Goodman Gallery is delighted to present Sue Williamson’s solo exhibition Turning the Pages at Oude Leeskamer, Stellenbosch. The exhibition includes historically significant and new works spanning 1992 to 2023.
This is Williamson's first solo show in South Africa this year. It follows an acclaimed solo survey show at The Box Museum in Plymouth UK, Between Memory and Forgetting, and a two person show with Lebogang Kganye, Tell Me What You Remember, at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.
As an artist who started her professional career as a journalist, followed by a stint as a copywriter at a large New York ad agency, Williamson has always been drawn to the power of words. South African literary and archival materials provide the inspiration for each body of work. From a children's colouring book bought at the Boer War Museum, to a South African guidebook issued by the State Tourist Department in 1936, to witty diaries of the wife of the first British Colonial Secretary in the Cape. Williamson interprets each reference in her distinctive style, offering a unique perspective on South African history.
Added to the conversation are engraved glass works memorialising the lost buildings of District Six as well as the Postcards from Africa series - ink drawings based on photographic postcards sent in an era of colonial expansion. The series redraws the landscapes and situations imaged in these old photographs, but the people who once stood so stiffly in many of them are no longer required to be present. British human rights campaigner Emily Hobhouse - whose newspaper accounts brought reforms after exposing the shocking conditions in the concentration camps set up for Boer women and children during the Anglo-Boer War - is honoured in a work entitled Readers will be interested.
Sue Williamson (b. 1941, Lichfield, UK) emigrated with her family to South Africa in 1948. In the 1970s, Williamson started to make work which addressed social change and by the late 1980s she was well known for her series of portraits of women involved in the country’s political struggle, titled A Few South Africans (1980s).
A major retrospective of her five-decades long career will be shown at Iziko South African National Gallery in 2025.
Major international solo exhibitions include: Between Memory and Forgetting, Plymouth (2023); Can’t Remember, Can’t Forget, Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg (2017); Other Voices, Other Cities, SCAD Museum of Art, Georgia (2015), Messages from the Moat, Den Haag, (2003) and The Last Supper Revisited, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C. (2002).
Group exhibitions include: Breaking Down the Walls - 150 years of Collecting Art at Iziko, Iziko South African Museum (2022); RESIST! The 1960s Protests, Photography and Visual Legacy, BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels (2018); Women House, La Monnaie de Paris and National Museum for Women in the Arts (Washington D.C) (2017, 2018); Being There, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (2017); Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life, International Centre for Photography in New York and the Museum Africa in Johannesburg (2014); The Short Century, Museum Villa Stuck, Munich, House of World Cultures, Berlin, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and P.S.1 New York (2001-2).
Williamson has participated in biennales around the world, including the Kochi Muziris Biennale (2019); several Havana Biennales as well as the Sydney, Istanbul, Venice and Johannesburg biennales.
Williamson’s works feature in museum collections, ranging from the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Tate Modern (London), Victoria & Albert Museum (London), Pompidou Centre, (Paris), Hammer Museum, (Los Angeles) to the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution (Washington D.C), Iziko South African National Gallery (Cape Town) and the Johannesburg Art Gallery (Johannesburg). Williamson has authored two books - South African Art Now (2009) and Resistance Art in South Africa (1989).
In 1997, Williamson founded www.artthrob.co.za, a leading website on South African contemporary art and the first of its kind in the country. Awards and fellowships include The Living Legends Award (2020), attributed by the South African government’s Department of Sports, Arts and Culture; the University of Johannesburg’s Ellen Kuzwayo Award (2018); the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Creative Arts Fellowship (2011); the Smithsonian’s Visual Artist Research Award Fellowship (2007) and the Lucas Artists Residency Fellowship (2005) from Montalvo Art Center in California.
Williamson lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa.