South African Cultural Observatory
Three Solo shows: Turiya Magadlela, Bronwyn Katz and Herman Mbamba At Blank Projects Three Solo shows: Turiya Magadlela, Bronwyn Katz and Herman Mbamba At Blank Projects

RELOCATED to larger premises in Woodstock, Blank Projects is a wonderful space for art. In this premier show, three artists present distinct methods and processes that may be understood in various ways. Magadlela’s “Wabana lapho isifebe, wangena kuso” employs pantyhose on canvas to great effect; Katz uses bed wiring and Mbamba uses acrylics within the context of torn pages from Norwegian fashion magazines.

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Dream Rift At Eclectica Design & Art Dream Rift At Eclectica Design & Art

PERCEPTION is often no more than a construction, be it natural/genetic or social/environmental. The value of art lies in its reminding us that perception can be reconstructed, revised and perhaps understood or simply appreciated as esoteric. One way in which such an evaluation can take place is by highlighting the permeable boundary between dreams and what is referred to as reality. Could it be that reality is a mass delusion? Such speculations arrive at satisfactory visual analogues in the form of the artworks on show, each artist developing his/her own language in what can be conceived as an interrogation of the liminal space between the real and the imagined and ultimately between life and death.

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CROSS POLLINATION - A Solo Show by Lars Fischerdick at Eclectica Contemporary CROSS POLLINATION - A Solo Show by Lars Fischerdick at Eclectica Contemporary

INNOVATIVE methods, strong intellectual content and guttural undercurrents, these works by Lars Fischerdick are likely to ignite conversation around such a unique aesthetic. Having turned to art full-time rather late, his architectural background has certainly come in handy. It allows for an understanding of materials and for powerful craftsmanship. Yet, rather than be dictated by utilitarian and functional interests as is unavoidable in the applied arts such as architecture, here there are excursions and flights of the imagination that touch on metaphysics, mathematics, physics and even history and politics. In conversation with the artist, such dimensions become apparent.

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BROKE-WHOLE: THE LABOR-ORATORY OF DR KALI BROKE-WHOLE: THE LABOR-ORATORY OF DR KALI

SITUATED in the beautiful Franschoek, I was happy to see the work of Kali van der Merwe. Powerful and profound, her work stirs one’s senses and reason in terms of philosophical speculation on the question concerning the relationship between life and death. Based on relics and bodies that she encounters on her farm residence, she has created images of uncanny scientific, taxidermical and magical qualities. There is a sense of structure and order, yet one “imposed” beyond the assumed categories of the sciences. Her path therefore is embraces both a desire to know nature and one that is in awe of – and complicit with – the unfolding of the natural and cosmological realms.

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Paintings, prints and sculptures by Nicolaas Maritz Paintings, prints and sculptures by Nicolaas Maritz

ENERGETIC swirls and splotches, sinewy line and strong sweeping gestures in luminous enamel as abstracted faces emerge make for a powerful gallery experience. Maritz can capture both a primitive and primal impulse as well as a kind of digital all- pervasiveness that is compelling as an icon of current portend. Over and above this, he has captured a kind of spirit-energy of the collective human imagination. The faces are abstracted in their child-like simplicity, yet ooze with life. Life as it emanates from the subtle sensing apparatus: two eyes and two ears, a mouth and two nostrils. These are the mediators between what is inside and what is outside. These are the doors of perception that negotiate concrete and a not so concrete sense of the real.

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The other side of SA fashion The other side of SA fashion

INTERROGATING the world of South African fashion, photographer Johnny Lai Sang has produced images of rare complexity. On the one hand, full of the glitter and glamour of this world and yet on the other hand, a murky, darker, shadow-side emerges. This is captured through an understanding of his craft where contrasts of colour, intensity of light, the ability to focus and yet not focus the lens and an eye for alternative perspectives and vantage points contribute to an interesting show, one well worth a visit.

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Be kind. Please rewind. Be kind. Please rewind.

A NEW vision, one that focuses on the medium of film and video, a first for this country, is perplexing, riveting and surprising all at the same time. The gallery blurb describes the show as one that “seeks to explore the various complexities of video’s relationship to the construction and perception of history and memory”.

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A day at sea A day at sea

HIGHLY relevant, this exhibition focuses on the plight of refugees, particularly from Africa who against terrible odds try to cross the Mediterranean and enter Europe. The treacherous waters combined with some harsh policies of the EU, notwithstanding Germany’s more open policy, has often lead to countless deaths, including children. The works by photographer Martina Gruber and paintings/mixed media work by the more well-known Zimbabwean artist Gillian Rosselli speak to these sensitive issues.

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Ruann Coleman’s “Certain Lengths” & Wallen Mapondera’s “Tsananguro/Clarifications” Ruann Coleman’s “Certain Lengths” & Wallen Mapondera’s “Tsananguro/Clarifications”

TWO strong solo exhibitions are presented at Smac Gallery. Coleman’s sculptural work is particularly philosophical while Mapondera’s work excites in terms of a certain depth in narrative content. It is clearly in the difference of approaches that one need not see a link between the two shows, yet one must ask oneself why this co-existence.

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Siopis, Brand & Messina at Stevenson Gallery Siopis, 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.

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ERF 81 on the verge of a meltdown ERF 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.

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Review: Once we were leaders exhibition Review: 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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