Monday, July 20, 2009

Eco Reminders

On 16 July 2009, slapping a bit of green paint onto a few twigs, I took off down Longmarket Street to hand them out to passers-by, as small reminder that we have a natural environment around us that we should not forget about. About 3 people of the about 20-30 people (I didn't count the twigs beforehand) didn't want to take the twig that I offered them, while most people asked about the reason for the twig. Almost everyone said thank you; and I also met a very inspiring man, Mitch, who dwells Greenmarket Square with his goods. He sells packaging material to the market sellers, and also gives something edible to those who have a bad selling day. We surely need more Mitch-characters in our society.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A flight of money and debt

Review of Wessel Snyman’s “The Birds”
By Janet Botes

Hovering above your head in the exhibition space is a great flock of paper birds. At closer inspection you notice the distinctive detail on the paper, identifying the birds as ATM slip birds. The amount of time it took to meticulously fold each ATM bank slip into an origami bird, greatly outweighs the time it takes you to move from the one end of Snyman’s installation to the other. On both of these end walls you will find a framed print relating to the installation.

One of the framed prints is a view of the installation printed onto an ATM bank slip and framed similarly than the first. The result of this print is an amplification of the exhibited work and its character, while also giving a slight digitalized impression that further connects to the current climate of economic affairs in the world.

In this current economic climate, Snyman’s work is not only fitted and timely, but also shows insight and proves to be quirky and catchy. One of the framed prints, “This is not an ATM slip”, not only refers back to the art and practice of artists from the 1960’s and 70’s, but also comments on our consumer lifestyle. This is illustrated quite effectively through the image integrated into the frame of women eating processed foods. We pay substantial amounts of money for luxury, comfort and things we think we need. Debt accumulates as we continue to attain more and more material possessions.

Birds are usually a symbol of freedom, but the sheer amount of birds that hover above the viewer’s head brings to mind a cacophony, should they all start screeching and cawing. This lends the work an unsettling ambiance that suits the anxiety that millions of people feel about the economy, money and their dwindling bank balance. As installation piece, Snyman's work proves effective, striking and relevant.

"The Birds" are on exhibit until 1pm on Friday 24 July 2009 at the Association for Visual Arts Gallery, 35 Church Street, Cape Town, South Africa. Gallery hours: Weekdays 10h00 to 17h00, Saturdays 10h00 to 13h00

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Discussing Art making

Review of Kentridge and Dumas in Conversation
Screened at the Encounters Documentary Festival at the Nu Metro, V&A Waterfront, Tuesday, 7 July 2009
By Janet Botes

This documentary gives insight into the production and thinking processes behind the artwork of two of the most renowned South African artists today. William Kentridge and Marlene Dumas share their working methods, techniques and studios with each other and the viewer. Their art differs in a wide variety of ways, with widely opposing styles and approaches, which proves greatly successful in defining each artist’s work. Scenes of the two artists working in their respective studios, scenes of their work and scenes from an exhibition of each artist’s work were integrated almost seamlessly into the prevailing conversation.

During the conversation, controversial taboos in art were touched slightly, but both artists seemed a bit reluctant to address deeper issues of context and meaning in their work. They were also not encouraged to talk about their thoughts on South African Art at present and how they perceive it, which could have proved insightful and increased the depth of the discussion. Another possible and valuable question would have been to explore how, or if, either artist contributes to supporting new talent and in this way advancing contemporary art into new heights and ventures. Being established and influential, they are essential players in the field, and what they do could have great repercussions.

Even when keeping the above in mind, however, one does realize that these were not issues or themes for the conversation, which was in fact geared toward their art and how they create it. Should the above questions or issues be included in the documentary, it would have lost its focus on artistic production and rather moved its focus into the sphere of artist community examination. This could be another avenue of exploration for the director, Catherine Meyburg, who could prove to be a very successful forerunner in promoting art practice and art discussion through documentary film-making.

Kentridge and Dumas in Conversation screens again on Firday, 17 July 2009 at 6.30 pm. Make sure to book your seat, as they are limited and well worth it.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Pop culture meets surrealism

Review of Originalé, solo exhibition of Louis Minnaar's work
by Janet Botes

At first glance the viewer is transported into a fantasy world in black and white - flying birds, wrinkled men and spider creatures share a space with arrows thrown through the sky and into people, birds and pictures. Dynamic images on screens, as well as recordings in a streetlamp and owl-resembling recorder/player, further enhanced the surreal quality of Louis work in the small space of Salon 91.

His stylised illustration style, the simplity of the imagery and the diversity in form are some of the characteristics making the collection of work a unity without losing the viewer’s interest. Surreal combinations of misformed human bodies and animalistic forms create a phantasmorical undercurrent – and thus creating an own visual language with metaphors that could possibly represent a pursuit of sanity. This is further enhanced by the use of his digital motion manipulations or footage displayed on screens, of which imagery includes sea creatures. The innovative use of audio further expands the tangible manifestation of Minnaar’s ideas.

Balance between the minimalist nature of the black and white imagery and a complexity of content is achieved by using a wide variety of forms, and subjects that include arrows, large eyes, birds, spiders, creatures, ligaments and morphed features. The strange juxtapositions and experimental nature of the work begs for classification as contemporary art, while the graphic quality and clarity of imagery makes it accessible and open to interpretation by a very wide audience.

Little in the work illustrates purely local content, and rather puts the work in a universal and global market. In a South African context, this might reflect on a need of artists to reach further than national borders to make a living or make a difference through their art. But it could also reflect a deeper dissatisfaction with supporting obvious association with Africa, South Africa and the sometimes hyped-up diasporas it create. Regardless of the many different opinions, views and interpretations his work will spark, Louis Minnaar seems to be one of the forerunners for a new state of visual expression in art.

The exhibition runs 30 June 209 – 27 July 2009 at
Salon 91, 91 Kloof Street, Gardens, Cape Town.
Gallery hours Tue-Fri 10am-6pm Sat 10am-2pm

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The City my Canvas

Let's paint, sculpt and artify Cape Town!!!
Artists collaborating for a creative Cape Town.

I'm looking for artists, interested in collaborating with me on a project where we would each create our own public sculptures/artwork in and around Cape Town. We need to meet, plan, talk, share ideas, and eventually create individual-, as well as a collective proposal to be presented to the appropriate authorities for approval.

The project is inspired by the District Six Public Sculpture Project that was endeavored and proved highly successful in 1997. The City my Canvas Project, aims to create high quality permanent artwork that will:
  • communicate a positive message to the community,
  • encourage participation by the public and thus make the arts more accessible to them
  • add to the aesthetic quality of the urban environment,
  • make the city even more enticing to tourists.
Please contact me with your name, contact details, some examples of your work, and your initial idea at Go for it!!