For Sale Project Exhibition 2012

NOTE

What follows is a speech prepared to open officially the For Sale Project Exhibition 2012. Due to the hype around the exhibition at the evening of 1 August and the throng of people who responded to the opening I never gave this speech. Avoiding the heavy burden of history I instead improvised and picked up the most salient ideas around the exhibition and its aims. The speech as it is reproduced below serves to pay homage to my contemporaries in Pretoria/Tshwane within the visual arts who have been involved in this project over the last decade. It is reproduced herein for all to gain an understanding of our attempts to move visual  art forward in the City of Tshwane.

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Good evening ladies and gentleman. Artists. Thank you for joining us this evening as we open this year’s installment of the For Sale Project Exhibition. My name is Mmutle Arthur Kgokong, I am a Culture Officer for the City of Tshwane and I am responsible for Education and Development at the Pretoria Art Museum. I feel honored to share this evening with you. I shall not  give a critical commentary on the work that is on show for I believe that criticism in itself is designated to individual speculation as to what art concepts work better than others or which artwork is successful in a given context. Tonight I let you, in your personal capacity to be the judge – to be the connoisseur of fine art.

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Neo Resistance Art and its Fallacy

/a mistaken reasoning which makes an argument invalid/

/the ability not to be affected by something/

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I was going to title the present article artwork. That title would not have encapsulated the issues that I would like to tackle presently. In a country that is divided economically as well as operating along racial lines when one looks at the so call liberal arts, even before we consider such art liberal, we must go to the beginning of the conception of an artwork which is in itself a problematic journey. Yet its locale is quite clear, the conception of an artwork takes place within the exercising of freedom to respond to stimuli either internally or externally to the artist.

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A gentle invasion of Auke De Vries

The Holland born Auke de Vries is firm in his stance as to what the intention of art should be with regard to the public. He insists that art should complement the space it occupies. By this insistence he alludes to both the public’s mind as well as the actual space where art can be experienced. His work in particular is intended to be installed and viewed in public spaces especially the cities. He affirms that his art is not influenced by any artist in particular however he admires the work of Richard Serra.

I’ve had the opportunity of meeting the 73 year old in the district of the Cradle of Mankind at Nirox Foundation on 2 March while attending a writer’s workshop on Art Reporting: with him as a subject. The present jots are results of my impression of the artist.

Nirox Foundation is an expanse of nature reservation cum Sculpture garden. It is here that Auke is presently having 11 Sculptures entitled – A Gentle Invasion on show. The fact that these sculptures are inspired by birds nest is quite apparent to the viewer.

Surprisingly, contrary to the number of sculptures that the invitation purports to being on show – the body of work on show exceeds 11 if you take into consideration the work in the Cool Room exhibition space as well as in the Studio Gallery where there are what he calls proposal commissions which in essence are a cluster of miniature sculptures which one day may become huge gigantic sculptures in public spaces. On the walls there are preparatory drawings of these sculptures on show. Outside above a flowing river that feeds the ponds and lakes of Nirox a robust metropolis nest sculpture made out of stainless steel is suspended. And still outside there are several sculptures, about three meters high, across the green pathway that leads to the Studio Gallery.

Humorously, as we sat down in the studio gallery on that Tuesday afternoon to do my interview exercise, I noted an artwork, in the form of the motif of bird-nests, on exhibition that resembled a security camera. It was actually the second time that I saw this kind of sculpture. There was another one outside the studio gallery. I asked him whether I was off the mark in thinking that the artwork has any reference to a security camera.

‘Oh ya, with this work in particular I am paying homage to South African society by playing with issues of security. High security (security cameras) in South Africa was one thing that struck me the first time I came here’ he responded.

When I asked him whether there is still a demand of public art he points out that the demand is still there because the Cityscape is not complete without people and that public art is there to complements the interaction between the city dwellers and the city itself.

He points out that his art is inspired by the city itself. Ironically he was born in a rural area of Holland. When he was 16 years he hitched hiked to Paris and there began practicing art as a self-taught artist by making etchings. He constructed models from which he made his etchings and apparently someone at some point drew his attention to the fact that the small models could also be regarded as art – as sculpture. This sparked his fascination with three-dimensional form.

His birdlike colony sculptural form is actually a metaphorical reference to the form of the cityscape. He does not feel that titling the artworks is an important aspect of the work for the viewer inevitably brings their own meaning into the work of art, as such most of his work is untitled. By leaving the work untitled he sees this as an invitation to the viewer to participate in the creation of the meaning of the work. In the light of this, having done commissions in Germany, Amsterdam as well as Bangkok – he does not believe in holding public discussions of his commissioned work that occupies public spaces. However in a setting where he is having an exhibition, like the resent show at Nirox, he is open to do walkabouts and give talks of his work.

I ask whether he has ever done a collaboration work with another artist of artists working on the same piece. He is strongly opposed to the idea of corporations, organizations or cities giving commissions to two or more artists, who may not even work within the same concept or share concerns, one commission to work on.

He argues that the selection panel that is tasked with awarding the commission should choose one artist whom they think is the best to work on the commission. Each artist has their own unique concepts and concerns that they address creatively through their work.

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Auke de Vries 11 Sculptures for S.A.- A Gentle Invasion runs until 2 MAY AT Nirox Foundation. Then 16 May – 1 July at Seippel Gallery, Arts on Main and comes to Tshwane/Pretoria 19 August – 26 September later this year at the Pretoria Art Museum.

14 March

© Mmutle Arthur Kgokong 2010

Joe de Beer's Departure Art Exhibition

Art functions simultaneously at two levels, on the one hand it is a commodity and on the other it is a reflection of the artist’s meditation on life: The lived experience that the artist has personalized as stills of moments either in symbolic form or as direct commentary of what the artist feels ought to be known. It is through a sustained art practice that the artist can achieve the latter. Of the two functions of art, the artist, Joe de Beer is concerned with art’s meditative function on life. In the middle of preparations for this exhibition he pointed out that the fact that artists are ignored by the general society is double edged in that on the one hand the artist has no proper support in a form of patronage within their immediate society and on the other hand the artist is liberated in that he/she is left to their own design to pursue their own interest in their art production albeit the fact that the general society does not romanticizes them as it was the case in the past.

Looking at De Beer’s artworks, one cannot help but feel the echo of this isolation of the artists in visual art practice in the artist quest to locate that personalized and liberated artistic commentary on our society he so professes.

Doppelganger

In the diptych Doppelganger two men occupy the same seating bunk but one is denied the awareness of the other man by the visor he wears while his movement is also restricted by the bars he is inserted in. Man on the other part of the diptych, aware of the other’s predicament, looks on with an indifferent expression on his face, as if belying the word reserved on the notice on the space for number ‘3’ on the bunk.

The controlled smooth toned pallet of De Beer is carried further in the Duelpainting Duel; charged with the gender issues although not directly commenting on the battle of the sexes, rather alluding to divergence from that naturalized expectation that man and women are forever twined by circumstances – which is a social construct. In our time it has become evident that this is not truly the norm due to the importance placed on self assertion, pursued through career paths on the side of women, especially leadership roles either in the government sector or corporate sector. Viewed in this light the Siamese Bicycles on the foreground of the painting cancel out that deconstruction of the new relations between man and women and maintains that there is an element that would always bring the two together and I suppose it will depend on the viewer’s point of reference of what that element may be.

Energy = Energy

Anyone who appreciates painting undoubtedly admits that the image that we see on the surface is the paint itself, and that it is through its manipulation that the artist is able to represent the real world or imaginary world. The fact that all is based on empirical data of our immediate visible realm is what Energy = Energy plays around with. A painting which in its original form was exhibited in the traditional format of hanging on the wall; but however in the present exhibition De Beer has transformed it into an installation by presenting it on the floor facing up with an oversize painting brush meeting it at mid way, simulating the painting process.

Not only are we to appreciate the trompe l’oeils effect of the execution of Decoythe painting but doubly we are impressed by the fact that the materials which in unity make up the painting are made bare by attenuating the traditional wall hanging of ‘a painting’ on the wall is subverted and given a new perspective by displaying it horizontal on the floor– reinforced by the suspended brush.

None So Blind As Those Who Will Not SeeThe mirage on the painting holds the interrogating principle of reality in this work together, that painting is an illusion that occupies space. And it is with this work that De Beers affinity with the Surrealist – Rene Magritte is undeniable as it is in Decoy and None So Blind As Those Who Will Not See.

Over-Time

In Overtime De Beer moves into concrete forms in that he uses materials that are a product of our society by compressing into one space a year’s worth of parking coupons collected while meeting his partner after work home bound. Here time and dates spiral from the past and pierce into the future. It is time that the modern laborer sells as a commodity to the employee and the explicit modes that record that lapse of time of our busy lives turned commodity is rendered at certain junctures of our daily lives implicit to us. It is through the deployment of a conceptual art stance that the obvious can be revealed. In this light the conceptually charged Overtime is a reportage of that dendrology like pilling up of time and memories sealed by the past. All the answers are held by time and we are its travelers.

This exhibition marks Joe de Beers coming of age since it encapsulates the work done over ten years of the artist’s practice from the dawn of the new century to the present year. The exhibition is also symbolic on another level. It marks the final months of De Beers’s presence in South Africa before departing to Tasmania, Australia.

The the title of the exhibition ‘Departure’ is very personal in this regard because I am moving away from South Africa into another world inevitably filled with new experiences’ he has remarked and then added that as for the work Overtime in its form and executions it also marks another departure for him, it marks the direction he will like to take in his art production – that is to make conceptual artworks. To the discerning viewer Energy = Energy alludes to this direction already albeit it’s rendering in traditional media as its basis.

One can only imagine what kind of artworks we will see coming out of Australia to South Africa in the coming years with Joe De Beer speaking to us from the Diaspora.

21 October

© posthighdEF’21 2009

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The Departure Art Exhbition, curated by Bongani Mkhonza, is on show in Pretoria at the Centurion Art Gallery until 12 November. Centurion Art Gallery is a satelite art gallery for the Pretoria Art Museum.  The gallery is located at Cnr Cantonments Rd & Unie Avenue, Lyttelton ManorCenturion. The Gallery’s Contact detals:
Telephone number: 012 358 3477
Fax number: 012 664 6242
e-mail: artg@tshwane.gov.za
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The present writting is a foreword taken from the catalogue of the profile21rexhibition. It’s publication here in Post High dEF’21  is fully acknowledged by the artist Joe de Beer.