South African Cultural Observatory

SAADAH Annual Art and Design Expo

BY Danny Shorkend 01.04.17

I WAS fortunate to attend the exhibition of SAADA – South African Antique, Art and Design Association – to coincide with the Cape Town Art Fair opening at the CTICC. SAADA is a member of CINOA, the international confederation of dealers of art.

 Held at the Look Out at the V & A Waterfront, a picturesque setting that lends itself to a wonderful journey in contemporary art and design as well as historic pieces, including furniture, coins and interesting memorabilia. I enjoyed scanning the works on offer, every now and then dipping in a bit closer, checking the price tag as a kind of childish game and then listening in on the hum of the other patrons, many of whom were clearly beyond the borders of South Africa.

 Some pieces that caught my eye were Caitlin Truman-Baker’s work represented by Manzart. Her work appears mystical and mythological, Chagall-like surreal mindscapes with beautiful effect, a narrative that appears to inspire a kind of moonlit, poetic landscape, a dematerialisation of matter, a spiritual journey embodied within or as changing vessels.

 Even more traditional or kitsch works capturing the so-called big five were enthralling. In particular the work of David Filer reveals excellent drawing techniques and a real engagement with specifically the big cats.


Then I was uplifted with a showcase of fine jewellery (for example Frankli Wild) and fantastic artefacts, calligraphy and furniture screens from Japan.

 It was also interesting to see Michaelis School of Fine Arts contribution. One finds that there is wall space left empty, photographs untitled, and works not priced and anonymous. My reading is that this functions as a counter – at least conceptually – to the race for the “big name” or the big sale. Perhaps then such works highlights the superficiality of the art world, at least at the business end? Yet that should not deter one from engagement with art or its application to other fields of inquiry. For the imaginative and creative function is perhaps indispensable to society and may even result in a paradigm shift, a new perspective, an innovative idea or tool and so on. An expo of this kind therefore has the potential to ignite new ideas over and above a sales event. At any rate, the experience of sipping wine and observing an artists community of sorts reminded one that many people do indeed value art and that is heart-warming, even if that was tinged by the obvious hackling for the sale, the incessant desire to create products and services packaged “professionally”, oblivious at times to deeper meaning, to philosophical depth. An idea swallowed up by the beast of consumer culture. Yet to complicate matters, art is also a vocation, so who can escape – for lackt of a better word – the system?

 I must observe though that notwithstanding some beautiful pieces, the African presence - whatever that may mean is of course debatable – seemed somewhat lacking.

 There was also a notable copied selection of old masters’ portraits by Frans Hals, Rembrandt and Van Gogh revisited and then reworked apparently “slapdash” by the artists Frans Smit. One recognises these works of yesteryear painted over in decidedly what may be termed a post modern, popish stylistic intervention. It appeared as a deconstruction of the past and of the icons of so-called Western European portraiture. In this playfulness, if you will, perhaps my desire to counter the old traditional subjects/objects on display is here made possible. Of course these works themselves were not “cheap”.

 Zander Bloom represented by Joao Ferreira is equally scathing of traditional painting and its corresponding ideological construct as her blobs and impasto paint smeared on a pinkish surface is a self-conscious rawness of emotion or perhaps just highlights the materiality of paint and therefore the shaky ground or edifice that is created through systems and traditions of paintings and the ideas or systems it upholds or magically helps to forge. That is, the entire hullabaloo surrounding whole systems or styles of art and ideas it purports to uphold or embody is but paint!

 On the whole, it was intriguing to see Fine art together with design and the like, especially the addition of works four to five centuries old, including paintings, maps and furniture. Even though I may have problemistised the business of art, one cannot ignore the fact that ownership of these objects in a setting of ones own choice perhaps does elevate the heart and mind, notwithstanding the philosophical question as to the complicated arguments around what we value, that is, the difficulty of subscribing to one or any notion of aesthetic beauty.


Siopis, Brand & Messina at Stevenson GallerySiopis, Brand & Messina at Stevenson Gallery

THE three exhibitions on offer have the effect of deconstructing and destabilising assumed paradigms. Penny Siopis achieves through the juxtaposition of painting and sculpture; Jody Brand through her subversive photographs and Mitchell Gilbert Messina accomplishes this through reflecting on the overproduction of internet video.

ERF 81 on the verge of a meltdownERF 81 on the verge of a meltdown

ERF 81 or the Tamboerskloof farm, an ex-military space and a site layered with historical narrative, is threatened by gentrification. When Andre Laubscher moved in together with his family in 1995, the land was turned into a farm and in the process a vibrant, creative community began to form where artists, musicians and writers set to work. Moreover, it became a haven for abandoned children, a place for vegetable growing and markets as well as a conservatory for endangered animals. However, recently the residents have been served eviction notices and Erf 81 is on the verge of a meltdown.


Review: Don't Look Back ExhibitionReview: Don't Look Back Exhibition

A CELEBRATION of the magic of sculptural form within a gallery context, sculpture, results in a captivating first room and bodes well as one journey’s further into the gallery space. For one is met with a variety of perceptual and conceptual bits of information through the very presence of these objects qua sculpture that challenge and proceed (as if there is a logic) to evoke a reaction.

Review: Once we were leaders exhibitionReview: Once we were leaders exhibition

HAVING recently exhibited this body of work at VOLTA, New York, Ryan Hewett’s unmistakable style combines strong formal rigour as well as expressionistic looseness. In a sense this means his series of portraits, generally leaders in the world of South African politics over the last one hundred years, contain both an element of obvious references to icons, while maintaining a richness of surface as swathes of thick impasto – rich, organic, congealed paint – have an almost organic appeal.


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