Category Archives: art history

The Symphony of Line and Colour

I

Contemporary Outlook

|>>>/ There is something daring about art when it becomes a personal reflection; when it’s thematic considerations are meditations of its maker on themselves. This mode of working which is a tenant of contemporary art is a brave leap as the artist leads the viewer into a personal space both in imagery and a nuanced psychology of the self. If the body of work produced in this frame of mind sees the artist sharing personal anecdotes with the viewer through art making discourses then the viewer can be seen as accessing what can be akin to a memoir through a strewn body of a work that represents a ‘particular period’ in the artist’s life and career. The reader should note that I am saying that the memoir access that they will be subjected to with regard to the artist only represents a ‘particular period’ in the artist’s life because surely the artist focus, if they are constantly searching for new forms of artistic expressions, will shift in time and come to bare on something else \<<<|

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Intraparadox: Interview with Elizabeth Balcomb

Auguries of Innocence

4 September at 09:40, Pretoria Art Museum

 Elizabeth Balcomb standing next to 'Son of Man, 2015' (3)

SELF PRESERVATION

Mmutle Arthur Kgokong: I hope you are ok this morning

Elizabeth Balcomb: I’m good very good, yes, yes

Mmutle AK: You slept in Pretoria or in Johannesburg? (laughs)

Elizabeth B: No in Pretoria, geeze just up the road, very closed. I’m fresh

MAK: …yah well I am glad that you are…

EB: close, close

MAK: fresh, you know, after last night’s busy evening.

EB: yes-yes

MAK: And thank you for agreeing to speak to me Elizabeth. Ehhm, I just want us to start right at the beginning. Where were you born, and you know, what was it like growing up where you were born?

EB: Alight, I was born in Westerneria, but ehhm when I was not even three months old my parents moved to Howick in KZN, ya, and then we moved to Pietermaritzburg after, …my father was a minister of a church, but this was during apartheid days, and he was part of the underground [movement] to overthrow the government and in his church he wanted black people to come…and and just start changing South Africa but [the church] elders kicked him out as a result and so we had to leave Howick and moved to Pietermaritzburg and he started lecturing Theology and so yah that was very part of my life was that experience, Yah…

MAK: So (interrupts)

EB: but, about, I wanted to beno, I was told the moment I started drawing pictures that I was talented and I had always had that encouragement my whole life and when I was about eleven years old I saw a sculpture and I wanted to start sculpting from about that age

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Andrew Tshidiso Motjuoadi (Ico-Graph)

AMotjouadi Photo1935, May 13: Andrew 1Tshidiso Motjuoadi is Born in Limpopo (formerly Known as Northern Transvaal)

1935 – 1960: 2there is a scarcity of documentation around the artist life during this period.

1961 – 1962: Studies in Durban and University of the North

1963: First one man show in Johannesburg

1964: Motjuoadi is commissioned to paint backgrounds for Cornel Wilde’s film The Naked Prey

1965: Participates in several group exhibitions; (The Penny Whistlers)

1966: Awarded a prize in the Artists of Fame and Promise Exhibition, Johannesburg; (Kwela Boys)

1967: Andrew Motjuoadi Suffers a Stroke

1968: Motjuoadi passes away after being paralyzed for nearly a year. The artists surviving body of work is handed over to Esmé Berman for safe keeping.

1971: A memorial – Retrospective Exhibition of his work is held, Johannesburg, South African Association of Arts Gallery, Herbert Evans, Johannesburg.

1988: He is included in the The Neglected Tradition Exhibition¸Johannesburg Art Gallery

1990: He is included in the exhibition Looking at Our Own: Africa, Pretoria Art Museum

Andrew Motjouadi, Study for Township Life 2
Andrew Motjuoadi, Study for Township Life 2

 

Notes:

  1. Esmé Berman acknowledges the artist name in full name (see Berman, E 1983, page 200). Art and Artists of South Africa: An Illustrated Biographical Dictionary and Historical survey of Painters, Sculptors and Graphic Artists Since 1875. A. Balkema, South Africa, Johannesburg.

 

  1. Motjuoadi is considered to be a self taught artist, the period from 1935 to 1960 wherein the artists could have been brought up in a particular community in Northern Transvaal/Limpopo has not been documented in the sources that were available during my research. This represents a great puzzle in the life of this artist. This period could prove valuable in ascertaining where he attained his primary education, high school education as well as a form of arts education or contact with art or western traditional art making materials such as pencil and paper which he was conversant with. More research is needed in this period of the artist’s life, such research could shed light into the gap that exists in Motjuoadi’s life. Armed with this missing data we might perhaps also be afforded the opportunity to delve into the choice of style of the artist in the light of contact with visual art stimulus that the artist might have come into contact with during the initial year of his art practice.

 

© Mmutle Arthur Kgokong 2015

mmutleak@gmail.com

follow @mmutleak

 

Colonial Discourse – art production

î∩ the visual arts the choice of subject matter, method of representation, the content of the work as well as the context within which a work of art is produced plays significant role in how the message inherent in the work is conveyed. Bearing these factors in mind when confronted with a work of art will stand us in good stead as we attempt to make sense of what we are looking at and aid us reach some understanding what role that particular work of art played within its original context. One can agree that a work of art continues to reflect its original intended message through time. What changes through time is the context within which it is viewed or exhibited. But the original context if known by the viewer can always be brought into the viewing in order for the viewer to appreciate what kind of a message the work might have been intended to convey when it was produced.  In this very short essay I will attempt to show how colonial discourse influenced art production by referring to two artworks. I shall analyze the two artworks in terms of

1) Colonial discourse

2) Post-colonial discourse

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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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Hosea Matlou: Towards Simplicity

It is a privilege for one who has not dedicated one’s self to the pursuit of art practice, one who gathers joy in its consumption through the activity of looking to be afforded the opportunity to be familiar with those who are engaged in the production of the visual art object.

 

I Gestation

Visual Art Production like any other art form attains its full expression as a unique form of individualistic artistic expression now and then when a new talent emerges. It is a duty of those involved in its pursuit of visual art practice to unveil a new artistic language unique to their production in order that they are discernible from the multitudes of other artists. An artist achievement is unquestionable when, through hard work and prolonged search for individuality, arrive at a new artistic language to communicate ideas.

The triumph of an artist is in two respects. First, the artist must contend with their context in their pursuit of their chosen vocation this context differs from artist to artist. Secondly the artists must go through the rigors of mastering their chosen media.

 

With these two aspects conquered only then will the artist settle on a journey of self discovery and invention. These two aspects are here stated in their successive nature: first self discovery and second, invention. In their further elaboration: self discovery is attainable at that juncture when an artists fully embraces their vocation as creative participants in the visual arts and invention will stem from that point in their career when they stumble, more often through trial and error and seldom through luck, at what will be their formal language in art – their unique style. But before we swing wide we must retain and address context and media. Introduced at the first few lines of the present paragraph, context within which artists practice differs from artist to artist. More often it is financial circumstances that must be transcended in order to establish practice. With regard to the mastering of the chosen vehicle to deliver the message, or simply put medium, the artist must learn to acknowledge the artistic approaches laid down before him by his predecessors through Art History; blessed are those who learn directly from the master. Having gathered what is essential from the fountain of art practice, the master that is, the artist through time emerges and charts a unique route of their own. In the long run, through commitment and perseverance the artist will acquire his or her rightful place in the History of Art.

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A View of Four Dada Portraits

‘Let us take the word Dada,…It is just made for our purpose.The child’s first sound expresses the primitiveness, the beginning at zero, the new in our art’ – the Dadaist christening Non Art (Richardson, T and Stagnos, N 1974: 109)

 

Portraiture is one of the most important genres in western art history in that through it great figures in history were captured.The aim of this essay is to view four Dada portraits in terms of how they show 1. Sociopolitical realities 2. Gender Expectations’ codes of convention and 3. The role of spectator. The artworks that this essay will discuss have been produced between 1915 – 1920.

Portrait of Tristan Tzara


Figure 1

When we look at this work we are confronted by an arrangement of organic shapes, one on top of the other building the composition of the work. There is no reference to the human face. However we are drawn to the medium itself and how it has been manipulated to depict Tristan Tzara (1886 – 1963).

According to Richard Huelsenbeck, Tristan Tzara was one of the Zurich artist members who founded Dada in 1916. Hugo Ball, Hans (Jean) Arp (1887 – 1966), and Marcel Janco ( 1895 –  1985 ) were the other members of this group (see Chipp, HB. 1968: 377).

According to Tristan Tzara ‘In art, Dada reduces everything to an initial simplicity, growing always more relative. It mingles its caprices with the chaotic wind of creation and barbaric dances of savage tribes (Chipp 1968: 386). This is indeed true of figure 1. The composition is simple and it looks like anyone who is not an artist might have produced the artwork.

In 1942, in a lecture entitled ‘Abstract Art, Concrete Art’ Jean Arp highlighted that:

1Concrete art (Abstract art) wishes to transform the world. It wishes to render existence more tolerable. It wishes to save men from the most dangerous of furious madness: vanity, it wants to simplify man’s LIFE. It urges man to identify with nature (see Jean Arp, ‘Abstract Art, Concrete Art’ca. 1942 Cited in Chipp (1968:391)

The key word here is ‘nature’. In the Portrait of Tristan Tzara the shapes which represent Tristan Tzara recall forms which can be liken to algae, rock formation or even plant leaves. Observe the gaping shape towards the right.

If we bring one of the questions raised at the outset of this essay, the one that concern socio political references I think that the work is devoid of such references, it is rather a personal account. It is a personal account in that, though its title alludes to an important figure in the Dada movement’ it is an abstract rendition of its subject matter or, to use Arp’s term, it is Concrete. One cannot easily make out the image that the work is depicting, it is the title of the artwork that affords the viewer the opportunity to fathom that it is a portrait and also the viewer’s schooling in modern art movements can afford the ability to make the connection as to who Tzara is.

The portrait then, as unrealistic as it is, terms of abstract art, which strives to save, free man and simplify his life, it represents Tristan Tzara. This artwork which was conceived during World War I is devoid of gender expectations.

The role of the spectator is to ponder what the work is trying to show. The spectator is propelled towards a deeper questioning of what art should be and the form it should take especially bearing in mind the western tradition of art making.

Chipp points out that Dada was an attempt to free the artist from traditional views of the arts to form a conception  of art as a moral and social phenomenon (1968: 380).

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