Igshaan Adams looks back to move forward in his new show
When Dust Settles, Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner Igshaan Adams’s solo show, was initially exhibited at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in mid-2018 and is currently on at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg. The exhibition comprises pieces that readdress concepts Adams has explored or materials he has used in previous bodies of work, in a quest to find out how these may evolve and be extended through maturity and hindsight.
Looking back is a regular exercise for the artist, whose work is concerned with personal histories, particularly his own, growing up Muslim in Cape Town in the ’80s and ’90s. The main focus of the show will be installations made with vinyl flooring, which revisit Vinyl, his first solo show after graduating from art school in 2009, for which he extracted worn vinyl flooring from homes in Bonteheuwel, where he grew up.
For his new body of work, the white shapes left in the flooring after the printed patterns have been walked off during daily domestic life are mirrored in new largescale bead and yarn tapestries. ‘I’m interested in trying to piece together narratives by looking at marks on the floor – something so overlooked – and wondering what kind of stories they tell,’ says Adams. Among the vinyl wall installations and woven works will be
abstract sculptural figures made from the same white fencing his grandparents had in their front garden, obscured within layers of string – a nod to the weaving he has incorporated into his practice more recently. The ghostly figures represent ideas, dreams or aspirations made visible.
We spoke to Adams shortly before When Dust Settles first opened in June 2018. What was the starting point for
When Dust Settles?
Starting out years ago, I set goals for myself that seemed so unachievable. So, after winning the Standard Bank Young Artist Award, I took that moment to have a good look at everything I’ve done. I was curious to see how I’d developed and evolved and how things had changed. I asked what I’d missed the first time I dealt with certain issues and how I’d approach the medium or the concept differently as an older version of myself. I looked back at it all and I opened up my entire practice to myself. How would you describe your practice? I explain my practice and the way I think as a mind map: the core idea is always an internal search, going inwards as deep as I can and relating that space to the external, whether that’s my physical body, my environments or the players within those environments. Other concerns then branch off from this. My practice is not linear. The concepts I explore continue. As much as I’ve dealt with certain issues in the past, there are still residues of things in new works.
T HIS PAGE, CLOCKWISE F ROM LEFT
Some of the worn household flooring that forms part of Igshaan Adams’ latest solo exhibition, When Dust Settles, in which he readdresses concepts of his identity explored in previous bodies of work; the multisensory installation, bringing together aspects of sculpture, textiles, found objects, furniture and performance, was shown earlier this year at Gallery in the Round at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown; ‘Fall’, made from beads, galvanised wire, cotton twine, mixed rope and fringe.
OPPOSITE PAGE, F ROM TOP
‘Carry’ and ‘Stay’, made from garden fencing, cotton twine and wire.
What are some of the past works you reference in When Dust Settles? In a previous performance my father prepared my body in the Islamic ritual as if I’d died (‘Please Remember II’, 2013). This time I’ve asked my older brother to do a feet-washing ritual with me.
My brother and I grew up in apartheid Cape Town. He was very light-skinned, and was certainly treated differently because of it, so I became a sort of shadow figure. In my youth I felt like I didn’t have an identity of my own, I was just Kashief’s brother. That was tough.
Today we have a really tight bond; we’re committed to being good brothers to each other. I really enjoy this idea of brotherhood that as much as we grew up in the same environment, we took such different paths and are very different people. In this performance, I’m bringing together ideas of forgiveness and humility.
In a separate performance, my mom will be cooking boeber, a sweet milk drink we serve during religious gatherings. The idea came to me in a dream before I began my works for this exhibition. In it my mom was boiling big pots of milk that she said she’d prepared especially before anybody else arrived so that I could have as much as I wanted. It’s almost like a performance-slash-part of the catering. How do you hope people will react to the work? As an artist you are always aware of how you think people will read the work, so you try to guide people through the experience. But I enjoy being surprised by how people see things. I’ve deliberately made an effort to keep some things mysterious. You don’t want to give everything away where people think, ‘Oh I get it, it’s time to move on.’ You want them to work a little bit. I think I’ve achieved that, leaving the viewer mystified and maybe even a little bit frustrated. But I’ve tried to balance this by using aesthetics and beauty. Beauty is important to me because people can appreciate it even if they don’t understand the concept.
When Dust Settles is currently on show at the Standard Bank Gallery in Frederick Street, Johannesburg CBD, until 15 September 2018. standardbank.com/ whendustsettles
T HIS PAGE, CLOCKWISE F ROM A BOVE ‘Spin’, made from wood, metal, galvanised wire, cotton twine and mixed rope; Igshaan Adams; installation view of When Dust Settles (2018).