Mod­ern mix

Con­tem­po­rary Art South Africa

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPOS -

One of the note­wor­thy artis­tic con­cen­tra­tions hap­pen­ing at this year’s Art Santa Fe is an ex­hi­bi­tion by about a dozen South Africans. In early July, cu­ra­tor Mlon­dolozi Hempe told Pasatiempo that he would present works by 12, and per­haps 13, artists for the show Con­tem­po­rary Art South Africa. He hoped all would be able to at­tend the open­ing but added that there are is­sues with visas.

The par­tic­i­pat­ing artists range in age from their 20s to their 70s. Some are vet­er­ans with long port­fo­lios and many ex­hi­bi­tions, and a few of the youngest are still stu­dents. Some are self-taught, while oth­ers are at least par­tially in­debted to for­mal art ed­u­ca­tion.

Con­tem­po­rary Art South Africa boasts a se­lec­tion of paint­ings, pho­tog­ra­phy, and mixed-media and sculp­tural works in sub­jects that in­clude vil­lage life, ur­ban scenes, so­cial com­men­tary, and tra­di­tional de­sign — ren­dered both fig­u­ra­tively and via ab­strac­tion.

Hempe en­deav­ored to come up with “a good mix to show­case a va­ri­ety and to keep peo­ple’s in­ter­est so that they don’t just see the same type of art. Some pieces are more ab­stract so they bring a con­tem­po­rary feel to it, then you get more of your re­al­is­tic artists as well.” This is the third cu­ra­to­rial un­der­tak­ing for Hempe, an artist work­ing in fur­ni­ture, fab­rics, pot­tery, and wall­pa­per de­sign.

Among the artists rep­re­sented in the ex­hibit, Ma­jolandile Dyal­vane is unique for pre­sent­ing a ves­sel — a col­or­fully dec­o­rated wooden pot. Dyal­vane, born in a vil­lage in the Eastern Cape province, stud­ied art and de­sign at a tech­ni­cal col­lege in Cape Town, and then earned a diploma in ce­ram­ics at Nel­son Man­dela Metropoli­tan Univer­sity. “His in­spi­ra­tion is drawn from the tra­di­tional ves­sels that are used by a fam­ily, and then he ab­stracts them into a mod­ern way of mold­ing his clay,” Hempe said.

Col­lage artist Sam Nh­lengethwa, born in a more ur­ban con­text out­side of Johannesburg, has typ­i­cally worked with mu­si­cal themes. “The dis­junc­ture of frag­mented mon­tage im­ages is the vis­ual equiv­a­lent of the twisted har­monies and stac­catos of jazz,” he says in an ex­hi­bi­tion state­ment. His piece for Con­tem­po­rary Art South Africa, how­ever, ap­pears to sim­ply por­tray a pair of goats.

Slightly more con­fronta­tional are the paint­ings of Nel­ton Nigel Willemse, who hails from the arid Klein Ka­roo re­gion in the Western Cape province. In his work, he ref­er­ences so­cial is­sues hav­ing to do with em­ploy­ment and gen­der equal­ity. Pho­tog­ra­pher An­drew Shabangu ad­dresses the tri­als ex­pe­ri­enced by Africans mov­ing from ru­ral ar­eas to cities. “De­spite these chal­lenges of poverty and liv­ing un­der ex­treme harsh con­di­tions, or­di­nary Africans are still able to cre­ate a sense of com­mu­nity, be­long­ing, iden­tity, and op­ti­mism,” Shabangu says.

Mishack Rapha­lalani is a self-taught artist whose fore­bears worked with gold, cop­per, and iron, as well as carv­ing wood. For his carved fig­ures such as the one at Art Santa Fe, he works “to set free the im­pris­oned fig­ure.”

An ab­stract paint­ing by Daniel Rankadi Mosako ap­pears to de­pict sky­scrapers and float­ing grids and sym­bols. “I re­gard my­self as an art jour­nal­ist whose art pieces are like an open book that makes ref­er­ence to key so­cio-eco­nomic is­sues through­out the world,” he says in an artist state­ment. In his paint­ings he ref­er­ences mi­gra­tion is­sues, and he em­ploys “meta­phoric rep­re­sen­ta­tions of de­serted build­ings to por­tray gen­eral prob­lems [and] vast pop­u­la­tion growths, as well as so­cial con­flict trig­gered by the quest for ba­sic liv­ing turf and re­sources.”

Pain­ter Pauline Maz­ibuko deals with the ev­ery­day strug­gles of women and chil­dren, who were rou­tinely abused in her child­hood com­mu­nity — although her own par­ents were lov­ing and re­spect­ful to her and to each other, she says in her state­ment. “Most, if not all my art works, are a rec­ol­lec­tion of what I saw and ex­pe­ri­enced in my youth, of how I imag­ined the women/chil­dren felt, of their need to be seen and heard, their rea­son to go on another day, of how amidst the heartache and pain they ex­pe­ri­enced daily, they al­ways found a way to smile, to love and be free.” — Paul Wei­de­man

Ves­sel by Ma­jolandile Dyal­vane; above, paint­ing by Avashoni Main­ganye

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