»When I first received the invitation to this exhibition I thought I would perhaps see an array of paraphernalia of what amuses artists when they are at home chilled and not occupied with the uncertain nature of the visual art object. After all can one really work all day long without rest? As an artist, unless you are employed in a dimly lit sweatshop, there must be something else that occupies you during your art practice on any given day. I walked away from my viewing of the exhibition fortified in the idea that artists wrestle all day long with making art; even when they are suppose to be taking a breather«
To bring the present exhibition concept to fruition the head curator and founder of BKhz Studio Banele Khoza invited ten artists who have always held his attention in the art circles including a long time muse Moshekwa Langa. Personally speaking due to my own professional ignorance and, perhaps, geographical practice restrictions, with the exception of four artists featured in this exhibition I was unfamiliar with the rest of the six artists until my viewing of the exhibition for this review. I should go out more.
‘What do painters do all day?’ is a meditative exhibition in a sense that the works submitted for the exhibition was selected by the artist themselves for until their submission the BKhz Studio curatorial team did not know what they would be working with. Never mind my own understanding of the question inherent in the exhibition title wherein I associated it with leisure in-between working, the work can be seen as ‘very personal responses’ from the artists to the exhibition title. The overall feel of the exhibition at first hand anchors the exhibition within a traditional paradigm of what an exhibition ought to be. An exhibition is an exposition of objects. Looked upon within the ambit of the visual arts our point of departure is media and our rubicon, though debatable, is the aesthetic appreciation; as some works are made with the intention to question the aesthetic nature inherent in the visual art object itself as a finished piece. This discursive nature of art practice is there, you just have to take in what confronts you.
The curatorial team narrates how as the exhibition was coming together in the space a visitor thought that the empty frame that stood where Moshekwa Langa’s work hangs was a an artwork only to be disappointed upon their return visit to find the real artwork occupying the space. Perhaps the challenging nature of the portrait itself acerbated the revolt in that viewer which nuances an idea that the artist might be communicating a fact that they prefer to deal with the uncomfortable in the work that they produce to challenge the viewers’ expectations. Or that they prefer to consume some literature between working as we see with copies of James Joyce’s Ulysses and Jeffrey Dudgeon’s Roger Casement: The Black Diaries in-between working.
Matt Hazel’s contribution to the exhibition stands firmly side by side with that of Langa
by taking a step further that which is dear to the artist in-between life and art making. This is the garden chair, vase, an intimate impasto dripping painting and an interacting series of artworks hanging on the wall in a pile. The inclusion in the composition of the vase which has the words ‘the good stuff’ written on it erects a wordplay within itself as an independent item in the installation composition as well as an element actively interacting with the worn out garden chair and the two works hanging on the wall. The work, as a unified piece, reeks of relaxation and contemplation.
The works of Nina Torr, Nelson Makamo, Heidi Fourie, Mashudu Nevhutalu, Mark Reicherdt, Banele Khoza and Vusi Beauchamp oscillating between the personal and impersonal comes across as traditional exposition at first encounter until one reflects on their heavy contents and sureness in their matured artistic execution and endeavors. It is Gabrielle Kruger whose two pieces are of a probing nature to what can be done with painting and dispels the artist as a relaxing figure between work and life in general. Here we are confronted with oil as a constructing media as it can be seen with the delicate marsh mat made entirely of woven oil paint and what looks like a cartographic map made out of stubs of squeezed out oil paint. What one is looking at here especially with the mash mat is not a painting of a mash mat but the actual mash mat itself made out of oil paints. It is the medium which is acknowledged – specifically what it tries to portray.
Such is one of the many slices of discourses that this exhibition presents within the framework of personal responses to the gallery call out for participation. It is important to bear in mind that BKhz through its curatorial teamwork consisting of Banele Khoza, Sihle Motsa, Hloni Dichabe and Oratile Papi Konopi have conceived a disruptive space amidst traditional gallery spaces in Johannesburg.
The founder is unwavering in his ideal that when he established the Studio sometime in the middle of this year he did not just want to have a space that would be his working space only and show only his work but to also give other artists the opportunity to show their own works; specifically what they would like to show. In this breadth the artists would be given the opportunity to dictate how they are seen by the art world. BKhz Studio is a malleable space which in the future would see it dabble in other art forms as well, be it music or poetry. One can only enthusiastically imagine what artistic rippling effects emanating from 68 Juta Street would cause in Bramfontein in the year to come.
Presently, the exhibition ‘What do painters do all day?’ is intimately lively and proves that a title of an exhibition can be personal and unrestrictive. The Simplified nature of the labelling system as a device in its omission of mediums and titles of artworks by way of data invites an open minded viewing of the work on the part of the visitor to make up their mind about what they might be looking at. Modern thinkers in the history of the visual arts have the tendency to toy with reception theory when they opined that the life cycle of an artwork comes full circle when a viewer engages with it. This exhibition flings the doors of that phenomenon wide open. The exhibition is viewable until 31 January 2019.
© mmutle arthur kgokong 2018