24.03 - 30.04.2021
Undulating edges articulate a kind of mesmerising motion. As the cursor glides across the screen, the gallery landing page ripples with responsive movement. One is invited to peer into the immersive waters of possibility. In a moment where art experiences are increasingly migrating online, FORMS offers an interesting model of exhibition-making based on digital simulation. Gallery-founder and curator, Anthea Buys, describes how harnessing the hypothetical has allowed her to generate a space unhindered by the limitations of a conventional commercial gallery.
In establishing the virtual space, Buys was prompted by a desire to work with artists on a sustained basis as well as to create a gallery widely accessible and inviting to prospective collectors and art-lovers alike. Feeling frustrated with the sales-centric commercial sector, she recalls how, “it is very rare that you actually get to spend time with an artist and help them develop their projects, but I think that is actually the core of gallery work”. FORMS emerged from an intention to nurture the relationship between curator and artist. In order to facilitate this essential dynamic, representation is a central aspect of the gallery.
‘Emergence’ is the aptly named debut exhibition for the recently established gallery. The notion of an ‘emerging artist’ is often associated with artists embarking on the early stages of their creative practice. However, this narrow view is premised on an expectation of linear progression. In actuality, an artist may experience several transitory phases during their professional life. In resisting the speculative approach to the trajectory of artists’ careers, Buys frames the show with an expanded and fluid interpretation of what it means to emerge. A state of flux is also by no means limited to the human experience, cycles of change are inextricably linked to organic processes seen in nature. “I also was interested in emergence as something more nebulous and related to natural cycles and rhythms and the earth”, says Buys.
The virtual exhibition space, constructed with pristine walls and geometric architecture, closely resembles the conventions of the White Cube. This aesthetic choice was informed both by a curatorial decision to allow the works to breathe, without any other visual distractions, and the limitations of the design software available. Buys’ curatorial strategy took an intuitive approach, she began by imagining how one would experience the art in a physical space, “again, trying to simulate what you might feel as a body moving through that environment”. The digital experience allows you to effortlessly glide through space, either by means of autonomous exploration or the option of a guided tour. In the latter, each piece comes into frame for a period of time before scanning across the wall to the next.
In the show, there are moments where works echo one another in form. “Within the exhibition, there are certain rhythms that emerge”, describes Buys. The exhibition consists predominantly of two dimensional works, visual coupled together through an aesthetic resonance. On entering the space, Nyakallo Maleke’s works on paper and Hedwig Barry’s paintings on opposing walls both utilise abstract mark-making. The bold palette and organic shapes of Khotso Motsoeneng’s paintings plays off of Callan Grecia’s figurative portraits from across the gallery. Unfortunately the three dimensional work translates less well than these paintings on exhibition. The digital renderings of Tzung Hui Lauren Lee’s works do not fully capture the delicate marks and subtle tones of the sculptural pieces.
Around the corner, Gavin Jantjes’s Exogenic Series comes into view, in which freeform marks of opaque pigment resemble a tumultuous sea-surface. The figure of Bartolomeu Dias emerges from azure waters in Abri de Swardt’s work, whereas ‘the watchers’ look on from a pool-side dive in Jarrett Erasmus’s painting. These two pieces create a conversation centred around the politics of bodies of water as well as those bodies that move within them. Similarly evocative is Zen Marie’s Paradise Fallen series which elicits a sense of pensive reflection to ocean ripples. Akin to the rising tides, each of the thirteen artists in ‘Emergence’ are connected through their professional experience of time-tethered transitions.
Through the creation of this exhibition platform, Buys aims to simulate a gallery experience in a way that provides meaningful engagement to both audience and artists. Although the show is a vast improvement on many online exhibitions that have emerged over the last year, perhaps the envelope could have been pushed in a slightly more experimental direction. It would have been interesting to see an exhibition space imagined beyond the confines of a White Cube, unbound by its ideological implications of historical elitism. The digital space offers an opportunity for innovative thinking around new ways of generating exhibitionary affect – a call that should be answered and engaged with.