The Norval Foundation is hosting a group exhibition, ‘I have made a place’ showcasing a variety of South African artists with works varying from paintings and videography to installation. The Norval Foundation describes this exhibition as exploring ‘the processes through which we make a place for ourselves, physically and psychologically’. This group exhibition explores all aspects of home and what it means to the artist; how a home can be a place for ‘alienation or affirmation’. Two artworks that caught my eye were Moshekwa Langa’s, Untitled (Red Mountain) and Peter Clarke’s, Ruin, Teslaarsdal, Cape Province. The first thing I noticed were the bright and bold colours used in both paintings.
Focussing on Moshekwa Langa’s, Untitled (Red Mountain), created in 2002, Langa uses bright watercolours to depict a very interesting yet barren landscape. There are no signs of human presence in this landscape and it is devoid of any trace of human habitation. The expressive and almost abstract landscape evokes the feeling of a location made by someone who wishes to remember it; as if they have painted it through memory. Langa often expresses his feeling of being a fugitive away from his home and that his inspiration often comes from his life of living in-between places, both mentally and physically. Although barren, the landscape is painted with bright reds, yellows, greens and blues, evoking a feeling of optimism. This depiction of home makes you question if this is Langa’s ideal home, one devoid of human inhabitance, where he can be away from society and alone, surrounded by nature, no longer worrying about relocation or exile.
Looking at Peter Clarke’s painting, Ruin, Teslaarsdal, Cape Province, painted in 1964, you can see the distinct, bold graphic style that he so often painted in. Clarke is known as a narrative artist and is recognised for his paintings of neglected and often marginalised people’s social (and political) realities within the Western Cape. Looking at Ruin, Teslaarsdal, Cape Province, you observe the bright, bold colours he used, despite the rundown/broken house and injured figure in the foreground. This image shows blue skies and thriving nature, the plants and landscape look healthy and green, whereas the figure and the man-made house seem to be falling apart rather than being fit, healthy and stable.
When looking at these two works together, it could be argued that both paintings portray a more positive outlook of what the artist’s desired home space would be. Looking at both paintings the elements of nature draw the viewers in. Clarke’s depiction of nature in his work highlights their growth and healthiness despite the neglected house and injured figure. Langa’s work also uses the landscape to create a narrative surrounding his quest to find an ideal home, he depicts a more barren landscape but the bright, bold colours point to a more optimistic scene, despite the lack of greenery. The colours used to paint the landscape give the viewer a sense of happiness and hope, almost reassuring the viewer that although where you are now may not be your ideal depiction of home in years to come you may look back with fondness. For me, it also raises the idea that materialistic and man-made objects will deteriorate and fade over time, but nature will always prevail. Home is not what you have, it is what you make of it and in the words of the Norval Foundation, ‘Our endless and impossible journey toward home is, in fact, our home.’