WHEN DUST SETTLES
While you’re downtown in Newtown and looking at investing in young artists, do yourself a favour and go across to the Standard Bank Gallery, which will be showing When Dust Settles, the much-anticipated solo exhibition by Standard Bank Young Artist Igshaan Adams, from 16 July to 15 September.
Speaking of investing in young artists, do yourself a favour and go to the Standard Bank Gallery, which will be showing When Dust Settles, the muchanticipated solo exhibition by Standard Bank Young Artist Igshaan Adams, from 27 July to 15 September.
Igshaan Adams was born in 1982 in Cape Town, South Africa. Combining aspects of performance, weaving, sculpture and installation that draw upon his upbringing, his cross-disciplinary practice is an ongoing investigation into hybrid identity, particularly in relation to race and sexuality. Raised by Christian grandparents in a community racially classified as ‘coloured’ under apartheid legislature, he is an observant but liberal Muslim who occupies a precarious place in his religious community because of his homosexuality. As such, the quiet activism of Adams’ work speaks to his experiences of racial, religious and sexual liminality, while breaking with the strong representational convention found in recent South African art. He uses the material and formal iconographies of Islam and ‘coloured’ culture to develop a more equivocal, phenomenological approach towards these concerns and offer a novel, affective view of cultural hybridity.
Adams states: ‘I am concerned with my two environments: the internal and the external; and the constant exchange of information between the two. As I project myself onto the world, so too do I internalise the world’s projections onto me. Initially, I grappled with deconstructing my hybrid identity, focusing on my multicultural, religious and sexual identities in relation
to the domestic and political environments in which they were formed, hoping to understand the conflict I was experiencing. My focus has since shifted to wanting to know more about the self from a multidimensional, universal and mystical position. Doing and undoing, pushing and pulling, employing restraint while at the same time being open to discovering new elements of beauty through playful experimentation, all of this allows me as the artist to insert my personal inquiry into the work. My aim has always been to question and challenge boundaries in a sensitive way.’
Adams is the 2018 winner of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art. Presented annually, the prestigious award culminates in a solo presentation of the recipient’s work, launched at the National Arts Festival
(NAF) in June before travelling to institutions nationwide. Following its recent premiere at NAF, Adams’ When Dust Settles will conduct a nationwide tour of museums and institutions across seven cities.
Drawing upon the material and formal iconographies of Islam and coloured culture, Adams’ cross-disciplinary practice is an ongoing investigation into hybrid identity and liminality, particularly in relation to race, religion, and sexuality.
For When Dust Settles, Adams presents an eclectic and multi-sensory large-scale installation, bringing together aspects of sculpture, textiles, found objects, furniture and performance to create an immersive environment.
‘I have always taken a personal approach to making my work,’ says Adams. ‘As soon as I’m done, I detach myself completely. For me, it’s the process of making the work that becomes meaningful. I get to understand these conflicting aspects of myself.’
Revisiting earlier bodies of work, the presentation will draw inspiration from conceptual themes, artistic processes and materialities dating back several years to investigate the evolution of ideas within the artist’s practice. For Adams, the intrigue lies in the questions underpinning it: How have his personal views and objectives shifted? How has the artist’s language evolved? What was overlooked the first time?
Previous exhibitions were preoccupied with the domestic environment, specifically that of his upbringing in Bonteheuwel on the Cape Flats. This earlier period in Adams’ art-making is exemplified by his use of found objects, the marks left behind on their surfaces suggesting the physical space as a manifestation or reflection of our internal spaces.
Later, in 2012, Adams’ work shifted to explore ideas around sexuality, and the challenges of reconciling his own homosexuality with the Islamic faith. It was also at this time that Adams furthered his investigation into textile craft, employing string curtains in sculptural installations along with other religious paraphernalia and domestic items associated with Cape Malay culture.
Adams first fell in love with textiles while making ‘thread-based works during my time at Ruth Prowse School of Art. I think my sensual nature responded strongly to the tactility of embroidering with cotton onto the felt blanket. Physically I somehow felt more involved in the process and I could fully immerse myself in it, while the fabrics themselves felt imbued with meaning.’
His interest in textiles developed into the weaving of tapestries out of recycled nylon rope and rags, in designs that often incorporated Arabic calligraphy to reference surahs (chapters) from the Quran. These tapestries, now synonymous with Adams’ oeuvre, were first exhibited on the exhibition Parda in 2015.
In a sense, When Dust Settles serves to insert chapters into existing bodies of work, re-examining those concerns that have informed Adams’s practice for almost a decade.
‘The Standard Bank Award has certainly prompted a period of stocktaking – I have had to absorb everything that I have created up until this point, my entire contribution as an artist, and this process has left me feeling at ease and positive about the future,’ says Adams. ‘While an award of this nature certainly gains recognition for the artist, you cannot rely on this recognition alone, and I wouldn’t underestimate curators or collectors and their ability to see through it. As an artist, you can’t make work to get rich or famous. I make what I feel compelled to make, for me creativity remains a sacred force that responds to honesty.’
To date, Adams has held eight solo exhibitions at blank projects (Cape Town), A Tale of a Tub (Rotterdam), Rongwrong Gallery (Amsterdam), Stevenson Gallery (Cape Town) and AVA Gallery (Cape Town). He has also participated in numerous group shows, both locally and internationally, including Les jour qui vient (2017) curated by Marie Ann Yemsi at the Galerie des Galeries in Paris, Sacre du Printemps (2015) curated by AA Bronson at the Grazer Kunstverein in Graz and Barriers (2015) at the Wanås Foundation in Knislinge, Sweden. Adams has been selected for a number of artist residencies, among them the Sommerakademie im Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, Switzerland and the IAAB/Pro Helvetia residency, Basel, Switzerland. Adams lives and works in Cape Town.
Bent, Igshaan Adams, 2018. Mild steel, wire, rope, cotton offcuts, twine and beads
Vlaggies, Igshaan Adams, 2018. Woven nylon rope, string and wire.
Untitled, Igshaan Adams
Untitled, Igshaan Adams