Steven Cohen
Living Art My Life 1998
Mixed media

Vita Award Show at the Sandton Civic Gallery

This week is your last chance to see the specially commissioned work produced by the six artists nominated for this year's Vita Art Award - Siemon Allen, Lisa Brice, Steven Cohen, William Kentridge, Moshekwa Langa and Sandile Zulu. Unless you've been out of the country for the last two months, you'll know that Steven Cohen was the overall winner. But all of the artists made strong work, and Kentridge's three-screen video installation Ulisse Echo will next be seen on the São Paulo Bienal in October. View videos of Cohen's performances at ZA@Play's Vita Art Prize website, and check last month's ArtThrob for a full review of this fine show. Closing September 5.




Peter Schütz
Icon and Idol 1998
Jelutong and oil colour
91 x 18 x 30cm

Walter Oltmann
Cockroach 1998
Copper wire and tubing
140 x 90 x 17cm

Icons and Idols: Walter Oltmann and Peter Schütz at the Goodman

Once more in vogue in shops selling Fifties kitsch, the painted wooden "dumb waiter", child-high and with his little proffered tray a convenient resting place for peanuts or ashtray, was once a common denizen of the middle-class lounge. Johannesburg sculptor Peter Schütz has long had a fascination with such images: the colonial icons of Africa. Cross-referencing these with religious imagery, Schütz's new work - smooth, sinuous and satin-surfaced as always - draws interesting parallels between these two sources. In a statement on his 'Dumb Waiter' and 'Saint' images, the artist writes: "Both recognise the reciprocal relationship between power and pleasure and wait patiently to serve and offer creative guidance. These works draw on the language of the gruesome but holy deaths of saints and, standing as they do in attitudes of subordination, bring together spiritual and material iconography."

Fellow exhibitor Walter Oltmann uses a bravura sculptural extension of such domestic craft techniques as weaving, lace-making, beadwork to form his nightmare-sized insects and huge flowers in aluminium, copper, brass and bronze. Much of the appeal of Oltmann's works lies in the massive increase in scale, the richness and sheen of the variegated metallic surfaces, the sureness of the strongly articulated forms. Conceptual work it is not; what you see is what you get; but pinned up on the wall like trophies or specimens, the work has its own presence. There are also drawings and prints on similar themes.

'Icons and Idols' opens on Saturday September 5 and runs until September 26.



Alan Alborough
Beautiful Objects (detail)

Six alumni at the Gertrude Posel Gallery, Wits

Jane Alexander's collage photographs pop up so often on exhibitions they must be considered God's gift to the harassed curator (acclaimed, lightweight, easy to install,) but the strange, dark world they portray always makes for compelling viewing. What you will not have seen before is Alan Alborough's immensely satisfying Beautiful Objects - suspended spheres and hemispheres constructed from humble objects like milkily translucent polythene bowls and clothes pegs. There are also handsome large-scale colour studies by Karel Nel, and an evocative installation by Hentie van der Merwe. The other two exhibitors are Justine Lipson and Janet Wilson. Ends September 12.



The invitation to
José Ferreira's show

José Ferreira and Nicola Gear at the Rembrandt van Rijn Gallery

A taxi bus tour for gallery-goers was the kickoff for British artist Nicola Gear's exhibition 'Key' at the Market Theatre Photogallery. Gear's method of art making is frottage - transferring the textured image of a surface onto paper or fabric by rubbing - and the journey on which viewers was invited toured the sites, all of them of personal significance to the artist, where Gear's rubbings had been made. Sound elements had been added to the sites, and objects from each were taken back to the gallery, to be re-considered in this new context. In the main gallery, José Ferreira mounts an installation under the title 'Red Rubber Highway'. Until September 19.



Orlan - a picture taken in 1992,
before her operation for the
forehead inserts

William Scarbrough
The Abdominizer 1992
Operational Suicide Machine
56 x 38 x 38"

William Scarbrough
The Gutslicer 1992
Operational Suicide Machine
seen with "salesman"
56 x 38 x 38"

Mark Hipper's work is scrutinised
at the Grahamstown festival


Orlan for Wits

Flamboyant French performance artist Orlan a keynote speaker at a conference at Wits? It's happening on September 3 and 4 at the Fourth South African Qualitative Methods Conference. The primary focus of the conference, reads the press release, "lies strongly in 'the now', in historicising the present. In this regard it is important that the conference recognises the legitimate and in fact central role of art production and performance as means of inquiry, critical practice and knowledge-creation. This much is reflected in the choice of Orlan, French artist and art historian, as one of the conference's keynote speakers." Orlan is known primarily for her work in using her body as her material, undergoing a series of plastic surgical interventions in an attempt to question stereotypical ideas about beauty, presenting the bodily fats removed, sometimes combined with text, as art pieces.

Further, curator Kathryn Smith has organised an art exhibition to tie in with the themes of the conference. Showing work for the first time in this country is young New York sculptor William Scarbrough. Satirising the insatiable appetite of the American public for violence and sensationalism in the media, Scarbrough constructed a series of sinister 'Suicide Machines', each one providing a different method for the purchaser to bring about his own death. At the Wits conference, large posters advertising these machines adorn the Scarbrough Industries trade booth. Other artists exhibiting include Vita Art Prize winner Steven Cohen, Bitterkomix, Mark Hipper and Jeremy Wafer. The show opens on Thursday September 3, downstairs at the Wits Theatre, and continues until September 11.

The conference agenda and programme



Anton Karstel is next up
at the Johannesburg Civic
with 'Pol-aesthetic'

Anton Karstel at the Johannesburg Civic Gallery

Conceptualist Anton Karstel's latest venture involves a complex artistic process for his new project 'Pol-aesthetic' (police aesthetic), starting with taking uncontrolled or unfocused photographs of the familiar blue and yellow police vehicles on the streets, then making large photographic prints from details of these, to be installed with a video in the Civic Gallery. Other elements and locations involve pieces of wrecked police cars mounted on sculpture bases, paintings, plus other video works. 'Pol-aesthetic' is intended to "create a tension between the aesthetic and social domains", says Karstel, adding that he chose police vehicles as a motif because of their association with social conflict. Opening September 22.



Larry the Inflating Sculpture
at the Joáo Ferreira,
photographed with facilitator

Larry the Inflating Sculpture

DIY Larry kit


Larry the Inflating Sculpture

"Imagine my surprise when I found myself in a gallery again", reads the flyer advertising a performance by Larry the Inflating Sculpture at the Joáo Ferreira Gallery. Last time we met Larry was at a master's show at the Michaelis School of Fine Art and then, as now, Larry needed some help to get himself transformed from a yellow latex puddle on the floor to full, wobbly size. This help was provided by a hairdryer artfully handled by a beautiful big-haired facilitator in a yellow polka dot bikini, who emerged from a red swathed booth. Very funny, very Seventies. Larry hired Peet Pienaar to make a video commercial selling kits to make Larry clones, and the kits themselves are on offer in a glass display cabinet at R350 and R500. The man behind all this is DJ Bonanza, and Larry will perform again at 6pm on September 2, 5 and 9. During normal gallery hours, he will be inert on the floor until September 12. The gallery phone is (021) 423-5403, and those who would like to enter into a cyber relationship with Larry can e-mail him at



Veronique Malherbe
Preserving Purity 1998
Installation view

Veronique Malherbe
Preserving Purity 1998

Claudette Schreuders
Twins (detail)
Wood and paint
31 x 11 x 12cm

Colin Richards
Homunculus 1998
14 x 21cm

'Bringing Up Baby' at the Cape Town Castle

A packed opening event in the middle of August proved that Cape Town can and will support visual art if the show seems worth it. 'Bringing Up Baby' is certainly such a show - fresh, for the most part curatorially on target, provoking reflection, artistically satisfying. The title of the show begs for a personal response to the subject from the artist, an investigation of his or her own experience.

Attaching baby food jars to a metal spiral suspended from the ceiling and filling them with a diary of notes and photobooth pix, Veronique Malherbe chronicles the story of how motherhood overtook her life. Formally, the curves of the spiral could have been set further apart - viewers reading the contents of one set of jars found themselves brushing against the jars behind - but opening day saw hordes of viewers having once entered the spiral, intently reading each entry.

Claudette Schreuders uses the medium of carved and painted wooden figures inspired by the Colon figures of West Africa to explore her memories of childhood and the relationships within her life. Thus imbued with a personal history, these small, solidly standing figures claim their space with authority and power.

Jane Alexander's fine new work also explores childhood - the damaged childhood of street children. Masked, strangely stunted, this new grouping of sculptures haunts the memory.

Other creative treats are Warrick Sony's soundscape, in which he "tames" the cacophonic toy sounds and musical choices of his children into a swelling crescendo; curator Terry Kurgan's own photographs of new mothers and babies, Colin Richard's carefully considered reveries on the subject of fatherhood, Clive van den Berg's watercolours recalling his own awakening of sexual feelings, and Penny Siopis' provocative and sometimes alarming video on the subject of breasts.

The show is presented by gallerist Mark Coetzee working in conjunction with the William Fehr Collection, and if you can't see it, get the catalogue. Closes September 12.


Bernie Searle
CAP-TURE 1998 (detail)
Photograph and mixed media

John Murray
Mama Afrika
Mixed media

University of Stellenbosch staff show at the AVA

Twenty-two full-time and part-time lecturers from the University of Stellenbosch department of fine arts are showing work at the AVA. So much work on a variety of themes is a little difficult to get to grips with, but the overall impression is of a hardworking and highly competent art department.

Of particular note are painter Leon Vermeulen, whose own solo show in the gallery two months ago was so impressive, photographer Jean Brundrit, whose work explores feminist issues and whose voice grows ever more assured, and John Murray, with his astute carved and collaged post-colonial comments. Bernie Searle takes a step forward in an investigation of her own identity as the descendant of slaves brought to this country to develop the spice trade. Lying naked on her back, she has had herself photographed (by Jean Brundrit) covered and smothered in powdered pea flour, cinnamon and paprika, installing these photographs with more of the spices trapped below in receptacles or allowed to pile up on small platforms, then drift on to the floor.

The exhibition closes September 5. Next up is an exhibition of printmaking by Edwine Simon of the Ruth Prowse Art Centre.




Jeremy Wafer
Spindle series screenprint
105 x 76cm

Aidan Walsh
Colesberg (detail)
Oil on canvas
43.5 x 54cm

Mandla Vanyaza
Khayelitsha Shop
Enamel paint and photographs
Up next at the Lipshitz

30S by 31E at the Lipschitz Gallery

Reviewed for ArtThrob by Paul Edmunds

Four Durban artists - Bronwen Findlay, David Haigh, Jeremy Wafer and Aidan Walsh - are currently showing work in different media and dealing with vastly differing subject matter in the Lipschitz Gallery. Across the lofty space of the gallery, relationships, differences and similarities are evident.

The most obvious relationship is that between Wafer and Haigh. Wafer is presenting a series of black and white silkscreens and paintings on glass and paper which explore variations on what he calls a "spindle" shape. Haigh is showing a group of wall mounted hand-built ceramic objects which seem, fundamentally, to deal with a similar family of shapes. While Wafer's delicate transformations and progressions of these shapes seem to exude flavour rather than reference, Haigh's work seems overt and quite clear in its reference to human anatomy and cultural artifacts. Wafer's works have an aesthetic cool and reserve which creates space for the tiniest tweaks and logical evolutions that they embody. This in turn allows for multi-layered interpretations and the works seem to resonate with the qualities of Zulu decoration, Victorian silhouettes or Deco tiling among others.

This cultural multiplicity can be seen as the thread which pulls the diverse work of these artists together, and it is tempting to suggest that it reflects the saturated, sub-tropical melting pot that might be Durban. Findlay's silkscreens, each an image for a letter of the alphabet, certainly draw on the concentrated colour and vigorous aesthetic of both Hindu and contemporary Zulu design and artifacts. Walsh exhibits an appropriate cultural schizophrenia in his precise and economical oil paintings of buildings and statuary from the gardens of Versailles to the Hindu temples of Durban. He claims an attraction to painting stone and his works manage to attain some of the permanence and resilience of that material. They induce a kind of nostalgia for something you haven't really experienced. The crisp early morning light of Colesberg throws cool sharp shadows in a scene that one seems to instinctively yet not particularly remember.

The show is not without weakness, but does have a strong sense of four different artists responding in their idiosyncratic ways to their environment and just getting on with it.

Opening on September 19: local artist Mandla Vanyaza, with a show of paintings and collage works reflecting his life and everyday experiences.



The safe deposit boxes

'Deposits' at Idasa

In the bank vaults below the Idasa Gallery is a unit of metal strongboxes once used to hold customers' precious objects and papers. In a bid to help the Gallery's Outreach programme, 34 established and emergent artists from Cape Town and Johannesburg have been invited to make an art object to be placed inside each box, which will then be locked. Local businesses will "buy" the contents of a deposit box for R2 000 without knowing which artist's work is hidden inside. Participating artists include Isolde Krams, Penny Siopis, Brendhan Dickerson and Malcolm Payne. On Friday September 25 at 6.30pm each donor will select a box, which will then be opened and the contents revealed. For the following month, the artwork will be exhibited at the gallery before going to its new owner.



Invitation to the
Boudoir Biscuits show

The Boudoir Biscuits

Painting at a time "when it is less than fashionable" as their press release asserts, the Boudoir Biscuits are four artists who have been exhibiting together since 1995. Through their work, Mary Visser, Thelma Mort, Jenny Parsons and Diana Page try to explore the gap between realism and abstraction. Until September 12.



The Gnome Show

The Gnome Show at the AVA

This year, the lecturers of the Cape Technikon will have their way with that ultimate symbol of kitsch, the garden gnome, for their annual exhibition. Promises to be a lighthearted affair, with work from such artists as Kevin Brand, Randolph Hartzenberg and Denise Penfold. Opening September 29.


Cobus van Bosch
Untitled 1998
Lead, wood, glass and computer
manipulated image on paper

'Cover' at the Mark Coetzee Fine Art Cabinet

A first solo show by Cobus van Bosch, in which the artist takes drain covers, those ubiquitous elements of urban architecture, imprints them on to lead, and uses these to frame photographically manipulated images reflecting on homelessness. Until September 26.


Peet Pienaar and
Barend de Wet


Red Eye at the Durban Art Gallery

The fantastically successful Red Eye programme instituted by the Durban Art Gallery will have its next manifestation on September 4, when guest artists Barend de Wet and Peet Pienaar will be part of the evening's programme, doing a performance which will relate to Durban and will also involve the duo stitching away at an amplified sewing machine. For more details about the events, phone 031 300-6911.



Stuttgart meets Durban

The fruits of an intensive artistic collaboration between the artists of Stuttgart and Durban is on show at the Durban Art Gallery. Each group learned from the other - German artists used to buying their materials in art stores, found the process whereby artists in this country scrounge around the streets for discarded objects to use in their work initially surprising, but ultimately quite challenging. The show ends September 23.

... ZA@PLAY   MWeb

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