creative types who choose to live in the sticks. In the past few years, Wilby has mounted a series of projects which have gained national attention, involving manyof the country's leading artists. Last July, (Wilby carefully times his projects to link to the Grahamstown Arts Festival) '!Xoe2' was mounted, and artists such as Andries Botha, Greg Streak, Jeremy Wafer et al travelled to Nieu Bethesda to make site specific work relating to their surroundings. The project had two faces: '!Xoe... Off Site' was a gallery based, related show in which the same artists prepared work for inside viewing. The exhibition at the Oliewenhuis, Bloemfontein's art gallery on the hill, will be the third venue. For our critic's opinion of the work, and how well the transition from the outside to inside was handled, read Paul Edmunds' Cape Town review.

Opening: Tuesday, January 30 at 7 pm

Oliewenhuis, Harrismith Street, Bloemfontein


Gavin Anderson

Gavin Anderson
U.n.s.t.r.u.n.g: code Msinga, 2000
Mixed media on board



Ziqubu

Ziqubu



KWAZULU-NATAL

'Jabulisa 2000' at the Tatham
by Virginia MacKenny

'Jabulisa 2000', currently showing at the Tatham Gallery in Pietermaritzburg, is one of the larger showings of KwaZulu-Natal art of recent times.The result of a long regional selection process and exhibitions in five different centres, it presents over 130 works in a variety of media. Born out of the Natal Arts Trust Biennials of the late eighties and early nineties, 'Jabulisa 2000' follows the nationally touring 'Jabulisa: The Art of KwaZulu-Natal' (1996). 'Jabulisa 2000' is meant to highlight the strengths of the province, however there are problems in the conception of the show that make this well-nigh impossible.

After reading the publicity and the catalogue it remains unclear whether the curators see this as a show that presents contemporary cutting-edge art in KwaZulu Natal or a broad overview of what is going on provincially. Ill-defined, the show falls between two stools. Attempts to be inclusive lead to an unwieldy exhibition lacking curatorial focus - the viewer has to wade through too many traditionally inclined still-lives and landscapes, too many pots and the ubiquitous wire-work offerings, too many predictable, albeit technically able, works before anything of note begins to stand out. More major works on offer have a sense of being swamped by the quantities around them - which is a pity because there are works that engage at a deeper level and could have benefited from more attention.

Some of these include Isabella Quattrochi-Leigh's fascinating allegorical drawing constructed in metal pins on veils of metal and paper gauze, Linda Jones' computer print of an enlarged navel which seems to scream the memory of its birth pangs in the incongruous domesticity of an oval Victorian frame, Fiona Kirkwood's Energy Fields - crazy wire/fibre 'drawings' that visually buzz and Michelle Raubenheimer-Swan's sexualised ceramic conch which threatens to engulf one.

The strength of the show is also evident in the expansion of traditional vocabularies, the variety of appropriations, cross-overs and hybridity of production from both black and white artists. Sicelo Ziqubu's Why Guns and Roses utilises a critical interplay of history and imagination turning toy cowboys and Indians into Boers, Brits and Zulus, Gavin Anderson's U.n.s.t.r.u.n.g.: code Msinga acknowledges and deciphers symbolic bead systems, Langa Magwa's The South African Pot monumentalises a traditional pot in metal and animal hide whilst Isaac Khanyile's woven grass, Wathinta befazi Wathi'mbokodo populates the gallery in sentinel-like fashion.

Overall there is a general lo-tech feel to the show with only one video screen available with a programme of three works (switched off when this critic saw the show) and one interactive sound piece by Isabelle d'Hoftman de Villiers, also off. The paucity of work in this area does not reflect the offerings of the province and neither do the examples for some of the province's major artists. Jeremy Wafer is presented by one small work on glass - elegant and keen though it may be, it hardly effectively represents the work of an artist of national stature. Similarly Andries Botha, having a number of international shows to his credit last year, is (under)represented by two prints.

The conception of the catalogue reflects the same lack of critical direction exhibited in the exhibition. Composed of essays listing artists and their works, with very little attempt to interrogate their concerns, most take a chronological rather than conceptual position. Only Leeb du Toit and Botha provide any challenging thinking.

A tighter, more directed, show next time might produce more with which to engage.

Closing date: March 04

Tatham Art Gallery, Cnr Longmarket St and Commercial Rd, Pietermaritzburg
Tel: (033) 342 1801
Gallery hours: Tuesday - Sunday 10 am to 6 pm

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