Goodman Gallery is pleased to present Jeremy Wafer’s solo exhibition; Arc. The exhibition coalesces new and existing works that reflect on boundaries, barriers and enclosures, continuing the artist’s exploration of these concepts throughout his nearly four-decade-long career.
Through sculptures and a site-specific installation, Wafer brings together threads that contemplate the social and historical landscape of South Africa. For the artist, barriers do not only speak to borders — which can be read as physical mechanisms — but also allude to edges that have the potential to tolerate as well as to resist containment, classification and sheltering. Through the thematic of enclosure, indicated by straight and curved lines in sculptural forms, Wafer considers his personal geography within a broader context of possession, dispossession, security, vulnerability, removal and loss.
The exhibition takes its title from a central work by the same name, pointing to the arc as an outer perimeter of a curve that is simultaneously closed and open — at once concave and convex depending on the position oftheviewer. Through its almost circular shape, the arc is both protective and unconstrained.
Arc (2009) is a six-metre steel and wax sculpture that draws attention to the possibility of a line becoming form. Encircling the exhibition floor — diagonally from one corner to another — the work creates a weighted division that nonetheless withstands absolute containment.
Breaking away from pure formalism, Wafer merges divergent materials to create forms that allow him to explore materiality as both form and content; the rigidity of steel for instance against the malleability of rope. Fathom (2021) is a sculpture made from thirty metres of rope with plugs of lead casts at one-metre intervals. The sculpture is a reference to sounding lines used to measure the depth of water from boats, alluding to the artists’ interest in processes of measurement evident through various spheres including surveillance and mapping.
Airconditioner (2022) is a large-scale wall drawing produced through repetitive pencil markings reflecting on the notion of drawing as a process of thinking. Using the idiom of minimalism — as experimentation with space, material and geometry — the artist highlights interactions between fluid forms (as seen in the work Fathom) alongside more rigid structures (as seen in the work Arc), bringing into focus the relationality between objects where space is rendered both static and dynamic. His structural and deconstructionist approach to materials allows him to explore space through abstraction. In the context of South Africa, this relates to the persistence of physical and psychological barriers that suture not only in topography but also peoples, relating to racial segregation as well as class separation.
Alongside these works, Wafer presents smaller works including; Centre (2022), Diagonal Divide (2022) and Vertical Divide (2022) that offer different articulations of place through adjacency and orientation.
The exhibition draws attention to the relationship between location, dislocation, connection and disconnection as well as the significance of memory in how place, or rather placeness, is mapped, organised and experienced.
Jeremy Wafer (b. 1953, Durban, South Africa) grew up in Nkwalini in what was then Zululand. He studied fine art at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg (B.A.F.A.1979) and at the University of the Witwatersrand (B.A. Hons. in Art History 1980 and M.A. Fine Art 1987).
Wafer has taught in the Fine Art Departments of the former Technikon Natal (now DUT) and Technikon Witwatersrand (now UJ) before being appointed Associate Professor. Wafer received his PhD in 2016 and was subsequently appointed full professor of Sculpture in the School of Arts of the University of the Witwatersrand.
Wafer is the recipient of numerous awards and residencies, notably the Standard Bank National Drawing Prize in 1987 and the Sasol Wax Art Award in 2006. His work featured on the South African Pavilion of the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015. Wafer has exhibited in South Africa and internationally, his work is represented in the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC, the South African National Gallery, the Johannesburg Art Gallery as well as in many other museum, private and corporate collections.
Wafer lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa.