Listings

 

JOHANNESBURG








Sfiso Ka Mkame
The Joy and Pain of
Being in Love
1999
Oil stick on paper
54 x 77cm






Sfiso Ka Mkame
A Tragic End Part 1
(detail) 1999
Oil stick on paper










Percy Konqobe
Nomkhubulwane 1999
Bronze
100 x 55 x 35cm

Brenda Atkinson is guest writer for Johannesburg this month

Sfiso Ka Mkame and Percy Konqobe

The ritual and mystical visions of Percy Konqobe and Sfiso Ka Mkame work well together in the Goodman space: both Konqobe's bronze sculptures and Ka Mkame's oil-stick-on-paper works just restrain a sense of darkness beneath their accomplished surfaces.

Ka Mkame's thickly layered and scraped images combine subtly clashing emotional landscapes, often depicted in modular segments within the same frame. A central, womb-like module provides the visual and narrative focus of Ka Mkame's associative visions around a particular issue or feeling: love, sexual or physical abuse, pregnancy, abortion. The layers of these issues - which are profoundly political for the artist, and firmly on the side of women - attain additional texture through Ka Mkame's technique: the thickly layered consistency of the pastel finds itself undone in the delicacy of the scratched lines, putting the works visually, oddly, somewhere between Renaissance painting and contemporary South African linocut. It's an interesting feel.

Konqobe, who lives in Soweto and practises as a full-time shaman/sangoma, draws his inspiration, unsurprisingly, from dreams, visions, and "outside forces". His bronze, mostly figurative sculptures are not large, but convey a monumental force through straining planar shoulders and bodies, and faces that gaze skywards, seeming to yearn for epiphany. There is, in these works, a sense of longing for a South Africa in which miracles and mysticism were undiminished.

Until April 16 at the Goodman Gallery, corner Jan Smuts Avenue and Chester Drive, Parkwood. Phone: 788-1113; fax: 788-9887; e-mail: goodman@iafrica.com. Website: http://www.goodman.com. Gallery hours: Tuesday to Friday 9.30am to 5.30pm, Saturdays 9.30am to 4pm.

 


 


Carol-Anne Gainer 'ex-poses'
herself at the opening

Carol-Anne Gainer at the Market

Carol-Anne Gainer describes her work on 'ex-posed' as "focused on gender and identity", particularly as these constructs intersect and unravel through the "highly political and contested sites" of land, and the "geographia" of the female form.

The titular pun rests in part on Gainer's staging, on opening night, of Manet's Olympia: for the duration of an hour, Gainer installed herself nude on a divan at the farthest end of the gallery, a composed and still figure whose presence intruded, compelled and unsettled. Unlike Site (1965), the Robert Morris performance - in which Morris manipulated an arrangement of white panels to reveal Carolee Schneeman posed in imitation of the haughtily collected Olympia - Gainer is concerned less with the possibilities of space than with the politics of the gaze.

If the outcry caused by Manet's painting was indeed, as feminist theory has suggested, an unconscious response to the fulsome and unflinching directness of his muse's gaze, then Gainer's attempt to embody - and thus "perform" - the dilemma of looking is very much to the point. There is always greater embarrassment at being engaged by a still performer than a moving one, and visitors to the gallery more or less pretended that Gainer did not exist. They knew this much: they were complicit if they looked, complicit if they didn't. And what to do when Gainer's eyes shifted and deliberately locked into yours, caught you looking? The desire to dart a prurient glance, a not-quite-gaze, practically riveted tension to the floor.

Given the sexual politics of 'ex-posed', spelled out rather bluntly in the series of two-dimensional works (found dolls' parts, hair, snakeskin, blood and quoted text comment wryly on the infantilisation and violation of female sexuality, and the invisibility of lesbian sexuality), Gainer chose not to stage Olympia as a replica. No flowing hair coiled into a voluptuous bun, no black-beribboned neck, no obsequious servant. Stripped of all cultural signifiers of femininity, her naked body reclined in striking juxtaposition to an almost-shaved head.

The works themselves are less interesting than the performance. Gainer's large-format colour photographs of the pink dolls' parts (found at a flea market, "neatly collected together, legs and arms tied conveniently into pairs"), are punctuated by canvases stretched over with goatskin, velvet (the obligatory plush red, the royal blue), or are worked to vary texture and colour.

Despite having an indisputable formal beauty, the works are ultimately too easy, too easily grounded in what has become received wisdom about "gender and identity". The work of white female graduate students at South African universities contains, in my opinion, altogether too much unmotivated menstrual blood: enough already. Gainer can lay claim to an intelligent and aesthetically informed eye, and to technical skill; she needs - at least where her production is concerned - to wield both experiential issues and theoretical paradigms less crudely.

The exhibition ends April 10. Corner Bree and Wolhuter Streets, Newtown. Phone 832-1641; fax 492-1235; e-mail: Gallery@market.theatre.co.za. Gallery hours: Monday to Saturday 9.30am to 10.30pm.

 


 


A cyanotype by
Bob Cnoops on
'Transmigrations'

'Transmigrations: Rituals and Items'

Dasart, the artists' collective which organised this exhibition, was formed in 1992 with the belief that "contemporary art has to engage the broader social organism through presenting ideas and forms that stimulate", refusing to pay lip-service to the "posturing of the latest art-world trend".

It's a lofty agenda that fails miserably in this show, a collaborative effort by 15 artists to engage the broad theme of rituals - domestic, Christian, pagan and otherwise. Unfortunately, the best thing about the show is its title. The results challenge the viewer more to keep herself in the gallery space without rushing off for air than they effect a shift in cultural consciousness. Conceptually, aesthetically, socially, most of these works appall. Exceptions are Rookeya Gardee's "paintings" with lentils, seeds, egg shells and beads, Nhlanhla Mbatha's soil and canvas works from his exhibition 'Documents of Gondwanaland', and Sam Nhlengethwa's lithographs.

The rest of the works - including a shabbily photocopied catalogue priced at R35 - are an inventory of mediocre production posturing as art with a social conscience.

Until April 6 at the Johannesburg Civic Gallery, Loveday Street, Braamfontein. Phone 403-3408; fax 403-3412.

 


 




Andrew Verster
My Country, My Gods
Triptych (detail)


















Diane Victor
White Woman

Winsor and Newton Millennium Painting Competition

For the month of April the Sandton Civic hosts an exhibition of 52 paintings entered for the Winsor and Newton Millennial Painting Competition, administered in South Africa by the FNB Vita Awards. The mix of works on the show ranges from excessively twee white perspectives of rainbowism to solid works from those well-known artists who had the balls to enter a global painting competition.

Undoubtedly the lure of a £10 000 cash prize for the overall winner was sufficient incentive to financially beleaguered local contemporary artists: the five finalists from the South African leg will have their work sent to London, where the final round of judging will take place. Although entrants from 53 countries will be represented, cash prizes for second and third places, as well as for nine runners-up, spread the rewards a little.

The South African finalists are not all well-known, but their work stands out as clearly worthy of going forward to the finals: Mary-Rose Hendrikse's Fragments of a Rainbow Nation, despite the cheesy title, is a beautiful grid of tiny portraits reminiscent of Karl Gietl's fluid oil-on-canvas figures; Edward Alfred Lutaakome's Health, Prosperity and Communicative Environment to Everybody is a violently violet, surrealist fantasy of a happy coincidence of natural and technological resources; Kim Lieberman's The First Man was a Crowd sets a multitude of postage stamps into grids that form a formal palette of flesh-coloured blocks; Andrew Verster's My Country, My Gods is a delicately subversive triptych of unusual deities; and Diane Victor's White Woman is a masterfully drawn monument to sexual and racial anxiety.

It's a wildly uneven show, and an odd theme for the chosen medium, but the enthusiasm of the competition's reception here suggests that painting might well be the medium of art's fin-de-siècle backlash.

On during April at the Sandton Civic Gallery, Sandton Square.

 


 




Leonardo da Vinci's
Vitruvian Man

'Leonardo da Vinci: Scientist, Inventor, Artist'

As from April 15, the Pretoria Art Museum will be the only venue in South Africa to host the internationally travelling Leonardo da Vinci exhibition. The museum has set up a comprehensive educational component to foster and support a renaissance in a South African culture of learning and education, and this exhibition is an appropriate springboard: as well as featuring original work by the artist himself, the show, which will occupy the entire museum, will consist of about 250 exhibits of paintings, sculptures, models, rare books, maps, facsimiles of work, and work by da Vinci's students. Find out more via the show's website at www.leonardo.co.za.

April 15 to August 1. Pretoria Art Museum, corner Schoeman and Wessels Streets, Arcadia, Pretoria.

 


 




The invitation to 'You are Here'




















Gerhard Marx
Mixed-media work





















Gerhard Marx
Animation of a
Single Frame

Mixed media

Gerhard Marx at the Johannesburg Civic

Marx's solo exhibition, 'You are Here', ostensibly sets out to get viewers to "see themselves" by foregrounding the mechanisms of looking, and specifically, looking at art. The experience, however, is not as profound as the intent. Marx's devices of setting up and breaking conventional frames are conceptually and theoretically clever, but either fail aesthetically, or retain such a surface cool that engagement with the objects is sabotaged rather than compelled.

Tales for an Exhibition, for example, consists of a series of five small framed texts arranged in a vertical row. Framing language - itself the ultimate framing device - is interesting, but the text itself isn't interesting enough. Each is an anecdote, narrated in the past tense, of minor catastrophe: an old woman who, in exasperation, tries to cut the holes out of a hole-ridden blanket; birds that smash themselves flying into the "false horizon" of a pristinely clean reflective glass window, and so on.

In Anatomy of Movement/Movement of Anatomy, a box riveted to the wall contains a hand - palm facing outwards - carved from wood. Each finger has attached to it a length of wire that extends down out of the box, the ends encased in flat wooden paddles. A fan positioned in front of these paddles creates sufficient force to animate the fingers. The impact of this work is not in the crudely made hand, but in the "windswept" photographs placed on the wall beside it. Each of the five black-and-white photos is of the top of a windswept tree; the photos themselves are arranged along the upward-sweeping, invisible lineaments of the bent trees themselves.

Marx is strongest when he creatively and strategically plays with issues of perspective, arranging and installing with precision to find the physical structure in which form and content fold into each other, at the same time propping each other up. In Animation of a Single Frame, he positions a huge fan in front of a grid of 30 framed tree-photos: the fan in fact moves the frames, which start to skew, and in which the trees themselves are being blown.

Marx should have kept the show in this vein - clever, minimal, and well conceived; at other times, despite the beauty of some of Marx's objects - and the technical ability with which they are realised - the rest of the work is a bit like a bright boy experimenting with a new science kit.

Until May 11. Johannesburg Civic Gallery, Loveday Street, Braamfontein. Phone (011) 403-3408; e-mail civic@theatrekom.co.za.

 


 



The invitation to
'Six Pack'

'Six Pack' at the Rembrandt van Rijn Art Gallery

'Six Pack' is a group show of selected work by this year's Wits Fine Art Masters students. All women, they are also all powerful young artists with a sophisticated take on the politics of particular kinds of representation in South African art, exploring subjects from abstraction and colour theory to abjection and the aestheticisation of death.

Michele Kriek, Merryn Singer and Kathryn Smith are particularly impressive: Kriek tests the limits of minimalist, "purely" abstract forms by pulping meaningful text and using it to sculpt exquisite abstract forms; Singer explores death-as-abjection by making intricate lacework out of skin, hair, flesh and bone (work that is informed by the difficulty of memorialising the absent dead in the process of the TRC); and Smith presents black-and-white photographs of corpses in hand-made books with rare empathy, beauty and intimacy. It's exciting to see this calibre of work coming from artists this young.

Until May 8 at the Rembrandt Van Rijn Art Gallery, Market Theatre Precinct, Newtown. Phone (011) 832-1641; fax 834-2057; e-mail gallery@market.theatre.co.za.

 


Martine Margoles
Mermaid Chair 1999

Martine Margoles at the Media Mill

Martine Margoles describes her paintings and functional steel work as a mix of Tretchikoff, Van Gogh and Mickey Mouse. 'Personal Vision' - Margoles' first exhibition in South Africa since her Goodman Gallery show 10 years ago - features paintings that recall TJ Morkel and the Eighties rage for airbrushing, and chairs and dressing tables fit for Minnie Mouse on acid.

April 24 to April 28. The Media Mill, 7 Quince Street, Milpark.

 

Diane Victor
Strip 1999
Pastel and charcoal on paper


Thea Soggot
Torso No 7 1997
Earth and pastel on paper

Diane Victor and Thea Soggot at the Goodman

The body surface as document, as record of the physical and physiological experience of the occupant of the skin, is once again the theme of Diane Victor's new drawings, now on show at the Goodman. The cool marbled blues and chilled crimsons of Victor's palette, the tight control of her draughtsmanship, are in complete contrast to the rich, warm tones employed by her fellow exhibitor, Thea Soggot, an artist who sensuously uses wet earth on paper, and whose representations of the human form are always open to the serendipitous effects of chance.

Full review next month. Show closes May 8.

Goodman Gallery, 163 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood. Gallery hours: Tuesday to Friday 9.30am-5.30pm, Saturday 9.30am-4pm. Phone (011) 788-1113; fax: 788-9887; e-mail goodman@iafrica.com. Website: www.goodman-gallery.com.

 


 




Bridget Baker
Stitch 1998-99
Video still
























Bridget Baker
Stitch (detail)
























View of monitors installed
on the ArtStrip
























Minnette Vári
Aliens 1998
Video still



















Adam Lieber's video watcher



















Konrad Welz
Waldlandschaft
(Forest Landscape)
1998
Video installation

CAPE TOWN

Video fest 'Channel' at the AVA

For the first time in Cape Town, most of the major South African artists working in video have been brought together in one show, and curators Robert Weinek and Gregg Smith are to be congratulated for pulling off this complex feat with such finesse. It is difficult to see how the design of the show could have been improved, and there is enough interesting work on offer to keep viewers coming back a number of times.

The AVA has been completely transformed, with video installations (Bridget Baker, Malcolm Payne) in specially constructed rooms on either side of the Long Gallery; Adam Lieber, Konrad Welz, Stephen Hobbs and Minnette Vári in the Main Gallery; and upstairs a row of wall-mounted monitors faced by a row of black beanbags providing looped videos by more than 30 artists.

The starting point for Baker's Stitch was an angry letter from an ex-boyfriend, in which he repeatedly accuses Baker of running away from him. Baker, who has described her shielded upbringing in a fundamental Christian family as "monstrously idyllic", and whose adult work turns on a questioning of that past, referred to letters from the Bible to see what is said about running. The concordance lists strict admonitions of goal orientation - "Run in such a way as to get the prize," says Paul in 1 Corinthians, and "Let us run with perseverance the race". She turned to letters from sisters: "It seems to be running in the family," and her mother: "I am concerned that you are running around."

These admonitions were stitched by Baker onto reflective running belts. Pinned onto the wall, they form the background for twin videos, the left-hand one a slow motion close-up of Baker's face, rising and falling gently as she endlessly runs, seemingly on a treadmill. On the adjoining screen, blurred marathon runners rush and scramble towards Baker.

In Malcolm Payne's Ten Canons of Stupidity (The first version), the artist continues his investigation into our ideas of such "canons" as culture, religion, history. A giant close-up of hands throw what look like sangoma's "bones", objects of divinity, an action which is reversed and then repeated in a continuous loop. Life as decided by the toss of a hand. Three tiny monitors inset into the giant screen - the "fine print", as it were, which one must come right up to to read, present the canons and anecdotal musings and images - a floating head of Verwoerd - which support the artist's view that no canon is to be trusted, ever.

Stephen Hobbs, known for his visual portrayals of the mad vigour of the city of Johannesburg, here presents a double landscape portrait: below, a view of Table Mountain, solid, unmoving, dominating the city; above: a close-up of a seething, constantly mutating mass of white cumulus cloud of the kind that hangs over the Gauteng skies. A comparison of the energy of the two cities? Will the clouds eventually move down and smother the mountain? It's your guess.

Minnette Vári's piece Alien, which appeared as a previous ArtThrob project, is a brilliant morphing of the artist's body onto old video footage to make a surreal statement about the strangeness of South African society. Adam Lieber dresses a monitor in white fur with a blobby moving video face, and allows it to sit and watch his other video, a crazy crosscutting of old movie footage. Konrad Welz (last month's art project) shows a selection of his richly orchestrated video pieces, which vary considerably in tone and style, but are always worth watching.

Upstairs, there is much to choose from. Sweet as Pie, Rotten to the Core is a witty collaboration with a sharp feminist bite between New York based artist Amanda Williamson and American Elizabeth Shapiro. In completely enveloping white lab outfits, two women frenetically scrub, decore, peel and disect an apple, depositing each sliver into a separate plastic bag. As the punishing action continues, hovering between a harsh ablution ritual and a TV cooking show, the audience begins to empathise with the anthropomorphised fruit, and questions of the effect on women of the traditional roles of labour assigned to them are raised. In other contributions, Lisa Brice shows her video of mutating criminal images obtained from the police forensic department, Randolph Hartzenberg somewhat laboriously documents his performance pieces, and even curator Robert Weinek has a piece.

The good news is the show is here. The bad news is that what with Easter, the Oudtshoorn festival, the Cape Town Film Festival and the short run - the show closes on April 10 - not enough people will get to see it. Don't be one of those.

AVA, Church Street. Phone 24-7436. Gallery hours: Mondays to Fridays 10am to 5pm, Saturdays 10am to 1pm.

 


 


David Goldblatt
Mother and child in their
home after the destruction of
its shelter by officials of the
Western Cape Development
Board, Crossroads, Cape
Town. 11 October 1984

Black and white photograph

David Goldblatt at the SANG

"David Goldblatt's work is about buildings and structures in the South African landscape. It is, in part, about actual structures - bricks, mortar, mud and corrugated iron. But it is also about ideological structuring: about the mental constructs that underpinned the structures of South Africa in its colonial era and, more specifically, the apartheid years, the locust years, or its recent past. What Goldblatt has done is to frame these physical structures in terms of photographic constructs which, cumulatively and compellingly, reveal the many ways in which ideology has shaped our landscape" - Neville Dubow, catalogue essay.

'The Structure of Things Then' is the title of master photographer David Goldblatt's exhibition of 136 photographs of houses, shacks and dwelling places across the divergent face of South Africa, reviewed in last month's ArtThrob. It is also the title of the fine catalogue volume.

 


 


Malcolm Payne
Abandon Your Culture
Video still

Video art at the SANG

The SANG has instituted an ongoing programme of video art which will run in Room 5 until June 27. This month, Weighing and Wanting by William Kentridge will be shown until April 18. It is the seventh in a series of films which chronicle the history of Kentridge's recurring character, Soho Eckstein, and deals with the difficulties and subtleties of relationships.

From April 20 to May 2, the featured video will be Abandon Your Culture (a former ArtThrob project) by Malcolm Payne. The building and breaking down of a wall by two small boys becomes a metaphor for the construction, reconstruction and deconstruction of notions of culture and language.

South African National Gallery, Government Avenue. Phone 45-1628. Gallery hours: 10am to 5pm daily except Monday.

 


 





Sandile Zulu
Camouflage with Antelope
1998 mixed media























Nati Khanyile
Isintu 1998
Grass, clay, cow dung,
beadwork, bisque,
smoke-fired terracotta























Julie Dowling
Abo, Nigger, Coon 1997
Detail of triptych
Acrylic, red ochre, blood
and gold on canvas

'Isintu - Ceremony, Identity and Community'

By Paul Edmunds

The first ever black-curated exhibition at the South African National Gallery in Cape Town is currently on view, part of an ongoing project organised by the SANG, the Robben Island Museum and Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia. 'Isintu - Ceremony, Identity and Community' explores ideas around the notion of "blackness". This contested and difficult term, which has carefully been chosen by its co-curators Tumelo Mosaka and Zayd Minty, is used to identify with different cultural experiences which have come to be categorised as "black". Issues of marginalisation, disempowerment, identity and representation are brought under scrutiny and used to generate dialogue between indigenous Australians and black South Africans.

'Isintu' is an essentially untranslatable Zulu word which includes in its meaning the notion of ubuntu: the idea, in African culture, whereby an individual only finds identity in community and through respectful relations with those around. Different approaches, conventions and means of representation by black South Africans and indigenous Australians are examined to reveal commonalities and divergences in their respective experiences of being black. More specifically the establishment and maintenance of identity are explored through aspects of cultural and communal practice.

Communal and individual identity and links between material and spiritual values are firmly rooted in the ceremonial and ritual practices of indigenous Australians, and much of the work presented here was produced in just such a traditional context. In recent years, with the help of generous state support and cultural development, indigenous Australian artmaking has enjoyed a fairly smooth transition onto canvas and gallery walls. Ritually produced "dot" paintings, free of individual style, depict and illustrate "dreamings" - stories which maintain and establish natural and cultural identity. These works appear completely abstract, consisting of fields and clusters of many-coloured dots, but reveal themselves as highly representational when interpreted through the translation of the story they illuminate. More "contemporary" explorations of identity are present here in the work of Destiny Deacon and Julie Dowling among others. Both manage to balance a critical view on issues of representation with a clear awareness of their cultural and racial heritage.

The work from South Africa seems to straddle the apparent opposites of traditional and contemporary cultural production. Individuals with a contemporary sense of the role and status of artist most of whose work still retains the cultural history , textures and idiosyncrasies of its country of origin have been chosen. There is no purely traditional South African work here. A number of the artists are not purely African, some having Asian and Western roots as well. The idea of ubuntu, which a number of South Africans draw upon in their statements, is thoroughly explored.

Diverse and similar experiences of black identity give rise to widely differing cultural expressions. In this process, issues of cultural identity, representation and socio-economic realities are scrutinised and resolved. The dialogue is rich and complex but sometimes impenetrable without clues and explanation. Parallels and divergences are hidden and revealed in a wide range of visual and cultural languages. What might seem to be a racial premise for putting together such a collection of works turns out to be a valid tool for examination of issues particular not only to black people but common to all of us.

 


 






Berni Searle
Photographic image from
the 'Colour Me' series 1998
Photo: Jean Brundrit

































Berni Searle
Photographic image from
the 'Colour Me' series 1998
Photo: Jean Brundrit

Berni Searle at the Mark Coetzee Fine Art Cabinet

Reviewed by Tracy Murinik

Several series of photographic installations comprise Berni Searle's 'Colour Me', currently at the Mark Coetzee Fine Art Cabinet. These works form part of a project which Searle has been revisiting over the past year. The 'Colour Me' works are profound and incisive reflections on the nature of representation: stunningly sensual and aesthetically resonant, and darkly rhetorical. The title is a play on the racial classification "coloured" - a term which she scrutinises ironically in its desultory implications under apartheid legislation, and which she presents, almost as a dare and a challenge to those who feel the need, still, to concisely classify her. Instead, Searle revels in and taunts with the rich diversity of her cultural heritage, nullifying attempts to define her within neat categories.

The images in the works feature Searle lying covered, unclothed, in ground spices of varying colour and intensity. In a work of three monumental photographic panels entitled Off White, Searle is photographed by Jean Brundrit covered in pea flour. The central image is haunting. Not unlike the imprint of Searle's absent body marked in pea flour on the floor below it, it is a memento mori of sorts, ghost-like and skeletal, having been digitally manipulated to distort the body's dimensions. Searle has been stretched, narrowed and morphed into an uncomfortable elongated being who stares at you from beneath a powdery mask, disappearing in the sprinkled whiteness of her own body.

Searle recently won an award judged by the International Art Critics' Association (AICA) at the 7th Cairo Biennale for some of these works. In the piece for Egypt she lies slab-like, horizontal, looking straight ahead of herself. As a "reclining nude", she refuses to engage with her viewer. She cuts off any point of access in a re-positioning which is directly subversive. She re-images her stance and in turn the viewer's gaze. One's access is deflected to encounter a body which appears more a record of itself than a reflection, inviting contemplation around colour, form, bodily statistic. She is "weighed up" in relativity to a colour chart. She appears self-contained and silent: potentially muted, half buried or smothered. Embalmed sarcophagus-like.

Her play on limited access renders her in control of her own representation: one which cannot be easily or decisively classified, evaluated and consumed. The works cunningly begin to unravel questions around racial and gender classifications, self-consciously confronting and questioning historical modes of consumption and display. The spices titillate sensuously, while simultaneously invoking a history of severe abuse and exploitation. The substances are both celebratory and infer a knowledge of deep oppression. This body of work resonates not only with what appear as apparent references, but manages to sift concertedly through a theoretical domain too often relegated to crude generalisations and obvious political cliches.

Until April 30. 120 Bree Street. Phone 424-1667 (Cabinet) or 423-6708 (Gallery); fax 423-6709; e-mail mark@cabinet.co.za.

 


 




Mark Hipper
Head 1999
Oil on board










Mark Hipper
Head
Oil on board










Mark Hipper
Bad










Mark Hipper
Good Girl

Mark Hipper at João Ferreira Fine Art

Reviewed by Tracy Murinik

References to Mark Hipper's exhibition, 'Viscera', on last year's Grahamstown festival, still preside over much of the media coverage of his current show, 'Bad', at João Ferreira Fine Art. And, indeed, these references are implicit in the exhibition itself. Much of the new work on this show appears to directly respond to, and occasionally pre-empt, much of the rather reactionary outrage elicited by the previous exhibition. And the work that Hipper has produced for 'Bad' has quite self-consciously - and literally in some instances - changed its shape. In many ways this is a point made, frustrated and slightly awkward, by Hipper. It is also a point made, frustrating and a little disillusioning, when viewing the changes.

Beyond the very ironic and insinuating title, 'Bad', one of the most telling series of works on the show is entitled Punish and Discipline. A neat little inversion of the Foucauldian "Discipline and Punish", perhaps, where the state exercises its control over individuals as an invisible, yet threatening presence, just waiting to catch you out, or so it seems. Self-censorship in Hipper's new work is made apparent in a number of ways: in a refusal to attach bodies to the faces that he paints and draws; and the incision of stripes over eyes to blot out and censor what is exposed and seen.

Punish and Discipline I, for example, is a portrait of a boy in black and grey oils - mouth slightly open and lips parted in an ambiguous expression of surprise/pain/pleasure. But the boy's eyes have been blotted into anonymity by blocks of grey; pre-empting shame/guilt or perhaps protecting the innocence of the boy against his own desire, and that of others.

In more obvious ways, this appears to comment upon a climate of "deeply embedded sexual repression and censorship in South Africa" that Hipper has both experienced and somewhat unwittingly exposed. A series of shaped canvas heads painted in fleshy pink oils appear dislodged and dislocated from undisclosed bodies, awkward and mangled.

It is in a folder and a small book of older works that one is made aware of what is deliberately absent in the new works, namely that which Hipper does with such extraordinary, subtle eloquence and beauty. These works are literally hidden from general consumption, and only accessed through mutual consent. These are drawings and lithographs of slight, fragile frames; of innocent arousal, and of extreme vulnerability. Exquisitely visceral in their rendering, they are beautiful, intelligent and profound.

Until April 24. 80 Hout Street. Phone 423-5403; fax 423-2136; e-mail joao@iafrica.com. Gallery hours: Tuesday to Friday 10am to 5pm, Saturdays 10am to 2pm.

 


 


Willie Saayman
Digital image

Willie Saayman opens at the Area

Video and digital artist Willie Saayman opens at the Area gallery on Friday April 23 with a new show of work which will run until the end of May. Saayman designed the screensaver which was the December ArtThrob project, and at the Area will be offering two new videos - Blanking Point and Travel Series - and 14 of his quirky collaged digital images printed by a new process on to photographic archival fibre paper.

Area, Radio House, 92 Loop Street. Phone (021) 22-1321.

 


 




The invitation to
Winter Collections 99

DURBAN

Fashion at the NSA

"Freedom of Expression" is the theme of the NSA's 'Winter Collections '99', described as "Fashion Installations". Also showing is Gordon Froud, with his recent mixed-media collages, Aspects of Alice - the adventures of Alice in the new South Africa.

Both shows close on April 22. NSA Gallery, 166 Bulwer Road, Durban. Phone (031) 22-2293. Gallery hours: Tuesday to Friday, 10am to 5pm.


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