The UNISA’s 2016 4th Year Exhibition

 » An academic exhibition for fourth year students is an important milestone in the career of the art student. Simultaneously a fourth year art exhibition is a grand gesture from the institution itself to say to art patrons that this is our achievement over the past four years or so; This is the direction that art might take. Of course the ‘direction’ will solely rely on the art students themselves should they pursue their art practice further beyond academia because there is a vast difference between making art for marks and making art to say something within the annals of the fine arts fraternity mindful of commerce and socio-political environments. Even without care to these preoccupations for the artist to make art and contribute to human culture by continuously evolving the art object towards certain possibilities or ‘direction’, to retain the set tone above, it is a resounding milestone in their art practice «  

An interesting fourth year exhibition is now on show at the UNISA Art Gallery until 20 January 2017. The exhibition reflects on the human condition through various divergent lenses ranging from a comment on our hybridization with machines through use of communication devices that demands our attention, to microscopic life forms that reminds us of the important of water as far as organic life form’s survival is concerned and uncontrollable nature of mental conditions. There are also work that are memoir in their take of the artists’ life experiences and social commentary in a number of works that rounds off the exhibition.

The biological fusion with technology as in the work of Louise Pretorius, wherein she used pink resin fused with cords to express almost cybernetic system like anatomy in the work entitled ‘Techno-Stress Inhabits’ address a possible future for humanity wherein our integration with communication machines/devices may take on another level. It was quite interesting to see one of her installation referencing Ingrid Bolton, a UNISA Fine Art Department Alumni. Sarah Boshof’s work reflects on the misfiring of neurons as a possible cause of bipolar; she had used a horde of wire sculptures to express neurons. The craft-like approach of sculpting the floating neuron’s using wire is reminiscent of Walter Oltman’s work. They are grand in their presentation and demand a sweeping gesture of looking from the viewer as they confront the wall wherein they are installed.

The work of Janice Wyndham-Quin, Interconnected Interdependence, continues the organic interrogation by tackling microscopic organisms, these blown up through the use of quality paper are suspended from the ceiling and almost touch a floor.  Actually all artist discussed thus far make use of the ceiling to suspend their content. This floating of the work specifically with the work of Wyndgam-Quin takes advantage of the slightest air currents which upon entering the gallery animates the work thus giving life to the static.

Alicia Hudson’s multimedia installation ‘Inside Outside Onside’ talks about the radioactive hazards of the mine dumps affecting the West Rand communities as evidence of how humanity is destroying the environment. She decries how if nothing is done our fate is sealed, that we would be forced to wear masks which is unnatural as this is not how nature intended us to live.

Pauline Borton takes us on an excursion of the Johannesburg Art Gallery through the work entitled ‘Trace Memories of JAG’ this is a work in multimedia installation that recalls the gallery through its architectural structure. Here then the artist has chosen to erect a portrait of a building that has come to mean a lot to her as it has influenced her relationship with art.

When one proceed to work of Kristy Fletcher entitled ‘Re-membering, Re-thinking: Exploring the juxtaposition between memory and fact’, wherein a washing line has been used with images accompanied by various repressive old South African acts, there is a tone of underlying protest here. Although at face value the work may look as if the artist actually borrowed ready made object from mass production into the art world one is proven wrong on closer inspection as one realizes that the images that are hanging form the washing line are actually water colour paintings. These images are accompanied by the acts themselves to accentuate or underplay their meaning.

‘Phephelaphi- Where to now’ the work of Henry Moyo reflects on the state of the troubled Zimbabwe from the pint of view of its currency state. Here then the artist reminds us how in our neighboring state the printing of more money has created a smoke screen that all is well; it has created a false sense of security. What will be next after printing large amounts of money but yet you know that your currency is defunct.

The video installation ‘Moer my Land My Land’ by Marco Kohn Versfeld speaks about the destruction of the land from a socio-political perspective undertone. Through the destruction of an artwork in an open land. This is one work that will resonate with one of the contemporary issues in modern South Africa, the land. In the video installation the protagonist destroys a meticulously made structure in an open veldt with a bludgeoning tool, hammer, and patrol bomb to perhaps express the fragility of land as a structure and whatever we may erect on it and also that land as an demarcated arena is malleable by whoever who controls it at a particular time.

Lastly the deviant work of Tony Wintour, an installation of pipes, speaks about the inescapable nature of systems, either being natural or socio-politically made. There is a heap of polly filler here and a stuffed rat there to nuance the absurdity and inescapability of systems.

All in all the UNISA 4th year exhibition presents a bag of thought provoking ideas about what challenges the South African society is struggling with. Thematically speaking it is a journey from the self to the populace. Of course since the works are heavy in conceptual content and considerable in scale they may not make it into the private ordinary person collection echelons. These gestures are better suited for corporations. They are gestures to be savored in open uncontested conversations.

*Image used in this article is from Marco Kohn Versfeld‘s work ‘Moer my Land My Land’.

At the UNISA Art Gallery.

3 December 2016