GHADA AMER | KUDZANAI CHIURAI | DOR GUEZ | NICHOLAS HLOBO | SAMSON KAMBALU | WILLIAM KENTRIDGE | MISHECK MASAMVU | CASSI NAMODA | YINKA SHONIBARE CBE | HANK WILLIS THOMAS | NAAMA TSABAR
Tsabar’s practice is primarily focused on the change that occurs in a physical space through the introduction of music and sound. Tsabar achieves this by opening a possibility for viewer interaction, dissolving the typical barrier surrounding art objects in order to create an intimate and performative atmosphere between her works and the space. For Tsabar, this gesture in her work speaks to a desire to reframe how visual art can be viewed and appreciated.
Tsabar’s Transition canvases resemble large-scale paintings or drawings from afar. Cables, buttons, connectors and parts from amplifiers and speakers form geometric compositions on amplifier fabric. The amplifiers used in the works have been disassembled and reassembled with the exact same components. Each amplifier retains its functional order while exposing the very wires that make it work. The Transition works create an experiential installation which the artist describes as “sculptural paintings that have the ability to output sound.”
Ghada Amer is a multimedia artist whose body of work is anchored and informed by ongoing ideological and aesthetic concerns: the submission of women to the tyranny of domestic life, the celebration of female sexuality and pleasure, the incomprehensibility of love, the foolishness of war and violence, and an overall quest for formal beauty, constitute the territory that she explores and expresses in her artistic practice.
Many of Ghada Amer’s paintings make art historical references in subversive and humorous ways. The Virgin without the child speaks to Amer’s interest in subverting assumptions related to the roles and attributes assigned to women, rejecting both religious-driven laws that govern women’s bodies as well as second-wave feminist ideas that reject expressions of conventional femininity as an avenue to empowerment.
Mapping connections between historical archives, photography, and performance, Guez’s photographic series mines the rich historical and mythological dimensions of Jerusalem as a site of religious and political projection. Guez’s 'Lilies of the Field' is comprised of luminous prints of pressed floral and plant arrangements that the artist discovered in his research of the American Colony archive.
The flowers represent a diversity of flora indigenous to the holy land, and the areas surrounding the Old City. As popular souvenirs for tourists and missionaries, the pressed flowers in themselves document different forms of devotional labor, from the work of the artisans who pressed the flowers, to those who made the journey and acquired them as souvenirs. Selected by Guez these plant-based objects are embedded with contradictions implied by a discrete piece of nature – the flower – preserved in resin, frozen like taxidermized game captured by a hunter. Equally contradictory is his use of color which belies the natural conditions of the landscape from which the plants emerged.
— Text by Sara Reisman
Working with various found objects and materials — leather, rubber, bronze, ribbons, copper and brass —Nicholas Hlobo considers his artistic practice to be a kind of autobiography through which he articulates a sense of self. Through an obscured grammar within a language of abstraction, Hlobo explores his psychological, emotional and spiritual journey. “My work is about my journey, how I relate to myself and to the outside world. I’m very curious about the invisible, intangible and incomprehensible aspects of that journey and there is always a slipperiness to the process of figuring it out”, says Hlobo.
Hlobo uses materials that have resonance to his personal memories, he explains; “Materials are found and used as a way to add more layers to the narrative. And how they are intervened with, forms a part of becoming a language that tells the story. Found objects have their own stories with various patinas depending on where they come from.”
Ivulandlela, which can be translated from isiXhosa as “the pioneer”, is about finding a path for others to follow. It is a way of paying tribute to those who have come before and opened the way for many to follow.
Samson Kambalu is an artist and writer working in a variety of media, including site-specific installation, video, performance and literature. His work is autobiographical and approaches art as an arena for critical thought and sovereign activities. Born in Malawi, Kambalu’s work fuses aspects of the Nyau gift-giving culture of the Chewa, the anti-reification theories of the Situationist movement and the Protestant tradition of inquiry, criticism and dissent. Samson Kambalu’s Beni Flag series references the Malawian culture of the Beni, Mganda and Malipenga dances. This tradition sees individuals donning uniforms worn by the “Keyala” or King’s African Rifles (KAR), an East-African branch of the British army who served in both World Wars, to create a form of masquerade that incorporates flags and other Western symbols of nationalism.
William Kentridge’s botanical drawings of trees are rendered in Indian ink on the pages of old encyclopedias and attempt to capture the forms of trees indigenous to the area around Johannesburg. Using photographic references and drawing loosely in ink, the trees are grown page by page – each page holding only a fragment of the whole. The complete botanical forms emerge more by recognition than by a pre-existing clarity as to what the plant must look like, as the pages are shifted, layered, torn, pieces added, marks added – until the tree reveals itself as complete.
In an interview with Artnet, published in October 2021 Kentridge reflects on the images of trees as follows;
“It is about allowing things to take their shape—I’m not quite sure why all these trees are being drawn. In one sense, they’re long-term self-portraits. I read somewhere a description of death that said we all grow our tree of death inside us. It starts growing when we’re born, and we have to hope that we’ll live long enough for this tree to be a great, beautiful, strong tree before it comes through us.”
Lost District is amongst one of the more abstracted paintings within Masamvu's oeuvre but there are certainly other paintings that have been executed in a similar style and vein. What is most fascinating about these more abstracted works is how Masamvu has utilised space and line within the canvas. Using these aspects and qualities in an abstracted mode, much like Cy Twombly and other European expressionist painters, Masamvu creates and forms an imagined environment that is not associated with any particular geography. Rather, the paintings should perhaps be understood by the mental and psychological landscape – pointing to an alternative reality where each layer of paint, or brushstroke on the canvas, proposes a search to resolve conflicted experiences or decisions.
Cassi Namoda explores the intricacies of social dynamics and mixed cultural and racial identity. Capturing scenes of everyday life, from mundane moments to life-changing events, Namoda paints a vibrant and nuanced portrait of post-colonial Mozambique within an increasingly globalised world.
Bringing together charcoal acrylic and oil, Namoda's Dance of Life forms part of an ongoing series inspired by Norwegian expressionist Edvard Munch. In the work, a couple can be seen in a passionate embrace, with tears gently flowing down the woman's cheek. This subject matter dovetails with several recurring themes in Namoda's work, present in her depiction of Downtown Maputo's red-light district in Mozambique, as well as paying homage to Ricardo Rangel’s series "Our nightly bread".
Over the past decade, Shonibare has become well known for his exploration of colonialism and post-colonialism within the context of globalization. Working in painting, sculpture, photography, film and installation, Shonibare’s work examines race, class and the construction of cultural identity through a sharp political commentary of the tangled interrelationship between Africa and Europe and their respective economic and political histories. Shonibare uses wry citations of Western art history and literature to question the validity of contemporary cultural and national identities.
In this body of works, Shonibare references iconic classical figures whose clothes have been hand-painted in the style of batik designs. Importantly these batik designs have been altered by the artists into new forms. Within these works, Shonibare places the pattern directly onto the skin. This deftly denies any notion of race and concentrates our attention on the movement of the pattern-adorned body and its connotations of sexuality, masculinity, athleticism and the ideal body.
Hank Willis Thomas incorporates a wide range of historical sources that he transforms through an experimental approach to image-making. His work is an investigation of historical and cultural apparatuses surrounding issues of race, gender, and identity today.