Highlights from our Art SG 2023 stand BH01 will feature a selection of pieces by Kudzanai Chiurai, Nicholas Hlobo, Remy Jungerman, William Kentridge, Misheck Masamvu, Yinka Shonibare CBE RA, Clive van den Berg, Sue Williamson, among others.
Yinka Shonibare CBE RA
A series of vibrantly coloured, hand-stitched quilts illustrate African artefacts which formed part of the private collections of influential modernist artists such as Matisse and Derain. Classical European sculptures of goddesses drawn from Greek and Roman mythology are hand-painted with Shonibare’s signature Dutch wax batik patterns, their heads replaced with replicas of African masks complimentary to the figure’s associated myths. Each mask has been drawn from a prominent twentieth century artist’s collection.
Flower Kid (Girl) shows the costumed figure of a child holding a bouquet of flowers that are critically endangered, speaking to the current context of global anxiety about the planet. The sculptures all incorporate a globe-like form in the position of a head printed with an astrological map. The names of the endangered flower species replace the names of the constellations and so the loss of nature here on earth is imbued with cosmic importance.
Below is a list of critically endangered flowers that were selected in the bouquet:
Iris Westii, Tiny Flowered Paphiopedilum - Paphiopedilum micranthum, Silene de Ifac - Silene hifacensis, Mosquera de Tamadaba - Globularia ascanii, Clay’s Hibiscus - Hibiscus clayi, Drury’s Paphiopedilum - Paphiopedilum druryi
Oscillating between abstraction and figuration, Misheck Masamvu’s works allow him to address the past while searching for a way of being in the world. His layered painted surfaces and brushstrokes, which are almost visceral, exist as remnants of the physical act of painting giving the sense that multiple temporalities have been included in one picture plane. Beneath the surface of a painted image, an infinity of others exist. Through abstraction, Masamvu’s figures appear in the midst of metamorphosis, absorbed by teeming landscapes.
Masamvu created these paintings during the global lockdowns. Forced immobility created internal conflicts which are expressed in the works. The canvasses appear to convulse, as if caught in the act of mutation. This act of synchronous change and entanglement is evident through the extensive use of line and weaving together of brilliant colour. The result is images that are not immediately apparent, rather cloaked in layers of camouflage that invite the viewer to drum out images in their own mind. The lack of exacting definition from Masamvu’s expressive mark making establishes an honest conversation between the artist and the viewer, an invitation to experience his shifting visual lexicon and a prompt to delve into Masamvu’s own personal layers of history. Collectively, this pushes the viewer to become conscious of their own conflicts.
Kentridge is internationally acclaimed for his drawings, films, theatre and opera productions. While his practice, expressionist in nature, is entirely underpinned by drawing, his method combines studio-based and collaborative practices to create works of art that are grounded in politics, science, literature and history, and maintain a space for contradiction and uncertainty
Hlobo is known for creating hybrid objects, intricately weaving ribbon and leather into crisply primed canvas alongside wood and rubber detritus. Each material holds charged associations with cultural, gendered, sexual and national identity, creating a complex visual narrative that references ideas around postapartheid nationhood and bodily healing.
Using the metaphor of himself as a surgeon, Hlobo treats the canvas like a physical being, ready to be cut open and sewn up at his discretion. For this latest series, Hlobo embraces acrylic paint as a primary material in his toolbox, continuing to sculpt the canvas with multi coloured stitching but alongside bold streaks of paint.
Guided by the subconscious, Hlobo allows the kaleidoscopic gradients of paint to conjure abstract figurative renderings on the canvas. His tactile manipulation of the canvas itself produces protruding structural forms suggestive of topographical models. In between these structures are vibrant, energetic, gestural strokes of paint that contrast with the meticulously woven ribbon.
In the series Postcards from Africa, Sue Williamson turns her attention to vintage postcards of photographs taken by European colonizers in Africa in the first decades of the 20th century. Part of a global craze for postcards, these were sent out as examples which supposedly demonstrated the civilizing effect of colonisation on the colonised, or presented views of exotic Africa for the edification of the folks back home.
Using museum archives or the internet to source the postcards, Williamson reverts to classic drawing technique, dipping her pens and brushes into bottles of ink to build up images with layers of intricate cross hatching and adding colour from a limited palette.
In each drawing, signs of habitation remain visible —dwellings, boats, a pile of coconuts — but the people who appeared on the original postcard no longer appear. The absence of the people from the landscape presents an uncomfortable tension from which a series of questions emerge — where are the people who used to live here? What happened to them? These questions point to the complexity of subverting the colonial gaze —how does one challenge the gaze while also taking care not to perpetuate violence through recirculation of images that re- invoke their original racist and oppressive context?
Clive van den Berg
Van den Berg’s 40-year practice has formed part of a small movement of artists pioneering the insertion of queer perspectives into the larger rewrite of South African history.
Throughout his practice, the artist has engaged with the idea of the land as a porous receptacle for lived experience. This presentation of new large-scale paintings considers the body and the land as loaded sites which carry memories and scars.
The South African artist’s distinct visual language moves between allegory and abstraction as Van den Berg excavates what exists – unresolved – below the surface. For this exhibition, he returns to the concept of ‘fugitive marks’ which he defines as ‘ghosts from the past co-existing with human beings in the present’.
In this vein, a swelling of earth or a pile of stones that once marked a grave or battle site make up the grammar of his landscape vocabulary: ‘these vestigial mutterings of geography are prompts that I respond to in my work, connecting the remnant to its repressed or forgotten source.’
Jungerman’s panels come in various sizes and initially suggest paintings, but they are not. The panels are wooden and wrapped in plaids British-Ghanaian poet Victoria Adukwei Bulley of various colours before covering them in kaolin. In the ongoing series he made in 2020 and 2021, Jungerman adopts a collage-like approach, gluing strips of kaolintreated fabric to a primed surface. Each strip seems to evoke the next, yielding a rhythmic pulse reminiscent of the repeating sound patterns of the Agida drum—used in Winti rituals— or jazz.
In much of his artistic practice, Kudzanai Chiurai has been concerned with the cyclical contradictions of the so-called post-colony as a site of struggle, liberation, conflict, and patrimonial autocracy. His works often address aspects of Pan-Africanism and the history of colonial resistance in Africa that are often disregarded. In an interplay between text and image, Chiurai employs a revisionist strategy to disrupt what he refers to as ‘colonial futures’ – embedding alternative memories into history that remedy the omissions inherent to the colonial project.
As a series, titled Drawings and Paintings from the Radical Archive, Chiurai’s works pay homage to posters generated for the purpose of inciting public into political action in what is now remembered as the turbulent 1970s of Rhodesia-Zimbabwe. By excavating these press-to-public posters and rendering them as paintings, the artist calls to attention the meditative processes required of both the painter and poster designer. The timelessness of the slogans and anthems appearing in the original posters is reiterated within Chiurai’s collage as a painful echo of their continued relevance in present day protest actions.
In so doing, the artist and works highlight the role of cultural unity and division, biopolitics, and intersections of identity, in creating the intensely multifaceted nature of post- coloniality within Africa.
Kudzanai Chiurai is a multi-disciplinary artist working in photography, drawing, film, painting, and sculpture. His practice is largely focused on cycles of political, economic, and social strife present in post-colonial societies. Combining expressionist gestures with images and texts from popular culture, the artist tackles pressing social issues, such as xenophobia, exile, displacement, inequality, as well as the continent’s emancipation.
Executed while on residency at Fondation WhiteSpaceBlackBox in Switzerland, Chiurai’s drawings from Triangular Commerce draws inspiration from Hegel’s philosophical text entitled Theses on Africa which explores the neat systematisation of slavery – through the Atlantic slave trade connecting west America, the Americas and Europe – and the expansion of capitalism, as well as the subsequent impacts on present day Zimbabwe. Through rethinking the current cultural and political realities facing southern Africa, Chiurai confronts the structural establishment and concepts surrounding power and post-colonial system which still systemically dictate education-systems and existing cultural codes.