2020. 15 August – 5 September. Solo Exhibition, Between the Grid and the Mark. Gallery2, Johannesburg
This exhibition consists of a selection of work produced over two years. During this period, I attended two residencies. One at the Budapest Art Factory in Hungary and the second at Entabeni Farm, by invitation of the SA Foundation for Contemporary Art, in Knysna, South Africa. My experiences between these two places and the village, Rosendal in the Easter Free State, where I live, and Johannesburg, my home city, were decidedly different, but there were also some important constants.
My interest as an artist lies in the landscape and the impact humans have on our movement within space and the perceptions that the ‘owners’ of land, whether public or private, impose on our reading of place. For this exhibition I explored diaphanous barriers as a visual link. In Budapest it was the covering of state buildings under restoration (amongst other the State Opera House), in Rosendal it was the covering of fruit trees with frost cloth, In Johannesburg the safety fences at roadwork sites and in Knysna, a natural barrier in the covering of land by young invasive trees taking root after devastating fires. Conceptually these diaphanous vails speak of protection and peril. The coverings (grids), in all instances, change the reading of the shape of the thing it covers. They stimulated me to enquire, at first intuitively, but ultimately, through reverse engineering the rational interpretation of marks left upon the location.
The exhibition consists of three series’. In the series Blind I explored colour (Cadmium and Cobalt) for its disorientating abilities. As toxic metals they are key components in the development of contemporary communication and ‘green’ technology. I used inversion and complementary colour to mimic the process of seeing and being blind. In State Opera, I explored the fascist politics of Hungary under the leadership of Viktor Orbán. Here I focused on state owned buildings under renovation. Orbán’s policies are seen as inspirational by dictators globally. He actively uses the arts as a tool in propagating a fundamentalist Christian state. He is known for disastrous environmental policies, oppression of gender diversity and encouraging xenophobia. Colour and inversion yet again played an important role in my attempts to ‘see’ this landscape. In the series After the Fire I continued to explore the same pictorial language. Knysna holds particular interest to me as my grandfather six generations removed, Rutgert van Huyssteen, was one of the first colonial settlers and landowners in the district in the late 18th century. My ancestors partook in importing many of the current exotic trees to Knysna and were co-responsible for the destruction of the natural forests. I visited Knysna three years after the devastating wildfires of 2017. The crunch of the burnt debris was still tangible underfoot. Adolescent Black Wattle shoots competed in a frenzy for space creating an impenetrable diaphanous thicket. These invasive exotic plants stifled all other plant growth. Although green these new-fangled forests felt dead and ominous. They were like beliefs without context. The areas worst hit by the fires and the current invasion of foreign plant species were where the natural forests were disturbed. Digesting these non-spaces cannot be done without acknowledging the marks my ancestors left on the landscape. Their intent was probably not malevolent, they simply wanted to survive, but their legacy of ownership and privilege is problematic.
This exhibition is a literal and metaphorical nod to the book The hidden life of trees by Peter Wolleben. In the book the secrets, ecosystems and memories of ancient forests are described. The author laments their destruction and the loss of their memories. The contrast between the fantastical delusions of a dictator like Orbán, personifying the policies of neo-liberal capitalism and its capillary networks and the dreams of a conservationist at Entabeni Farm in Knysna, and some lessor human versus nature interventions, are pitted against each other – The irrational order of a fascist state versus the rational chaos of conservation.
This exhibition happened to take place during the hight of the Corona epidemic in South Africa, which inspired the work Crumple Zone.
2020. 27 July – 12 August. Group exhibition, Journey of the Mind. Everard Read Gallery, Franschoek, South Africa.
2020. 18 June – 8 July. Online Group Exhibition, Still. Everard Read Gallery. Johannesburg, Knysna, Franschoek, Cape Town, London.
2020. 20 Feb – 30 March – Art Nite – Nel on Long, Cape Town. Group show to coincide with Cape Town Pride. Curated by Luan Nel.
2019. 1-31 August 2019 – Invited artist to attend international residency programme at Budapest Art Factory.
2019. 1-6 July 2019 and 8 August – 4 September 2019 – Betwixt and Between – An exhibition by the Free State Art Collective curated by Karen Brusch for the Free State Arts Festival. Exhibition travelled to Johannesburg to Gallery2
2018. 6 December – 7 February 2019 . See Art: Contemporary Drawing. Curated by Derek Zietsman.
The predominant medium used for the paintings is watercolour on cotton paper. A medium that could be described, in a digital age, as being as outmoded as analogue. For the most, the works consist of three paint pigments, two of which are metals namely Cobalt (blue, green) and Cadmium (red, yellow, orange). The third is Ivory Black. These pigments have sticky associations. Cadmium and Cobalt are toxic to humans. However due to their stable inert character and their brightness, they are popular with artists and used extensively outdoors as signage to regulate human behaviour. Most cobalt deposits are found in the DRC and is mined under questionable conditions of child labour and worker exploitation. Here most of the cobalt is mined by artisanal miners who tunnel into the earth to create a labyrinth of underground caves. The primary use of cobalt is not for paint but in the manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries for smart phones, drones, electric cars and solar power systems. Its use is therefore associated with progress and technological advancement, and military technology. It is the metal that’s increasingly underpinning the digital world and the global economy. The colour Ivory Black (Bone Black) is derived from the carbon remains of incinerated animal bones and its origin harks back to the colonial era when ivory was burnt to create the pigment.
Inspiration for the series was also taken from subterranean termites, the Woodworm and the Western Australian White Ant. These insects are known to destroy interiors while leaving exteriors intact. The only sign of their presence are circular holes on the surface. The saying white anting is often used to illustrate the hollowing out of institutions and the eroding of foundations, especially political ones. However, it must not be forgotten that if it was not for the White Ant the digeridoo would never have existed. In Julian Barnes’ book The history of the world in 10 ½ chapters, the Woodworm, without ever being mentioned in The Scriptures, hitches a ride on Noah’s wooden ark (the second creation myth recorded in the Bible) and from then on remains the bane of many a land and seafaring adventurer intent on conquering, understanding and ruling the world. As the “1%” are eyeing to colonize neighbouring planets they are lying the foundation for, what in the future might be considered a another creation myth. This time the woodworm and the white ant will probably be left behind as they venture into the future with Germs, Guns and Steal as per Prof Jared Diamond’s book title. The metaphor of the woodworm is however unlikely to be dislodged from the human conscience.
2018 – 8 – 30 March. Bank 001: Emerging Contemporaries. In Toto Gallery, Birdhaven, Johannesburg
2017 – 2018, 12 December – 28 January – Oliewenhuis Art Museum – Bloemfontein. Emerging Visions: Telling the South African Story. The launch exhibition of the South African National Art Bank.
2017, 8 August – Tapir Gallery – Berlin. Showing of film It is so beautiful it must be artificial produced in collaboration with Isolde Krams. A 32 minute video depicting a surrealist scene of the beautiful but toxic mine dumps outside of Johannesburg, South Africa.
2017, June – Gallery 2 – Johannesburg – Winter Exhibition. With: Zolile Phetsane; Marcus Neustetter; Eric Duplan; Wessel van Huyssteen; Kyra Pape’; Gail Behrmann; Samson Mnisi, Laurel Holmes and Bronwen Findlay
The exhibition How to Paint a Highway? consisted of a series of large scale watercolour on paper paintings, inspired by travels on the N1. It investigates this structure within the landscape as both a unifying and dystopian South African space. The subject matter mainly consists of debris collected on the shoulders of the highway and is painted in forensic detail – reminiscent of topographical art – to excavate the layered histories of the objects depicted and the materials used.
2014 – Sasol New Signatures, Pretoria Art Museum
2014 – Showcase 2 at Bayliss Gallery. Curated by Gordon Froud.
2005 – 2006 Produced/Directed/Edited the films It is so beautiful it almost looks artificial (Exhibited at ABSA Gallery) and Miss Lellerap Raw in collaboration with Isolde Krams as part of her ongoing performance piece Miss World.
2004 – Perspective 30 – Johannes Stegmann Art Gallery (Artist)
1999 – SA coordinator. Rewind, Fast-Forward, Contemporary Art From South Africa at the Van Reukum Museum, Holland.
1998 – Katlehong Art Centre Artists – Sandton Civic Gallery
1997-98 – SA coordinator/Exhibitions Producer Dreams and Clouds South African cultural festival at Kulturhuset, Stockholm. Festival coincided with Stockholm, Cultural Capital of Europe ‘98.
1995-96 – Co-Curated of, and participating artist in, the first National Gay and Lesbian Art Exhibition: Gay Rights, Rites, Re-Writes Exhibition which toured nationally. It opened at Martin Melck House in Cape Town, then Oliewenhuis Art Museum in Bloemfontein and the Gertrude Posel Gallery at Wits University.
1986 – Free State Artists – Johannes Stegmann Art Gallery, Bloemfontein
1985 – SA Students Exhibition – Grahamstown Arts Festival 1994
1984 – Rolfes Impressions – Johannesburg Art Gallery