Veronique Malherbe
Detail from the invitation to
'The Quest for Zero Defect'

Best Lay
Collaborative graphic
with Merlyn Meredith

Veronique Malherbe
Best Lay (detail)

Veronique Malherbe
Mobile Madonnas (detail)

Veronique Malherbe
The Resurrection of the Good,
the Pure, the Perfect

Electronic collage inspired
by Ashraf Jamal's Severance

Veronique Malherbe
Isn't That How the Book Ends
Electronic collage inspired
by Ashraf Jamal's Severance

Veronique Malherbe at João Ferreira

Contemporary art theory has it that the concept of a piece is more important than its execution or presentation. The idea is the thing, and of these, Veronique Malherbe has plenty, many somewhat provocative. On 'The Quest for Zero Defect', these provocations centre around her own experience of being inseminated, giving birth, breastfeeding, becoming a mother. Bodily fluids play an important part in her concepts: in a radio interview, she describes how lying in bed feeding baby Ariel one night, she suddenly imagined making chocolates with her own breast milk. Sex and chocolate, linked. A sort of Mae West approach to art-making.

The artistic result of this inspiration is not the "Breastlay" imprinted slab which was a graphic collaboration with web designer Merlyn Meredith, but some slightly crumbly looking chocolates in conventional heart and round shapes, presented in a small wooden confectioner's display case. A limited edition. Seldom can chocolates have provoked such a mixture of emotions, such interest. Reuters and Associated Press have been on the line; one woman phoned Malherbe's house and asked if she could order the chocolates in bulk. But the piece goes a long way beyond providing a quick media sensation: the precious but forgotten memory of imbibing his mother's breast milk is believed to live deep inside every male. In using her own milk to manufacture her chocolates, Malherbe has shown how extraordinarily potent the ordinary-appearing can be.

Sperm Halo induces something of the same emotional cocktail. Suspended under rings of neon light are 100 test tubes of sperm, each labelled with the donor's name. Although one or two donors have gone creative and added a bit of glitter or green colouring to their contribution, a first sensation on seeing all the test tubes side by side (apart from a slight queasiness at being so close to this much sperm) is to note how identical the colour of each is. Which is interesting, considering the enormous variety of children - "enough to populate the whole of Africa", says Malherbe - who could potentially have been fathered by the contents. The piece is accompanied by photographs of the male collaborators, selected by Malherbe on a referral system on the basis of creativity, and is seen by the artist as a celebration of human potential.

Then there is Mobile Madonnas. Malherbe invited women living on the streets to accompany her to a portrait photographer located in Cape Town station to be photographed with their children. She presented these portraits to the women in exchange for being allowed to display one copy as part of her exhibition. There they hang in an inwardly facing ring, best viewed from a seat on a steel roundabout (constructed by artist Anzu Phillips) on the floor below. The roundabout, whizzing around on opening night, might be seen as a metaphor for the difficult life of these women, trapped in a spiral of inescapable poverty. Also, although the women came away from the experience with a family photograph they would never have otherwise acquired, there is a faint whiff of the colonial about the piece, the have-nots being photographed by the have.

These are just three of the pieces. There is also Preserving Purity, first shown on last year's 'Bringing Up Baby' exhibition, and consisting of 600 photo-booth pictures documenting her discovery of becoming pregnant, the birth of her child and the first years of his life. These, along with text, are suspended from a steel spiral providing a curved walkway for viewers.

And there's more - collaborative jewellery, graphics, a piece called All This Useless Beauty. Go and see the show. The presentation is sometimes a bit tacky but the ideas, fecund and stimulating, occasionally brilliant, are there.

Until May 29. João Ferreira Fine Art, 80 Hout Street. Phone (021) 423-5403; fax 423-2136; e-mail Gallery hours: Tuesday to Friday, 10am to 5pm; Saturdays, 10am to 2pm; Sundays by appointment.



Willie Saayman
Digital Animation Salesman:
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Digitally manipulated image
printed on to archival
photographic paper

Some Famous Men
(What I Did Last Summer)
Jean-Michel Basquiat
Digitally manipulated image
printed on to archival
photographic paper, with
accompanying text

A Digital Animation Salesman

On the invitation to Willie Saayman's new show, the artist depicts himself with one eye covered, holding up an image of the interior of a New York subway in which every one of the riders is Saayman himself. "I went to New York," says Saayman, "and everybody looked like me." The extent to which digital animation allows us to image our fantasies and dreams, to concoct chance encounters, and to re-invent our own history as evidenced in the photographs we make to record our travels and adventures, is made clear in this engaging exhibition of prints and video work.

Some Famous Men (What I Did Last Summer) is the title of a series of digitally manipulated photographs with a funny and unpretentious accompanying text in which Saayman appears to be enjoying companionable moments with such figures as Bruce Lee, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Bob Marley. "Gee, you really got around," a visitor said admiringly to Saayman, displaying an ingenuous innocence and a belief in the photographed image which probably won't be in existence much longer, but is nonetheless a tribute to Saayman's skill in making these moments look totally believable.

Blanking Point is the title of a video which spoofs the genre of action movies, and specifically John Boorman's Point Blank. In Saayman's slowed down version, Lee Marvin comes swishily down a flight of stairs, stands practically immobile while Angie Dickinson attempts to beat him senseless, then crosses over to a couch and sits down to view some of Saayman's other video interventions on a TV set. Very watchable.

The show closes May 21. The Area Gallery, Radio House, 92 Loop Street. Phone (021) 22-1321.



Mark Coetzee
His Gaze Falls I 1988-1996
First panel
Acrylic on linen
81 x 54cm

Mark Coetzee
Corpus 1988-1996
Black and white photograph
1,2 x 1,8m

Mark Coetzee
Triptych 1988-1996
Central panel
Acrylic on cotton duck

Mark Coetzee at the AVA

Over at the AVA, sexuality is of major concern to Mark Coetzee, who is exhibiting a selection of his artistic production from 1988 to 1997. The Piece That Caused All The Fuss - resulting in the censorship of Coetzee's earlier exhibitions in Stellenbosch and Bellville, and the subject of an early ArtThrob art project - is on display, along with a number of other pieces of similar content.

Basically, Coetzee is challenging Western ideas of power and patriarchy, as evidenced in architectural structures and monuments, and calling into question the traditional prejudices the societies that produce such structures have displayed towards love between men. Series of black and white photographs of young men are juxtaposed with paintings of architectural structures rendered in the style of South African Seventies expressionism, paintings which evoke an era one would wish to forget. Deliberately, one assumes, this juxtaposition is jarring and uneasy.

Coetzee works from a perfectly valid starting point, but in some work seems led into somewhat overheated and sentimental byways, using symbolism which is too obvious. A cooler standpoint might be more effective. One of the most successful pieces is also the smallest: Male Monument is a series of vertically hung photographs of a standing male nude. At the base, two framed brass plates are engraved with the words MALE and MONUMENT.

Closing on May 22. Metropolitan Gallery, AVA, 35 Church Street. Phone (021) 424-7436; fax 423-2637; e-mail Gallery hours: Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm; Saturday, 10am to 1pm. Website:



Sandile Zulu
Camouflage with Antelope
1998 mixed media

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.

The participating artists were able to workshop the issues together last year, a process which all apparently found dynamic and stimulating. Exhibiting artists from Australia include Destiny Deacon, Julie Dowling, Fiona Foley, Bronwyn Bancroft, and Ormay Nangala Gallagher, and, from South Africa, Berni Searle and Sandile Zulu.

Extended review in April ArtThrob. Reader's comment in Feedback.

South African National Gallery, Government Avenue. Phone: (021) 45-1628. Gallery hours: Tuesdays to Sundays, 10am to 5pm. Website:



Nicolás Leiva
La Idea Completa 1995
Oil on canvas

Argentinian artist at McCabe Contemporary

McCabe Contemporary is a new gallery on the Cape Town scene, a joint venture of two young gallerists, Paul McCabe and Cecilia Getty, in the stunning setting of a Stefan Antoni concrete and glass house overlooking the sea at Clifton.

The artist currently on show is the Argentinian painter, Nicolás Leiva, who works solidly within the tradition of Latin American painting, investigating organic and animal forms, religious motifs, magic realism, all the time using a heavy oil impasto and a fire colour palette of charcoal, grey, yellow, red. and blue.

Leiva was born in Tucumán in the Andes, a place where colonial settlements have overlaid a series of more ancient civilisations, and this palimpsest of architecture and cultures is repeated again and again in Leiva's evocative work.

Until May 10. Viewing information: Paul McCabe on 082-494-7872.



Medieval manuscripts at the SA Library

From the Abbey Archives of St Gall in Switzerland, a unique archive which has functioned for an astonishing 1 200 years, comes this exhibition of reproductions of the rich illuminations and scripts of medieval manuscripts from their vast collection.

It would have been remarkable to have seen one or two original pieces included in the show, but one can understand that these ancient and invaluable volumes cannot be moved, and the carefully photographed, backlit and annotated details in their liveliness and pure colour give us a valued insight into these great records of Christianity.

Housed in the round upper gallery of the South African Library, viewing of the Archives of St Gall exhibition is further enhanced by the sounds of the beautiful polyphonic singing of the monks of St Gall.

Sponsored by the Helvetica Institute. Until May 26. South African Library, Queen Victoria Street. Viewing hours: Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm.



Kevin Brand
Bless My World 1999
Peg board, handprinted
postage stamps

Garth Erasmus
Multi-Kulti II 1999
Acrylic, wood, calabashes
on canvas
174 x 72 x 15cm

Herman J Kassel
Earth Object 1998
Steel, glass, wood,
canvas, pigment, earth
60 x 60 x 10cm

Conny Siemsen
Facial Fragments 1998
Lime wood
Approx 80 x 70 x 40cm

Michael Wesely
20.2. bis 28.2.1998
Ilfochrome mounted on
160 x 123,5 x 5cm

Eckhard Etzold
Blurred Ostriches 1995
Acrylic on canvas
220 x 152cm

Andrew Tshabangu
Untitled (Joubert Park) 1995
Black and white photograph
16 x 20cm

'Art Dialogue' at the Cape Town Castle

"A little drop on a hot stone" is how curatorial assistant Beate Baethke describes this initiative by Cologne gallerist Ralph Seippel to increase exposure of German and South African artists to each other, and to widen the audience for all, both here and in Germany. Seippel invited Johannesburg artist and curator David Koloane to co-curate 'Art Dialogue' with him, and the pair selected five artists from each country, deciding to focus mainly on younger, relatively unknown artists, and on a re-configuring of the traditional problems of sculpture, painting and photography.

Entering Block B, one is confronted by Kevin Brand's Bless My World, hung in a grey embrasure at the end of the hall. The cutout of the head and sholders of a small boy gazes upwards at a car. Developing his "pixel" technique of representation, Brand designed his own postage stamps, each printed with the image of Oliver, arm upstretched, asking for more - a symbol of the way Brand feels about the mood of this country. These small squares are used to form the image. Oliver is also the name of Brand's son, and the 1950s car at which he is gazing is a car which Brand himself once coveted. But it is not necessary to know anything of this to enjoy the piece for its formal qualities.

Garth Erasmus is also working in a more personal vein than in earlier years, when his work was notable for the harsh images of sprayed chains and street graffiti. "I think I just discovered myself," says Garth, referring to the changes displayed in pieces like Multi-Kulti II, a humorous reference to the new face of South Africa..

Hermann J Kassel works with natural processes, bringing into the gallery the wet earth of the forest but enclosing it in a completely airtight steel and glass block, thus providing a micro-habitat in which the decay of forest materials can continue, mosses can grow. The oldest of these Earth Objects Kassel has made like this is now eight years old. Sometimes the artist will add a layer of pigment on the surface of the soil - which in its turn will change, and might be displaced by moss. Painting by nature. In another piece, Group of Trees, a series of tree trunks welded from steel rods suggests a forest of hacked down trees, the aftermath of the chain saw gang.

But a chain saw does not always represent destruction. Working with hers on lime wood, Conny Siemsen removes the inner layers of her forms so that a "skin" is left, something like an outsize mask that almost seems cast from a body mask rathen than hewn, thus achieving work that is at once monumental and delicate. In the small room at the Castle, Siemsen has hung a series of limewood plants and flowers on the wall, still using her chainsaw, a method of attack which does not allow for fiddliness. Her skill is that she has managed to retain the intrinsic form of each plant, while imbuing each with spirit and energy, as if it might grow a bit more if you avert your eyes for a few minutes.

How to explore real time in a photograph is the task Michael Wesely gives himself. Using a pinhole camera with density reducing filters, Wesely opens his lens and leaves the camera there - for hours, days, even a year. The result is images imprinted with the events of time passing: tulips in a vase growing longer, then dying back; a railway station at rush hour in which only the motion of trains can be seen - the people moved too fast to be imprinted.

Eckhard Etzold investigates the process of museum representation - how museum displays are set up, and what they choose to display. Taking this process of the recreation of the living yet another step further from the original, Etzold photographs these glass cases, and bases his paintings on the resulting images.

Thomas Armin Reddig, working from his sketchbooks, attempts, not always successfully, to find a new method of representation in the age of photo realism by painting his canvases in heavy impasto, and breaking up the images with slashing strokes.

Two young Johannesburg artists, Aaron Pitso Chinzima and Abel Tshidiso Makhetha, are both working in the tradition of welding and using found objects to form sculptural assemblages, and the fine documentary photographer Andrew Tshabangu shows work exploring daily life both in Johannesburg and in country villages.

Closing June 5. The Castle, Cape Town. Gallery hours: Monday to Saturday, 9.30am to 4pm.


Vivian van Blerk

Vivian van Blerk
A Cow Travels in Time and
Space and Contemplates
Her Mortality

Vivian van Blerk

Vivian van Blerk at the Lipschitz

Cape Town artist Vivian van Blerk, currently working in Paris, is showing a series of whimsical photographs of what appear to be fantasy scenes, but are in fact constructed models made by the artist. Remniscent of the scenes in a film made for children but with an edge and a message to be enjoyed and considered by adults, these photographs create their own world.

Here is the artist's seemingly ingenuous statement on A Cow Travels in Time and Space and Contemplates Her Mortality:

"In a field somewhere a cow stands apart and contemplates her existence. Born with high expectations she had quickly been drawn into the little-varying routine of grazing, milking, calving ... Now in her prime she looks ahead to a dull life punctuated only by its end in the slaughterhouse. So she escapes. Slipping through a gap in the fence she embarks on a grand journey: she travels in space and admires the great blue planet, in the distant past she has a close encounter with a dinosaur on a Jurassic beach and in an eerily unpeopled future she wanders the ruined halls of a great museum ... Her travels change nothing of her fate. But by observing her world and its inhabitants with quiet reflection, she is perhaps a little better prepared for that inevitable confrontation with the butcher. Which is as much as anyone may wish."

Ends May 29. Lipschitz Gallery, 138 Buitengragt Street. Phone (021) 422-0280; fax 422-0281. Website:


Philine Hofmann
Colour photographs

'Lifetime' at the Cape Town Castle

'Lifetime' is an exhibition of photographs of the AIDS sufferers who are cared for in Nazareth House in Cape Town - small children, mainly under the age of six - and their carers, the nuns. Philine Hofmann is a German photographer and film-maker who was moved by their plight, and took the photographs and a series of slides to raise public awareness on the subject. The photos are often joyful, worthy of a careful viewing, and if you choose to buy one, the proceeds from the sales will go to Nazareth House. On until the end of May.

Good Hope Gallery, The Castle, Cape Town. Gallery hours: Monday to Saturday, 9.30am to 4pm.


Anton Karstel
Wonderful South Africa

Anton Karstel in Bellville

Anton Karstel will be showing his series Wonderful South Africa at the Arts Association of Bellville Gallery from May 12 to June 3. First exhibited in Pretoria last year, this series juxtaposes the photographs from a book of that title published in the early 1940s with the identical image as painted by Karstel.

"This special empire edition ostensibly offers an objective survey of South Africa's geography, its people and its industries", says Karstel. "In retrospect, the book exhibits a glaring subtext of callous disregard. The 'native' serves as an expedient resource - consumable in his exotic allure and exploitable in his docile acquiescence."

The artist's contention is that the use of oil painting to document local life was a practice widely used by colonial masters. In making paintings of the book's photographs, he is attempting to call into question the content of the photographs, the attitude of the book's editors, and the entire colonial attitude of painting pictures as a signifier of overlordship.

Opens May 12 and closes June 3. The Arts Association of Bellville, Library Centre, Carel van Aswegen Street, Bellville. Phone (021) 918-2301/2287; fax 918-2083; e-mail Gallery hours: Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm; Saturday 9am to 5pm.


Marco Breuer

Marco Breuer at the Hänel

'Subject to Change' is the title of a show of small-scale black and white photographs by German born, New York based artist Marco Breuer, which opened at the Hänel Gallery on May 9. The series "explores issues of orientation and perception through the vehicle of fictitious travel". The invitation image shows the artist with his chair strapped to his back, a metaphor for his willingness to imagine himself anywhere, ready to sit down and consider precisely how he will convey the imagined reality of what he sees. Finely considered and disarmingly unpretentious.

Until June 12. Extended review to follow. Hänel Gallery, 84 Shortmarket Street, Cape Town. Phone (021) 423-1406; fax 423-5277. Gallery hours: Tuesday to Friday, 11am to 5pm; Saturday 10am to 2pm.


Beezy Bailey

Beezy Bailey learns to fly again

Some might wish that Bailey would tackle various more basic artistic skills, like editing his drawings, before he learns to fly again. But for those who enjoy the ebullience Bailey brings to life, Beezy's new show 'Learning to Fly Again', an exhibition of paintings, prints, music and performance, will open on Thursday May 20 at 6.30pm.

Art Factory, 4 Buiten Street. Phone (021) 423-4195; fax 423-4196; e-mail


Xolile Mtakatya
The Inheritors
Pastel on cotton paper

Four new shows at the AVA

Two local artists, Xolile Mtakatya and Lundi Mduba, bring flashes of brilliant colour to the Long Gallery at the AVA with a joint exhibition of pastels and paintings produced under the AVA's ArtReach programme in a show that opened on May 23. In the Main Gallery, Andre Naude is showing 'Small Matters' - small-scale paintings in muted colourations. Upstairs, 'Paper Prayers' is a portfolio of silkscreen prints intended to raise consciousness on the subject of HIV/AIDS, produced at the Hard Ground Printmakers Workshop by 16 Cape-based artists.

Full review in June ArtThrob. All four shows run until June 12.

AVA, 35 Church Street. Phone (021) 424-7436; fax 423-2637; e-mail Gallery hours: Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm; Saturday, 10am to 1pm. Website:


Giraffe 1994
Photograph on canvas

'The End of the Game'

'The End of the Game', an exhibition of photographs and collages by the internationally known wildlife photographer and filmmaker Peter Beard, opens at the Offshore Trading Company in Sea Point on Wednesday, May 26 at 6.30pm. The collection of photographs by the American-born Beard, who has a home in Kenya, is from a series produced in New York in 1994. Each of seven images was produced in an edition of six from the original negatives of Beard's seminal books, The End of the Game and Eyelids of Mourning, and has already been shown in major cities around the world, from Paris to New York.

Beard is known for his craziness, dancing right up to elephants with his camera to get the shot he wants. His work frequently sells at Sothebys and Christies in London and New York. Editions from this series went into many private and corporate collections including JP Morgon Private Bank, Princess Lee Radziwill and Herb Ross, Bianca Jagger and the New York Stock Exchange. A percentage of the proceeds from each photograph on this showing will be donated to the World Wildlife Fund.

The exhibition is being presented by João Ferreira Fine Art in conjunction with Farah Damji, and closes on June 23. At the Offshore Trading Company, 9-11 Regent Road, Sea Point. Phone (021) 423-5403/ 082-490-2977/ 082-438-3138 (Farah). Gallery hours: Monday to Saturday, 10am to 6pm.



Diane Victor
Strip 1999
Pastel and charcoal on paper

Thea Soggot
Torso No 7 1997
Earth and pastel on paper


Brenda Atkinson is guest writer for Gauteng

Diane Victor and Thea Soggot at the Goodman

Uber-draftsman Diane Victor takes up most of the physical and emotional space on this exhibition. Walking into her world of wounded women and traitorous men, her gallery of caricatures and grotesques, you feel as if the flaps of skin that peel off her pastel bodies are your own.

Victor (her name is suddenly ironic, given the raw masochism of her works) doesn't pull any punches here: she works her material, composition and colour to maximise the discomfort of the viewer. The subject matter of her drawings and prints moves from the intimacies of sexual jealousy and conflict, to more broadly political themes around the collapse of Afrikaner Nationalism's self-deluded architecture, and the pathologies of urban crime.

In the former mental and aesthetic space, Victor is both ruthless and raw, a flagellated love-doctor looking for the heart of her lover. In the huge pastel drawing titled The Anatomy Lesson, Victor's reclining, naked body presides in mute but articulate pain over a couple entwined in the foreground of the field: the three are lying together on a white sheet spread on top of a lurid orange-yellow carpet. The dark-haired woman beneath the man, her own head slightly wounded, reaches her hand over his shoulder to dig into his back, which is split open, skin folded back to reveal the musculature of the spinal column. On his dorsal and lateral muscles are a multitude of words: "BETRAY BAIT FRAUD DENOUNCE TRAITOR INFORMER ABUSER CRITIC", and so on. The Victor-figure stares at the viewer head-on: red-rimmed eyes, resignation, rage, and a fire-extinguisher lying at her side.

For me, Victor's saturated, high-contrast prints are far more conceptually and visually compelling than her fleshy pastels. Big Bad Bed, for example, is a gorgeous, dark, disturbing work in which a woman and her obscured partner lie in a huge four-poster bed. The bed-posts coil to great heights and terminate in turreted cathedrals. Above the couple a dark angel curves his body in the sky, against the figure of what looks like a coelacanth - not inked but pressed into the flesh of the white paper. This angel's head and upper body are bondaged, his body is naked, his feet are bandaged. All around, sperm rains down in soft, muted spheres pressed into the paper.

As one visitor observed (presumably of Victor's work), this was not her "cup of tea". Victor's is a stronger brew of sado-masochism than we are perhaps used to in this medium, and her drawing capabilities are used in the service of a merciless look at human folly. Most often, what she finds is ugly.

Thea Soggot's 'Mud Drawings', in the wings of the gallery, are a soft counterpoint to Victor's onslaught. The works consist basically of different series of heads and torsos "painted" onto thick paper with mud, and arranged in minimalist grids.

In her Head series, seven gridded, abstract paintings of a head - figured from different angles, but never full-on - are arranged with two "drip pages", such that the mud of two of the heads drips onto the blank square of white paper below. Colour shifts from soft and warm to intense in the Torso series - here a glowing torso emerges from a pitch black field. Each torso is differentiated by changing shadows and light, all are without arms, and some begin to drip towards the bottom of the canvas, suddenly seeming to lose their bold assertiveness to the uncertainties of the medium.

These are beautiful figurative studies - poignant and perplexing, suggestive of the frailties that reside in the lineaments and physical fields of the human bodies.

Show closes May 8. Goodman Gallery, 163 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood. Gallery hours: Tuesday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm; Saturday, 9.30am to 4pm. Phone (011) 788-1113; fax: 788-9887; e-mail Website:



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. Rembrandt Van Rijn Art Gallery, Market Theatre Precinct, Newtown. Phone (011) 832-1641; fax 834-2057; e-mail



The invitation to 'You are Here'

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



Joni Brenner
Photograph of two postcards
of Auguste Rodin's La Pensée

Joni Brenner at the Sandton Civic

Wits graduate Joni Brenner, who has recently returned from a year's studio residency in Paris, has installed a remarkable exhibition at the Sandton Civic. Expertly mounted and brilliantly installed, 'Off the Wall' is an exhibition fascinated with medium and frame. The works - which explore media from sculpture to oil to watercolour - are all lovingly subversive of portraiture, and move from moments of fragile intimacy to monumental exclamations alienating in their scale and abstraction. As the exhibition title suggests, Brenner is interested in moving two-dimensional work off the wall, and in setting three-dimensional work against it.

She begins with two playfully tactile pieces inspired by postcard images of Rodin's La Pensée. In the one work, Chip Off the Old Block, Brenner installs one of the postcards beside a sculpted "chip" which masquerades as a beautiful discarded bit of Rodin's famous sculptural portrait. Both elements are mounted on a slate grey shelf. In the other work, Recollect - Reconnect, a postcard photograph of the same work (but from a different angle) sits on a similar shelf beside two small, sensuously thick abstract oil-on-canvas paintings. The oil colours are softly swishing pastels reminiscent of Penny Siopis's cake-like surfaces, suggestive of a medium in love with its own possibility.

These works are set off from the main gallery, a high-ceilinged, vaulted space which is brilliantly used to maximise the monumental scale of its contents - intensely soft, monochromatic watercolours mounted in huge, pastel-hued box frames. The centre-piece, which cuts the space diagonally, is titled Irresolute: Wall-painting. Originally a watercolour which Brenner has photocopied, enlarged to an enormous scale, and worked with wax, acrylic, and watercolour again, it is more facial impression than portrait, a shroud-like imprint that crumbles and paradoxically asserts itself through its imposing installation upon a huge podium.

The contrast between this and the preceding work is unsettling, which it is meant to be. It is challenging in terms of both space and medium. But it is also oddly disappointing: Brenner's expert manipulation of framing conventions detracts from the two-dimensional aspect of her work. Or maybe it adds to it. Caught in the grandeur of the presentation, the viewer is uncertain about the paintings - are they that good? Are they really interesting? Or are they competent postgraduate work made seductive by pretty frames?

The question of Brenner's talent is redeemed in the third "section" of the exhibition - a dark room in which sculptures are installed like jewels, in which thickly sensuous, darkly aggressive oils are butchly boxed and teasingly titled. These works break the clinical blandness of the main gallery, drawing us into Brenner's intimate, layered process once again. It is in this intimacy, within this manageable scale, that Brenner's work works best.

Closing May 29. Sandton Civic Gallery, corner West Street and Rivonia Road. Phone (011) 881- 6431.



Ezrom Legae
Chicken series (detail)
1977-78. Drawing on paper
Coll. SA National Gallery

'Remembering Legae: 1937-1999'

Given the returns and amnesias that mark the uneven course of South African art history, it is a privilege to be able to view a cohesive representation of work by an artist who was such a vital part of this country's artistic production during the apartheid era. 'Remembering Legae' - the Goodman Gallery's homage to this influential artist - is a timeous and moving exhibition which traces Legae's work from the 1960s to the present, and includes drawings which have never been seen before.

Legae's drawings, both old and recent, are remarkable political statements of astounding power and delicacy. Chicken, one of his famous works made after the death of Steve Biko, communicates its way around the dangers of overt political protest - its fine lines depict an abstract creature, half-human, half-animal, an innocent spirit in the painful throes of departing from this world. Produced in a political climate in which blatant statements would have been dangerous, Chicken, for all its covertness, is a profound piece of political work.

The gallery has also managed to locate works from Legae's 1982 Freedom is Dead series, which he was only able to exhibit in Chile under a different title after censorious intervention by the South African government. In these pencil-on-paper drawings, Legae again harnesses human and animal forms together to create powerful visual allegories of mutilation and decay - twisted Goliaths have huge sad eyes above long beaks that drop pendulously from their faces. In The Beast, a human body defined more by the space around it than by its own form is draped over a mutant carcass.

The drawings on show for the first time - which Legae had held back with the intention of exhibiting them with work by Cecil Skotnes - are exquisitely fine experiments in form and metaphor, and challenge the title given to Dumile as "South Africa's Goya". Legae's early bronze sculptures are also powerful, magnificently restrained fusions of white Western and African aesthetic traditions. This is an exhibition that must be seen.

Closes June 5. Goodman Gallery, 163 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood. Gallery hours: Tuesday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm; Saturday, 9.30am to 4pm. Phone (011) 788-1113; fax: 788-9887; e-mail Website:



Lieke Grob
Daily Life in a Suitcase
Multi-media installation


Living out of a suitcase

'Daily Life in a Suitcase', a multi-media installation currently showing at the African Window Museum, is the culmination of a 10-year project by Dutch graphic designer Lieke Grob. Taking on trust the co-operation and collaboration of two complete strangers, Grob sent two small wooden suitcases to Rev Nico Smith in Pretoria, requesting that they be passed on to women in or near Pretoria. That was 1989. Each suitcase contained a camera, an empty notebook, a set of pencils, and the story of Grob's own life in Holland. Grob's request was that each woman fill the suitcase with pictures and her own life story. Who the women were and how they responded to this challenge may be discovered at the Museum.

Until June. African Window Museum, Visagie Street, Pretoria. Phone (012) 324-6082.



Nhlanhla Mbatha
Incorruptible Landscape
and Map
Sponge, soil, paper

Nhlanhla Mbatha at the Millennium Gallery

Trained at Funda Community College and Pelmama Academy in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Nhlanhla Mbatha has had work on a number of group shows in recent years, but it was 'Documents of Gondwanaland' - his first solo exhibition at the Rembrandt van Rijn Gallery in 1997 - that pushed him into local public consciousness.

Mbatha's powerful abstract earth-on-canvas "paintings" on Gondwanaland were a fresh and layered take on local art history, as well as a theory of landscape forged through continual movement, and punctuated by catastrophe. The legacy of Modernism's atelier found an unsettled locale in Mbatha's "studio", a cracked and empty swimming pool.

'Experience and Time' is Mbatha's second solo show. Still working with earth - this time mostly in the guise of camouflage - he continues to explore notions of place and displacement with a profoundly aesthetic formal eye.

Ends May 8. Millennium Gallery, 75 George Storrar Drive, Groenkloof, Pretoria. Phone (012) 46-8217.



The Gothenburg Mona Lisa
A 19th-century copy of
Da Vinci's original

'Leonardo da Vinci - Scientist, Inventor, Artist'

This long-awaited exhibition - featuring more than 250 exhibits on the life and work of the Renaissance period's cultural mega-icon - has been collated and curated with professionalism and a thorough knowledge of Da Vinci's work. Unfortunately, while the R2-million revamp of the museum has enabled a slick and broadly informative exhibition that is attracting wide public interest in an unprecedented way, much of that knowledge doesn't come through.

There are two halls of facsimiles of mechanical and biological drawings done by the "scientist and inventor", as well as modern replicas of some of his models. Tour guides and touch-sensitive interactive computer terminals lead visitors through these halls, providing basic info-bytes on the cultural and political climate of the Renaissance, as well as on the groundbreaking nature of Da Vinci's many "inventions" (which would come to form the basis of wrist watches, motor cars and aeroplanes). The third hall is reserved for contemplation of Da Vinci's purely artistic production, again mostly in the form of exquisite facsimiles of drawings, but including a wall of oil paintings by his followers, among which is an original Raphael.

Despite the magnitude of the show's form and the diversity of its content, I suspect that anyone who knows a bit about art will feel disappointed by what is for all intents and purposes an educational exhibit pitched at schools and the art illiterate public. There is no sense of who Da Vinci was beyond his product, and at times the information provided is blatantly inaccurate (Da Vinci was not, for example, deeply misunderstood and marginalised in his own time). Impressive and gorgeous as the facsimiles are, there's a bit of a text-book feel to it all, as if pages of school books had been cut out and framed.

This is, perhaps, ungracious nit-picking: the exhibition achieves what it sets out to do, which is to educate about a prolific and influential, often radical artistic producer within the context of Renaissance ideology. It is a privilege to host an exhibition that has been seen by millions of visitors worldwide, and it is a privilege to have to queue with hundreds of people in order to get in. That, indeed, is a first.

Ends August 1. Pretoria Art Museum, corner Schoeman and Wessels Streets, Arcadia, Pretoria. Website:




"My God, my God, why
have you forsaken me?"

'Bitterkomix' at the Open Window

There's a small explosion of graphic art sizzling in South Africa at the moment: Durban cult 'zine iJusi has made it into the listings of UK-based graphic design bible Creative Review; the surf city's finest have launched another cultzine called Mamba; RAU's Gencor Gallery is currently hosting a festival of French, Belgian, and South African comic strips; and now there's 'Bitterkomix', an exhibition of orginal artworks and silkscreens by the maverick makers of the sour-poes satire that makes up the comic of the same name.

'Bitterkomix' features work by Joe Dog, Conrad Botes and Lorcan White, who propelled the comic to local notoriety with a bitter satirical cocktail that took the piss out of all manner of South African folly, from porn to apartheid to political correctness.

The show is a rewarding collection of visually potent works that range from the sinister to the lyrical, to the in-your-face baaaad. Of course this genre of work relies on the use of the straw men it shoots into flames, making the boundary between satire and, say, misogyny, a little blurry at times. If you can handle the disruption of your political comfort zones, you'll love this. And if you can't, you'll like it a lot anyway.

Ends June 7. The Open Window Contemporary Art Gallery, Pretoria.




'Collaborations' at the NSA

Nine poets and nine visual artists have worked together to produce 'Collaborations', currently running at the NSA Gallery, although four of the nine - Liz Vels, Charl Fregona, Johan Horn and Vinoo Nydoo - appear as both artists and poets. Until the middle of May.

NSA Gallery, 166 Bulwer Road, Glenwood, Durban. Phone (031) 22-2293; fax 22-3744. Gallery hours: Tuesday to Friday, 10am to 5pm.

... MWeb

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