Archive: Issue No. 81, May 2004

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Wendy Anziska

Wendy Anziska
A Moment In Time II, 2004
oil on canvas

Anziska and Zuva challenging the face of buying art
by Robyn Sassen

The glamour that Johannesburg's Melrose Arch exudes by virtue of its shopfronts and sidewalk café clientele doesn't necessarily guarantee an art-aware patronage. But this did not scare Michael Obert, who took over the gallery space in this exclusive centre in September last year, calling it the Zuva Gallery.

With a sister gallery space in the Scottsdale, Arizona, Zuva brings an exciting and optimistic breath of artistic air to Melrose Arch. It's certainly not commercial art to match your furniture that you'll find here, but rather real investments made by artists solidly grounded in the discipline. Here are works which are magnificent and obviously ownable, not cutting edge esoteric art from university.

Currently on show is an exhibition of paintings by Cape Town-based artist Wendy Anziska. This artist needs no introduction to international audiences: she has held numerous highly acclaimed shows in Bonn, London and Paris. Listed in the International Who's Who in Art Anziska is the daughter of a sculptor who was known in the 1960s Parisian Salon scene. She has not shown her work locally for some time, which makes her current show with Zuva something of a scoop. These richly coloured, deeply layered visual essays about identity and meaning offer opulent and intriguing viewing experiences.

Drawing from a range of sources - ideological, visual, intuitive, contextual and coincidental - Anziska's works are often divided into panels. In these, narrative runs concurrently with layers of meaning and intention. Rich in complicated detail, they are works that demand revisiting. The artist's life in intimate detail is present in these works, but her rendition thereof is such that the tone is universal.

Two paintings comment evocatively on the violence that has become so pervasive in our world. Lips and Explosion were not political in intent, but the development of the individual works led the artist to obliterate elements with white paint. The allusion to smoke and the smell of cordite after a massive explosion feels clear. Although Anziska takes an overt stance against politically-toned work, she does believe that we are unavoidably products of our environment.

In most of the works on show are to be found vanitas symbols that have their roots in the European Renaissance. These symbols are commentaries on the transience and wastefulness of mortal existence. It's a theme which modernist artists frequently explored, and Anziska's use of it is as self-referential as it is philosophically informed.

Obert is excited and optimistic about this exhibition and his new gallery, and well he should be. With an initiative in place for emerging young artists and a partnership with the Artist Proof Studio in the wings, Zuva anticipates becoming a platform of self-sustainability for local artists, filling the gaps in gallery awareness and professional conduct that so much of tertiary art education reveals. This is another great art space to watch grow and visit often.

Opens: April 22
Closes: May 9