“Met meegevoel, passie en dapperheid beeld Wessel Snyman “Weifeling” – ‘n boek deur Koos Prinsloo gepubliseer in 1993 – uit in ‘n reeks kunswerke wat fokus op manlikheid, aanvaarding en menslike struwelinge. Wessel se werk is kompleks, intiem en insiggewend met ‘n autobiografiese aanslag wat nie meer dikwels in kontemporêre kunstenaars se werk gevind word nie.”Friendly, approachable and passionate about his art, Wessel Snyman is any gallery owner, journalist and editor’s ideal artist. Currently completing his postgraduate qualification at Stellenbosch University and focusing primarily on the integration of text and image, his body of work is conceptual, multifaceted and intriguing.
Following the successful exhibition of his installation “The Birds” at the AVA gallery in July, his current solo exhibition “Weifeling” is a visual interpretation of Koos Prinsloo’s book with the same title, published in 1993. At the same time it is also a reflection and depiction of the artist’s own life experiences and the struggle against society’s prejudices and preconceptions against same-sex relations and masculinity. “Weifeling” is the second of Koos Prinsloo’s four books that Wessel has transformed into a range of artworks, and his artwork reflects his familiarity and understanding for Prinsloo’s writing.
Drawing correlations between artist and writer, Wessel focuses on commonalities between his own life and Koos Prinsloo’s life. The presence of one’s own mortality flows as an undercurrent in the work, while the accepted traditions and standards in culture - particularly the Afrikaans “Boere” culture - are depicted as stifling, limiting and even unreasonable. Wessel’s work is a brave and honest portrayal of his experiences and awareness.
Some of the visual metaphors being used include a tradition of sport participation for boys in schools – expecting a boy to play rugby, do wrestling, or participate in athletics. When opting not to participate, a boy is ‘branded’ as the stereotypical ‘nerd’, softie or even “moffie” (an Afrikaans phrase for a homosexual male). The old tradition of young men being forced to join the army, even though not in use any more, illustrates the obligations and requisites that society and authority dictates to a man. To express the inevitability of one’s own death and also the vulnerability of one’s life, Wessel directs the viewer’s thoughts towards the stars, clouds, flying, and technology versus man. Reference is also made to how man is often bound or unable to “fly free” through the effective use of a bird’s wings in one of the works.
Another devise that is used to great effect in the body of work is the use of a gilded frame in some instances, the use of typography or text, and the inevitable reference to book design. This all supports a concept in tradition, culture and heritage through the conversion and communication of knowledge as well as opinion. At the same time the use of feminine objects or images such as embroidery, lace and flowers that is juxtaposed with accepted masculine images, objects and concepts, leaves no doubt towards which traditions and prejudices Wessel opposes himself through his work. Truly intriguing, relevant and impressive.
“Weifeling” is on exhibit until 30 September 2009 at Raw Vision, 89 Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock. t +27 76 581 9468. www.rawvisiongallery.com
Review of “The Birds”: click here