FNB Vita Art Prize 2002 nominees announced
by Sophie Perryer
Hotly anticipated as always, the nominees for this year's FNB Vita Art Prize were announced on Tuesday March 5 at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg. And while last year's nominations caused some controversy - over their strong Gauteng bias as well as the inclusion of curatorship as a factor in choosing the finalists - this year's nominations seem almost calculated to deflect potential criticism.
The nominated artists are Alan Alborough (whose absence from the list last year was widely noted) for his Standard Bank Young Artist touring exhibition; Abrie Fourie for Philippians 4.8; Bronwen Findlay, Daina Mabunda and Faiza Galdhari, nominated as a collective for 'Threads'/'Painting, Printing and Stitching'; Usha Seejarim for her MTN New Contemporaries work; and Jeremy Wafer for his solo show at the Goodman. Thus, a fair spread of races, genders and provinces, with a balance of "cutting-edge", collaborative and more traditional modes of production, and a nod to the new media fraternity in Fourie's selection for work shown at the MTN Sciencenter.
The inclusion of the latter work - described as a "solo exhibition" (see FNB Vita's supplied biographies below) - does prompt a raised eyebrow, however. A collection of screensavers, Philippians 4.8 was not, to Artthrob's knowledge, a solo exhibition, but was exhibited alongside other new media works in the MTN collection on a group show at the MTN Sciencenter.
Like Alborough's omission last year, a couple of names at least are conspicuous in their absence. Where is the acknowledgement of Minnette Vári's extraordinary body of recent work, shown at the Venice Biennale, the World Wide Video Festival and other major international exhibitions, as well as at the Standard Bank Gallery? Tracey Rose, similarly, has enjoyed a stratospheric international career over the past year, with showings in Amsterdam, New York and Venice as well as a residency at the South African National Gallery.
Vári was nominated for the prize in 1999 and Rose in 1997, but there is no rule that artists cannot be selected more than once (last year's winner, Moshekwa Langa, was also a nominee in 1998). Natasha Fuller, responsible for reinventing the competition at the Sandton Civic Gallery in 1997, and a member of the board of judges, confirms that major international exposure and their previous nominations did mitigate against the choice of these artists, with the selectors trying to "spread" the opportunities around.
There are other competitions for emerging artists, however - the Absa Atelier, MTN New Contemporaries. It can be argued that the FNB Vita has established its profile and reputation precisely because it has its finger on the pulse of contemporary art-making. It would be a pity if it were to lose its touch.
The FNB Vita is generally regarded as the most prestigious of South African competitions, although the Absa Atelier carries a bigger purse. The nominated artists are commissioned to make new works, for which they receive a fee of R13 000, R5 000 of which is given by the Goodman Gallery. These will be shown at the Goodman this year (a rapid relocation to Johannesburg following last year's much trumpeted foray to KwaZulu-Natal) from July 13 to August 3, with the winner of the R35 000 prize announced at the opening.
FNB Vita's supplied biographies of the selected artists and details of the works for which they were nominated are as follows:
Alan Alborough, nominated for his national touring exhibition as the
Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner, has an MA Fine Art degree from
Goldsmiths College, University of London, and a BA Fine Art degree from the
University of the Witwatersrand. He currently lives in Stellenbosch and is a
Senior Lecturer in the Department of Fine Arts at the University of
Stellenbosch. He has lectured at the Technikon Witwatersrand, and held the
position of Exhibitions Officer at the Johannesburg Art Gallery.
Abrie Fourie has been nominated for his solo exhibition, 'Philippians 4.8', which exhibited in Cape Town at the MTN Sciencenter last year. He was also involved in the Joubert Park Public Art Project and participated in the
group exhibition, 'switch on/off' at the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees,
as well as the Absa Atelier in Johannesburg last year. He lectures in the
Department of Fine Arts at the Pretoria Technikon. He has produced several
publications and created billboard artwork.
Bronwen Findlay has been nominated for her work in the 'Threads' exhibition in Johannesburg, along with Daina Mabunda and Faiza Galdhari. The exhibition originated at the NSA Gallery in Durban under the title 'Painting, Printing and Stitching'. They will collaborate on a new work for the FNB Vita Art Prize exhibition. Bronwen has an MA in Fine Art from the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, and until 2000 was a lecturer in the Fine Arts department at the University of Durban-Westville. She is extensively
involved in informal community-based art programmes, art workshops and
Usha Seejarim currently lives and works in Johannesburg and is completing an MA in Fine Arts at Wits University. She is nominated for her work as the MTN New Contemporaries Award winner, which exhibited at Camouflage in Johannesburg. She has a strong commitment to arts education, having worked for the Curriculum Development Project involving teacher training in the visual arts and is currently employed at the Visual Arts and Craft Academy, whose focus is on inclusion, and arts and disability. She has participated in various group exhibitions and plans a second solo show this year.
Jeremy Wafer has been nominated for his exhibition 'New Works', at the
Goodman Gallery last year. He is currently a lecturer in the Department of
Fine Art at the Technikon Natal and will move to the Technikon Witwatersrand
in April. He has an MA in Fine Art from Wits University and has had numerous
exhibitions of work in sculpture, drawing, photography and printmaking. In
2001 he was on a fellowship at the Civitella Ranieri Centre in Umbria,
Italy. One of his most recent commissions was the design of a monument for
the Gugu Dlamini Park in Durban.
The panel of judges for this year's prize comprises Julia Charlton, Natasha Fuller, Clive Kellner, Frank Ledimo and Artthrob's KwaZulu-Natal contributing editor, Virginia MacKenny.
Previous winners of the FNB Vita Art Prize include Moshekwa Langa (2001), Terry Kurgan (2000), Jo Ractliffe (1999), Steven Cohen (1998) and Willem Boshoff (1997).