Goodman Gallery, Cape Town
Artist Nolan Oswald Dennis’ show opened at the Goodman Gallery, Cape Town on April 14. The exhibition, titled ‘Furthermore’ is his first solo exhibition with Goodman Gallery. In this exhibition, like much of his other works, Dennis endeavours to explore the ever-fluctuating conditions of place and time. The apparent certainty of territory and chronology is negated in meticulous line drawings, inscribed wax sculptures and printed textiles of a re-imagined South African Flag. Dennis seeks to engage with points of tension various epistemologies and perspectives within his work.
Dennis is a remarkably versatile artist. He comfortably works in drawing, painting, installation as well as making excellent use of the exhibition space. He also incorporates time and memory into his work. Dennis’ preoccupation with space throughout his exhibition can be seen and felt throughout ‘Furthermore’. The works are carefully arranged in a fluid and systematic way that pulls you through the exhibition space, moving effortlessly from one medium to the next. This is not surprising considering he has been trained as an architect. His architecture training can be traced all through his work from his instillations to his intricately drawn collages, geometric shapes and re-imagined South African Flags. When viewing Dennis’ work one might find it best, as the title suggests, refraining from thinking about resolutions, answers, completeness and finality; as the very nature of the work symbolises never-ending thought processes and raising questions about the world that can never be answered.
Dennis has said that he is interested in the social fictions that have been created in South Africa since the fall of apartheid. One obvious example of this social fiction is the notion of a “rainbow nation”, created for the purpose of pursuing a particular sense of social stability, or rather certainty. Notions of reconciliation were the focal points, of which this so-called social certainty was built around; it urged people to believe that we can hold different colours (historical-political agendas) together in a curved unity like a rainbow. However, that unity was challenged by the concurrent idea of two-economies: South Africa divided into two separate nations. A dichotomy thus emerged, in which one is white and prosperous and the other, black and poor. The lack of any colours except black and white in his work embodies this notion of dividedness. The colours black and white move in thinly drawn lines alongside each other, rarely converging, together the two colours form this concept of an epistemologically separated South Africa weaved together in time and space. To some extent, Nelson Mandela’s ideological theory of a “rainbow nation” has completely been discredited, it can no longer be relied upon, and so new competing fictions have emerged such as the Economic Freedom Fighters, the second transition, etc. These fictions and certainties run in complicated loops, they all fuel each other, however they can also short-circuit and collapse. Through a distorted mapping of histories and territories, his work begs the viewers to confront the past and acknowledge the future as something that will always be in flux, uncertain, yet inevitable.
Another idea that forms a major theme in Dennis’ work is the state of “becoming”. It attests to the still transitional circumstances of South Africa’s developing democracy. Becoming is thus a future state. A state in which Dennis, through the process of creating this exhibition, attempts to determine his own place in the ever collapsing social fiction that is emblematic in the community of the late rainbow nation. Engaging with the recent emergence of decolonisation and resistance discourses and movements, Dennis identifies specific objects, infrastructure and texts through which new ways of mapping this critical moment is imagined. Dennis’ body of work comes at a pivotal moment; he locates it at the intersection of political struggles, contested memory and neo-liberalism. His exhibition can be seen as a series of propositions for investigating a lasting transition- existing in a continuous state of becoming.
‘Furthermore’ commands a new way of thinking and dealing with topics of concern. South Africans are no longer satisfied with the pacified illusions of freedom, wedged in successions of uncertainty. A radical praxis echoes throughout his work and offers an example of how the most comprehensive decolonial work is occurring beyond the systematic engagements. The exhibition forms part of a revolutionary faction that will risk re-imagining and reinventing a new South Africa. The future is what we are becoming, and what we will become Furthermore…