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THE SOUTH AFRICAN

February 2010 For the full online edition go to: www.arttimes.co.za SUBSCRIBE: 1 year’s subscription to your door: R 360 - Incl. Business Art. and ArtLife E-mail: subs@arttimes.co.za

ART TIMES

Dada South?

Bookshops R 20

Andrew Verster

Artist’s feature Supplement

Includes: SA Business Art and SA Artlife Titles

well worth a visit

Dada South?, one of the most thrilling exhibitions ever to grace our National Gallery By Lloyd Pollock On entering Dada South?, one experiences a jolt of dismay. A riotous profusion of sculptures, paintings, assemblages and videos violate the gallery’s classical architectural severity, and the exhibits are arranged in a seemingly chaotic, anti-museological display: islanded on the floor; climbing up the pilasters, spilling out of showcases, dangling from the ceiling, or craning down from the walls. Video soundtracks and snatches of music and nonsense poetry create a boisterous charivari, and one’s senses are bombarded by teeming, unruly forces that refuse to be contained. This an apt introduction to Dada which rejected logic and causality, espoused chaos and irrationality, and deliberately outraged ‘good’ taste and all the protocols of the museum and art gallery in order to inflame the imagination, expand the mind and reinvent the world. Dada South?, one of the most thrilling exhibitions ever to grace our National Gallery, achieves just this goal. The fact that it is devoted to a single ism, makes it the kind of show

almost never seen in this country. Survey exhibitions of major art movements occur regularly overseas, but they are regarded as far too ambitious and expensive for us to mount. The astronomic costs of foreign loans, and not curatorial oversight, explain the lacunae at Dada South? Schwitters, Ernst and Picabia are barely represented, and Cologne, Hanover and New York Dada are to a large extent passed over. However Van Wyk and Smith have displayed immense ingenuity in pressing printed material into service to stand in for absent works, and only the most desiccated pedant would nit-pick, for clearly the curators have attempted the impossible, and come up with results so admirable that the show is bound to become a museological milestone.

Heidi Erdmann puts the squeeze on the darling of South African painting Robert Hodgins well before his 90th birthday in June. Heidi Erdmann gave Robert a Tea party held in his honour at The Erdmann Contemporary in Cape Town. Photo: Carla Erasmus

Like a snowy Xmas, one associates Dada with the Northern hemisphere, but Dada South reveals just how tenaciously it took root here. The exhibition which explores the impact Dada had upon us in Africa, and the impact Africa had on Dada, transforms our understanding of the entire movement.

A great South African artist passes

Jackson Jekiseni Hlungwane 1923 - 2010 Acclaimed woodcarver and Charismatic spiritual leader passed away on 20 January 2010 at his home in Mbhokota, near Elim, Limpopo Province. Read his obituary on page 13.

Continued on Page 4

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South African Art Times February 2010

Page 3

Spier curators discussing the way forward (left to right) Clive Van Den Berg, Mwenya Kabwe, Farzanah Badsha and Jay Pather - image courtesy Spier Contemporary. (Photo:Robin Jutzen)

Countdown to an exciting Spier Contemporary 2010 Veronica Wilkinson On the evening of 13th March at the Cape Town City Hall five winners of the Spier Contemporary arts award will be announced and an exciting new artist in residence category will provide another six artists with overseas experience and opportunities at established art institutions. The value of the prizes to the winners selected by judges Rose Lee Goldburg, N’Gone Fall and Mark Coetzee is equivalent to R100,000.00 per winner and a sixth prize of the same value will be awarded to an artist nominated by public vote at the end of the exhibition. Johannesburg architect Nabeel Essa is working on the design for the exhibition by transforming the grand Edwardian interiors into spaces of historic engagement through skillful use of colour to encourage dialogue between artwork, viewer and locus. The central access to the building is to be re-opened for the duration of the exhibition restoring the traditional role of protective matrix to the structure. From over

2,700 submissions the curatorial team has selected 132 artworks by 100 artists which will be assessed during the week commencing 8th March by the judges. Please visit www.spiercontemporary2010. co.za for more comprehensive detail. I spoke to artist and curator Clive Van Den Berg about the show to obtain his impressions of the work submitted. He said that he considered the mood in 2007 more optimistic than at the present. However despite changes in circumstances there has been much art of good quality among the submissions. This show provides opportunities for younger artists to show fresh and challenging work to the public. Clive van den Berg is excited about the platform provided by Spier to showcase the work of emerging artists away from the competitive commercial gallery circuit. Project manager Farzanah Badsha is enthusiastic about the city hall venue because she feels it will draw large new audiences and says that the project is running to schedule for its 13th March opening. Jay Pather considers

the works “grittier” than in past years and more “incisive in their commentary on peculiarly South African themes with the range in terms of media and performance pretty widespread including some works of great quality.” Former Spier award winner Zambian Mwenya Kabwe who lectures at the University of Cape Town has contributed her insights into performance augmenting Jay Pather’s expertise on the curatorial team. Ethiopian anthropologist and curator Meskerem Assegued has been invited to share her brand of international curatorial and specialized experience to assist the selection process. It seems almost ironic that from the innovative nature of the previous Spier Contemporary show in 2007 this exhibition will straddle style and time to present Capetonians with contemporary South African art history in the same building that houses the Central library with its reference, art, fiction and music sections. No images of selected artwork could be

released at this point and it must be stressed that the artwork in the supplied image (if published) is not necessarily one of those selected by the curators. The prospect of an exhibition of this size and nature with its prizes and opportunities for residencies overseas is an optimistic development in South African art at a time when global economic circumstances are discouraging. What better incentive to develop and nurture the creative impulses and ingenuity of artists around South Africa. Although every viewer will have an opinion shaped by his or her experience, education and knowledge it will be interesting to see what sort of work challenges the critics and prompts comment in its visitor’s book. It is to be hoped that art teachers at Cape Town educational institutions will take the opportunity to expose their students to the show which promises innovation in its design and stimulating quality with its content.


South African Art Times February 2010

Page 4

Dada South? well worth a visit Continued from page 1

Many consider Dada a tiresome, immature and attention-grabbing nihilist movement of destruction that cultivated shock for shock’s sake, however Dada South? reveals that even its wildest excesses had a firm spiritual raison d’etre. The Cabaret Voltaire, for instance, used Africanised masks, poetry, dance and rhythmic drumming to reshape their consciousness, shatter their ego boundaries and enable them to enlist chance, and create collaborative works which challenged the notion of individual artistic genius. While many contemporary European artists simply appropriated superficial African stylistic traits, the Dadaists showed deeper understanding, clearly intuiting the transformative goals of African ritual. The heady excitement that attended the birth of Dada in Zurich and Berlin is rousingly conveyed by work by many key figures, and a reconstruction of the First International Dada Fair in Berlin. The Prussian Archangel, a sculpture by Schlichter and Heartfield flies overhead, and Hindemith’s organ music from Richter’s film Ghosts before Breakfast (1928) charges the atmosphere with compulsive arpeggios. Dada South’s strong aural component enhances its enthralling visual impact, creating cymbal-clashing fortissimo effects. The curators must be congratulated for tracking down potent works by obscure artists like Lucas Seage, Jacques Coetzer and Belinda Blignault which address socio-politi-

SA_Art Times JANUARIE_10.indd 1

cal issues of oppression, violence and conscription in subtle, elliptical ways that never degenerate into the often woeful literalism of ‘protest art’. Susan Bristow’s terrifying saw with a blade fashioned from alligator hide and Rolf Streuber’s gargantuan chair – a devastating symbol of the kragdadigheid and baaskap of the Nationalist state – prove extremely arresting. Why have such artists been neglected? Our recent art history has largely been shaped by politically correct agendas constructed around transformation. The reigning orthodoxy is that resistance and protest art dominated the scene for the two decades before democracy, and artists that do not conform to this scenario have, in general, been marginalized.

Aspects of Battis’ oeuvre have suffered from this neglect. His silkscreens created in Hamburg at the height of the ‘swinging sixties’, the permissive society and the sexual revolution, exploit the new-found freedoms to explore the artists’ ambivalent sexuality. In Artist’s Silhouette (1969) a rent-boy-type slouches against telephone booths in a public place. The white void representing the artist’s silhouette, and the phallus-shaped speech bubble near the boy’s head, imply involvement between the two. In One Way Street, images of a raffish youth on a London street are juxtaposed with side views of

a naked male torso with prominent pubic fuzz and callipygian buttocks. The artist’s scopophiliac gaze can only be construed as undressing the subject. The silk-screens prove that Battis’s rejection of outright political involvement, in no way compromised his stance as an anti-puritanical agent of personal liberation working in line with international avant-gardists who exploited the concept of Eros as an embodiment of the power of resistance. There is also nothing parochial about Christo Coetzee’s Celestial Bicycle (1958-60), which indicates just how eagerly he participated in radical international experiment. Executed in Paris, the bicycle, which was exhibited at The Art of Assemblage show at MOMA in New York in 1961, is in the vanguard of Neo Dada innovation, and contemporaneous with Rauschenberg’s ‘combine paintings’ such as Monogram 1959, a paint be-spattered stuffed goat enveloped in a car tire. Celestial Bicycle consists of a torn canvas through which the real world - in the form of a bicycle - erupts. The bicycle and remaining canvas are encrusted with thick ropes of pigment a la Jackson Pollock, and like Rauschenberg’s work, it functions as a critique of the rarefied hermeticism of Abstract Expressionism. South African art by relatively obscure artists not only holds up well when juxtaposed with great Dada icons like Man Rays’ Obstruction and Marcel Duchamp’s boite-en-valise, it also upstages our big guns - Robin Rhode, Tracy Rose, Jane Alexander and Robert Hodgins. The format and content of their work is largely determined by the commercial pressures of

the art market, and thus it appears like a tame, potty-trained Dada when set aside John Nankin’s Box (1967/1975/2009) and Adrian Kohler’s puppet Saw Dog (1997) which were not designed for sale, and thus possess the provocative posture and jarring, outlandish identity of authentic Dada. Willem Boshoff’s magnificent Bangboek, a work of great intellectual rigour, imaginative range and aesthetic splendour, spectacularly outclasses all the local Dada-tinged works. Kendell Geers’ Title Witheld (After an Allegory with Venus and Cupid) (1995), for instance, consists of a postcard reproducing Bronzino’s painting which the artist has stained with semen. The act of masturbating over the image implies that it is high-faluting pornography. Such gestures of contempt for the greatest Western masterpieces follow in the tradition of Marcel Duchamp’s LHOOQ (1919), a defaced Mona Lisa. As Duchamp said it so much more wittily a century before Geers, one can only question whether ‘die verlore kind’ has spilt his seed in vain. Bangboek by contrast is no mere sophomoric prank. It forms a record of deep, personal trauma transmuted into a cool, classically disciplined statement that combines the irrefutable authority of Moses’ tablets of the law, with the irresistible mystery and intrigue of an archaeological relic. See Dada South? for this is only one of the many wonders that await you. To contribute to Dada South?’s participatory documentation and research project, please email their archive of experimental practices: dadasouthza@gmail.com

2010/01/25 09:55:18 AM

l’Afrique: A Tribute to Maria Stein-Lessing and Leopold Spiegel at Museum Africa A collection of traditional African art and South African modernist painters

Curated by Nessa Leibhammer and Natalie Knight Open daily Tuesday to Sunday 9-5 Running until December 24, 2010 Enquiries 011-833-5624 Museum Africa

The education programme includes walkabouts and NCS linked interactive workshops on African art for Senior Phase Arts and Culture learners and an FET Phase Level workshop for History and Visual Arts educators, linked to an essay competition with major prizes for FET Phase learners. Education resources include a poster, DVD and a treasure hunt of 20 questions. Enquiries: Helene Smuts Arts Education Consultants cc Email: helene@africameetsafrica.co.za Or phone/fax (011) 622 7871

Cecil Skotnes, Reclining Figure, 1970 painted wood panel, woodcut Collection Johannesburg Art Gallery

Barotse wooden bowl Collection Natalie Knight

Maggie Laubser, Woman and Baby, 1922; Collection University of the Witwatersrand


South African Art Times February 2010

Page 5

Exciting nEw RElEasE Launched in Feb 2010

BILL DAVIS SCULPTOR HIS LIFE & WORK

JUMP! A standard, white, queen-sized bed drifts about in the CBD all week long. Bishop Tutu has jumped on it. Fisher-

men have jumped on it in Kalk Bay Harbour. So have cleaners from the Mount Nelson Hotel. Kelly invites you to take off your shoes, lay down your burdens for a few minutes, and exercise your basic right to bounce on the bed. Jump in the middle of the city. Jump for the joy of jumping. Kelly Vaagsland Wainwright: a conceptual artist straddling the globe between both Oakland, California & Cape Town, Kelly has been working on a project called PLAY JUMP EAT in Cape Town for the past year. The project will culminate in an auction of several playful photographs capturing “quintessential Capetonians� jumping on a bed.Images: Conceptualist: Kelly Vaagsland Wainwright Photographer: Inge Prins

Infecting the City 2010 explores “Human Rite� Infecting the City (ITC) – the Spier Public Arts Festival – is taking to the streets, squares and public spaces of the Cape Town CBD for the third year from the 13th to the 20th February 2010. Presented by the Africa Centre, and curated by Brett Bailey, ITC promises to bring audiences a week of thought-provoking, well-crafted and innovative public art works. Every year, ITC raises a social issue for artistic response. This year’s Festival explores the theme ‘Human Rite’, which investigates the role of rites and rituals as tools for transformation and healing. Infecting the City asks ‘How can the arts today use ritual to effect social change and cohesion? What are the wounds in our society and our city that need attention? Can we make art works that are themselves rituals to heal these

wounds? What shape can rituals take in the communal spaces of the 21st Century Global Village?’ � With the theme ‘Human Rite’, Infecting The City 2010, asks artists to grapple with these questions, to make works that incorporate all the people of Cape Town into an urban community. “We hope to refigure the public spaces of the inner city as arenas in which we confront our demons and attempt to put them to rest. We want to seek out silent memories and invisible stories and validate them, looking at what needs to be righted/rited, whilst celebrating our fundamental human right to express who we are.� The Festival is made up of collaborative performance works, art installations, choreographed pieces and public interventions.

The works are created by top local and international artists, and are staged free to the public in the communal spaces of the Cape Town CBD. The flagships of ITC are the New Collaborations. Seven artists from South Africa, other African states and non-African countries are participating in creating two new large-scale site-specific performance works. Their residency began in mid-November and will include an intensive three-week course of presentations, experiences and site visits to give them a deep sense of the issues at play beneath the skin of Cape Town through the magnifying lens of the Festival theme. The artists will be divided into creative teams at the end of the

Ne w Ho m e Off

residency, returning to Cape Town in January 2010 to spend a month developing their artistic plans into public performance artworks. ITC 2010 will be launched on Saturday, 13th February. The Saturday launch and the Festival closure on Saturday the 20th February allow audience members unable to travel to the city during the week, to experience Infecting the City in its entirety. All daytime performances are free Infecting the City ‘Human Rite’ 13-20 February 2010 Cape Town CBD 021 422 0468 www.infectingthecity.com Facebook Group : Infecting the City Festival

This hard cover publication of 208 pages encapsulates Bill’s unique vision, fully illustrating six decades of sculpture and graphic work in the context of his life story. Available from leading bookstores @ R395. Distributed by Blue Weaver. T: 021 701 4477 E: info@blueweaver.co.za

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Supplement to The South African Art Times as part of the Geat South African Masters Series

Andrew Verster Born Johannesburg 1937 Researched and written by Peter Machen

Work from the Bodyworks series

“My history is only useful if it helps me find where I’m going. And unless painting is something more than making pictures, I’ve missed the point” Andrew Verster was born in Johannesburg in 1937 and even as a small child had an overwhelming desire to paint and make art; it was, from a very young age, the one thing that was sure to keep the young Andrew quietly occupied. For Verster, there was no other option other than being a painter, and after he finished school, he left for London to study fine art. Although he wanted to get in to Slade because he thought it was the “best art school in the world”, he ended up studying at Camberwell, an institution that was more grounded in technique and less in radicalism of concept. Having completed his National Diploma in Art and Design he spent two more years in England, receiving a teaching diploma from the University of Redding and hanging around London for a year before returning to Johannesburg, where he taught at Johannesburg Art School. After a brief stint teaching at Michaelis in Cape Town, he moved to Durban, where he taught art at Salisbury Island for seven years and established a lifelong network of friends and colleagues. He would, in time, become the city’s most celebrated artist, producing at a prodigious rate through a diversity of media. Verster’s first solo show was in 1967 in Johannesburg. Championed by Harold Jeppe, and subsequently by Linda Goodman, he was an immediate success, both critically and in terms of sales. Nine years later, at the age of 39, he stopped teaching in order to become a full-time painter. Since then, he has worked all day, nearly every day, in the studio at the back of his house, a space he used to share with Aidan Walsh, an acclaimed painter and Verster’s life partner for nearly five decades. Walsh died in July 2009 and Verster continues to devote the bulk of his time to his work. Prolific from the outset, more than forty years after his debut exhibition he remains one of the city’s most frequently exhibited artists, producing work with a remarkable range of form and content. As well as a vast body of paintings and drawings, Verster has also been involved in a host of projects and works outside what is traditionally considered fine art. He has collaborated with weavers on tapestries, he has designed the sets and costumes for a range of operatic and theatrical production; he designed the doors for the constitutional door. He even won a BBC prize for a play he wrote, and has just finished his first novel. Additionally, he is a quiet sort of cultural activist and has been on numerous cultural boards including duties at the Film and Publication Board. Andrew Verster with Traviata costumes


Alter Ego, ink, acrylic, watercolour, crayon on Fabriano 75 x 55 2009

The Artist’s Style Although Verster professes painting to be his true love and drawings and paintings constitute the bulk of his work, his oeuvre spans a vast array of media and techniques, from the imposing doors of the constitutional court to massive canvases overflowing with colour to the tiniest black and white ink drawing. What links the output of his life is a defining approach to line and form in which the representational flow is interrupted by both the manner in which the subject is painted, and in its recontextualisation within Verster’s overflowing world. An object painted by Verster is never just an object or even an echo of its platonic form. It is always an object in the world that is rich with associations, associations which are framed by the artist’s fluid but precise drawing style. Verster says that he has never had any interest in still lifes; for him the objects he paints always belong to

someone. His fascination with the secret life of objects and symbols reaches its apotheosis in his recent paintings of the male body, which has become a canvas for an infinity of objects, symbols, history and meanings. These heavily signified bodies exist both on a continuum to Verster’s earlier, seminal works - which raised the male body to a level of pop significance which would only enter the cultural mainstream at the very end of the 1980s – and in contradistinction to those images. The beautiful young men that were the subject of Verster’s ‘60s work had the blankness of possibility about them. Four decades later, the male body is tattooed to the hilt with symbols and objects which, at times, feel like the full product of human experience and history. These figures are not weighed down but filled. To use a phrase from American poet Walt Whitman, they “contain multitudes”.

Red Deity, Oil on Canvas

The Boys on the Beach – art and homosexuality

Influences

It is hard to imagine in the 21st century, but when Verster was a young man – and in fact for most of his life, until 1994 – homosexuality was illegal in South Africa, one of the many ways in which the apartheid government tried, with a fair degree of success, to create a highly conformist society in which all difference was seen as dissidence. Verster is certainly not the first artist to express his illicit desire in painted form – history is full of such examples – but set against the cultural oppression and sexual conservatism of 1960s South Africa, the images were fundamentally, if surreptitiously, transgressive. Verster says that while the images may have been transgressive – he acknowledges that the male nude was not really a subject for fine art at the time – he didn’t think of it in those terms. “I was very naïve about everything,” he says. As Verster came to grips with his adult self, he continued along this path of apparent naivety, ignoring the restrictive mores and laws of apartheid society, and went about the business of being Andrew Verster. Which, as a young man, meant discovering his sexuality. And while he was doing that – in fact even before he was consciously doing that – he was drawing and painting pictures of beautiful men on the beaches of Durban that he loved so much at the time. “In those days I didn’t know I was gay”, he says, “I mean, I suspected. I got engaged and did all those silly things that one does to prove that you are totally normal. But there was an inkling that all was not well.” Although his sexuality informs his work and his self, Verster doesn’t see it as a defining characteristic. When asked why it comes up so little in his interviews, he replied “because it’s really not that important”. Nonetheless, his highly expressive portraits of young men, which were to become some of his most famous and recognisable works, are undoubtedly inseparable from his sexual desires as a young man.

Joiner’ Photo portrait by David Hockney of John Kasmin (1980)

“If I had to be somebody,” says Verster, “I would have been Hockney – simply because I loved his naïve way of drawing and everything else.” Verster ascribes his love for the pop painter David Hockney as being one of the reasons why he loves to work in pen and ink. “There was no way I wanted to be Hockney. But if I had to anybody it would be Hockney.” He continues talking about his approach to making art, saying “It’s more a question of your inadequacy rather than what you really can do. You avoid doing the things you can’t do – or think you can’t do.” Talking about the forces that shaped his art, Verster sees little external influence in terms of other artists. Instead, his work is shaped and inspired by the city of Durban, its multiplicity and particularly the fact that it is home to such a large Indian population. But more than anything Verster just follows his artistic nose, wherever it leads him, paying scant attention for the most part to the ever shifting concerns of the contemporary art world. Durban is home to one of the largest Indian communities outside of India, and the Indian influence on Verster’s work is substantial. He painted what are considered his Indian paintings before he went to India. And when he took those paintings to India for the first time, in an exhibition in Mumbai at the South African Consulate, he looked at his paintings and said to them, “you look at home and I feel at home”. “It seemed logical that I should have made those paintings after I’d been to India,” he says. “But once I got to India, I realised that I’d already experienced it in Durban, but on a junior level.”


GALLERY

Works from the Bodyworks series

Foot: Oil on canvas 50 x 100 2008

Arm from Notes on a Crucifiction Series 2008

Bejewelled oil on canvas 1.8 square 2008

Faust in Africa

From History series

WING from Poems for Angels Series 90 x 120 carylic painted cardboard on canvas 90 x 120 2010

From History series

Bejewelled, Oil on canvas 1.8 square 2008


A year in the life of the artist 1994 was a critical year in the life of South Africa and an important one for Verster, for it was the year that in his words, he “became legal”. As well as the year that South Africa had its first non-racial election, it was also the year that homosexuality was effectively decriminalised (although in actual case, many prejudicial legal precedents and pieces of legislation still had to be overturned or rewritten). For Verster, his sexuality was a signifier of difference that was echoed by a whole range of other people, from the handicapped to single mothers. The remarkable embrace of diversity and equality that occurred in the first years of the new South Africa remain a defining element of the country’s political – if not economic – landscape, despite a range of challenges and crises.

1994 in the World January 1 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is instituted January 17 6.6 Earthquake hits Los Angeles killing 60 January 21 Lorena Bobbitt found temporarily insane after chopping off spouse’s penis February 3 President Bill Clinton lifts U.S. trade embargo against Vietnam February 9 Israeli minister Shimon Perez signs accord with Paslestine’s Yassar Arafat February 12 Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream” is stolen in Oslo March 9 IRA launch mortar attack on London’s Heathrow Airport March 28 Italy’s right-wing alliance under Silvio Berlusconi wins election April 8 Japans premier Morihiro Hosokawa resigns April 18 Lebanon drops relations with Iran April 19 Rodney King award $3,800,000 in compensation for police beating April 22 7 000 Tutsis slaughtered in stadium in Rwanda April 27 First non-racial election in South Africa May 6 Chunnel linking England and France officially opens May 7 “The Scream” recovered 3 months after stolen May 18 Israel withdraws from the Gaza Strip June 2 Indonesian censors ban Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” June 20 OJ Simpson arraigned on the murder of Nicole Simpson & Ronald Goldman July 1 Yassar Arafat returns to Gaza strip July 29 India army kills 27 Moslem militants August 17 Lesotho king Letsie II fires premier Ntsu Mokhehle August 28 First Japanese gay pride parade takes place Sept 8 MTV awards feature newlyweds Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley October 3 Fernando Henrique Cardoso elected president of Brazil October 7 China performs nuclear test Nov 2 Benzine explosion in Dronka Egypt; more than 400 killed Nov 9 Chandrika Kumaratunga chosen 1st female president of Sri Lanka Dec 2 Achille Lauro sinks off the coast of Somalia Dec 10 Nobel prize awarded to Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat Dec 31 Anti Apartheid Group of Netherlands (AABN) disbands

Primary Landscape: Oil on Canvas

Censorship and the police state. When asked about how he dealt with living under the apartheid state, Verster characteristically says that he ignored it - “which I think was the only way of dealing with it”. His rich web of friends and professional associates across a diverse spectrum of Durban society are testament to this “ignorance”. But Verster could not ignore the apartheid state entirely. He had an exhibition (together with Patrick O’Connor) removed from the Durban Art Gallery in the ‘60s, not by the police but by the director of the gallery, who had decided that they were pornographic. And one evening in the ‘80s, just before Christmas, while he was having dinner with his friend, the activist Fatima Meer who was a banned person at the time, the police raided his house. Despite his friendships with Meer and other activist figures in Durban, his work has never moved into the realm of the overtly political, partly because Verster never works didactically.

Decorative Art and India Much of Verster’s recent work has involved intense use of decorative elements, and this contemporary inclusion is in some ways as transgressive as his portraits of sexy young men were in the ‘60s. The contemporary world remains suspicious of art that can be described as decorative or which contains decorative elements. .Even as the international art scene has embraced craft, photography and archive with glee and come to the collective conclusion that virtually anything can constitute art in the twenty first century, decorative art remains suspect. Verster’s work in the past few years has attacked the stigma of decorative art, revealing the spiritual elements in it, elements that are as ancient as representation itself. Indian art – and many other indigenous art forms – make great use of recurrence, both in pattern and motif, while in Islamic art specifically, the use of representational elements is generally disallowed and pattern and script

often constitutes the artwork. More specifically, these symbols and motif are traditionally used to invoke the divine, which is something that much of Verster’s recent work does.

Colour Verster often makes remarkable use of colour, although he is just at home with the relative simplicity of black and white. In some of his recent works he uses supersaturated hues, seemingly at the edge of the visible spectrum; the colours are almost luminous, and because of their tonality relative to each other, Verster creates a remarkable sense of depth, tapping into the way that colour and colour relationships affect the visual plane of our perceptions. But the artist says that the colours he uses are simply the colours he likes. For Verster, each painting is a process of discovery. He says that he never has a clear vision of the finished work, and his work is rendered entirely intuitively. “There’s always the dialogue between what you’re making and what you’re thinking about”, he says. “And the two modify each other all the time”.

Contemporaries Among Verster’s contemporaries are Bronwen Findlay, who was a student of his (but whom he says he could teach nothing), Patrick O’Connor, with whom we taught at Salisbury Island and, most significantly, Aidan Walsh, the hyperrealist painter who was Verster’s life partner for nearly fifty years. As well as other artists, Verster also had strong relationships with those in other sectors of the creative industry and, as a result, his career has included much collaborative work. His relationship with activist sociologist Fatima Meer remains an important element in his life’s narrative.

1994 in South Africa Jan 16 Feb 28 March 7 March 9 March 15 March 18 March 20 March 22 April 18 April 19 April 26 April 28 May 3 May 25 May 6 May 10 May 11 June 23 22 August October 1 October 6 Dec 17

The Pan Africanist Congress suspends its armed struggle Walvis Bay was handed over to Namibia ANC president Nelson Mandela rejects demand by white right-wingers for separate homeland in South Africa. President Lucas Mangope of Bophuthatswana announces that the homeland won’t be registering for the April elections. Unrest breaks out and the Bophuthatswana Defence Force is called in. The Nokia 2110 is launched in South Africa at a cost of R4,199 South Africa’s new national flag is unveiled Goldstone committee reveals existence of secret police Zulu-king Goodwill Zwelithini founds realm in South Africa South African Government/ANC take power in Ciskei homeland Photographer Ken Oosterbroek is killed in the crossfire during pre-election fighting in Thokoza Inkatha Freedom Party ends its boycott of the country’s fisrt non-racial election First non-racial election in South Africa begins. Dr. Nomaza Paintin is the first black South African to vote Election ends South Africa resumes full membership of the World Health Organisation The United Nations lifts its arms embargo against South Africa Nelson Mandela and the ANC confirmed winners in election Nelson Mandela sworn in as South Africa’s first black president Six white racists sentenced to death in South Africa South Africa reclaims its seat in the United Nations. South Africa and India sign a trade agreement President Nelson Mandela visits US Ben Mokoena becomes the first black mayor of South Africa in Middelburg The African National Congress hold their 49th National Conference in Bloemfontein

Next up on the Great South African Masters Series

Dorothy Kay

(Portrait, Figurative Artist, Illustrator) (1886-1964) Written by Jeanne Wright

Andrew Verster’s partner Aidan Walsh, an acclaimed painter and Verster’s life partner for nearly five decades. Walsh died in July 2009

Dorothy Kay is regarded as a conventional painter in the sense that she produced work which was unpretentiously realistic and easily understood by the viewer. She is best known for her portraits of civil dignitaries, social personalities and for her genre studies of ethnic African subjects. Throughout her life she also produced self-deprecating and insightful self-portraits of herself wearing a library of different headgear. She was not afraid of appearing ridiculous and saw herself in a way which was devoid of flattery. “Her late self-portraits are suffused with a wonderful honesty”. (Arnold 1996: 126). - Above Image: William Pagel Esq with Caesar, Rajah, Suzie and Rita. Oil. 1940 NMMAM


DECADE Durban Art Gallery Anton Lembede Street (formerly Smith Street) Durban Tel: 031 311 2264/9

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HIGHLIGHTS

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Jackson Jekiseni Hlungwane Acclaimed woodcarver and Charismatic spiritual leader passed away on 20 January 2010 at his home in Mbhokota, near Elim, Limpopo Province.

By Kathy Coates To celebrate Jackson Hlungwane’s life as an artist and to mark his passing is a mammoth task, and when reflecting on his spiritual beliefs, he is still with us, represented in another dimension, since he saw all forms and human life as part of the same world: ‘ Up Down and Under-Down’ as he often described our parallel existence. Born in 1923, at Mbhokota, his father had carved bowls and spoons, passing on these skills to Jackson. Hlungwane, like so many of his generation spent some time working in Pietersburg (Polokwane) at an asbestos mine and Johannesburg (at a tea and coffee merchant), though returned home after losing a finger in an accident. He describes a moment in his life which changed everything: he had dreamt that he was possessed with demons manifested in his right leg and was instructed in a vision to immerse his leg in a fire, which he did. Hlungwane was afflicted throughout his life from the resultant frequently ulcerated wounds, though displayed the scars with pride. From this point on Hlungwane became a preacher, starting his own sect in the Zionist tradition named ‘Yesu Geleliya One Apostle in SayoniAlt and Omega’ preaching in two separate outdoor ‘churches’ Cana for women, and New Jerusalem for men. His work, which he executed with unparalleled skill, was to him the work of God, whom he claimed to work through him. Very little remains of New Jerusalem, a stone structure built by Hlungwane in the 1980’s on a nearby hilltop, to house the Altar to God, Cain and Abel, Archangel Gabriel, and a host of other works, now installed at the Johannesburg Art Gallery with some of the original stones. The Arial to God still remains. Hlungwane’s rise to international acclaim as an artist, followed in the wake of two major exhibitions. The first was the Tributaries exhibition (1985) curated by Ricky Burnett for BMW which exhibited an unprecedented collection of diverse South African artists from every corner of

South Africa, and travelled from Johannesburg to Germany. The second exhibition, The Neglected Tradition, curated by Stephen Sack, set a similar trend, incorporating rural and urban artists into the mix, the so called ‘self-taught’ artists included Jackson Hlungwane, Paul Tavhana, Avhashoni Mainganye, Johannes Maswanganye and many others. Other exhibitions followed, Hlungwane sometimes travelled with exhibitions, though not in recent years. Hlungwane’s work was aquired by collectors globally and nationally and is represented in major collections. It was a euphoric heyday for Hlungwane lasting for about a decade, though the largely urban art market shifted its gaze to new arenas, and the international market was hard to reach. Hlungwane exhibited with the Cote D’Ivoire exhibit, at the First Johannesburg Biennale; Africus ’95, though did not himself attend. He considered our time as a new age for women when men would become obsolete except to ‘make babies’ since all they have caused is war. He urged all women to have at least twelve children. A father of twelve himself, he also elevated his wife Magdalena to be sitting with him next to Christ in heaven. An inspirational teacher, Jackson always had a posse of dedicated students around him, having passed on the woodcarving tradition to his son Gazland and many grandchildren. Attempts to open an art school for Hlungwane to teach youth in Soweto in the early 90’s by a well-meaning arts practitioner were very soon squashed, when Hlungwane refused to stay in Johannesburg, returning to his spiritual base at Mbhokota. Conversations with students usually involved a diverse array of books as teaching aids, mostly gifts to Jackson, and in his teachings, all images, regardless whether from a National Geographic, a book on Androgyny in Art or a Pizza Menu from Japan (following on from his visit there with Rayda Becker) were consistently referred to as ‘Gods work’ ‘Gods food’ ‘Gods nature’ emphasising the omnipresence of God. Humour comes into play in many works, such as Christ Playing Football [1983] which one visiting pastor found disrespectful. Hlungwanes figura-

tive works of God, the Angels, Adam and Eva, Cain and Abel have distinctive features, caricature-like with jutting chins, bulging eyes and prominent noses. Symbols of the egg, usually bulging on the legs and enlarged feet, link to fertility and the fragility of creation and the grounded connection to the ancestral world, and possibly allude to Hlungwane’s self-affliction. Hlungwane’s emblematic fish sculptures, usually perched on a carved base drew on the symbol of St. Peter as ‘fisher of men’ popularised as a Christian motif, though the Shangaan women had also incorporated this symbol into the beaded and embroidered ‘nceka’ worn on special occasions, along with water and cosmic imagery linking them to the ancestors and also their trading heritage during their time in Mocambique prior to migration. In the early nineties, a massive tree emerged from the Letaba River, and was brought to Mbhokota for Jackson to carve. Hlungwane’s God was carved lying down on the ground with the intention of one day raising it upright as a massive totem to God. This never happened and much of this monumental work has been hacked away for firewood, eaten by termites or destroyed by the extreme climate. It was one work too large to be removed from the site, which used to be an open-air gallery abundant with works. The God figure showed the typical gesture of ‘Thumbs Up’ a gesture adopted by Hlungwane almost as a trademark, together with his greeting: ‘Halleluyah’ and when leaving ‘See You Again, Never say Goodbye’. Other remains of Hlungwane’s life’s work at his home, are a few small carvings. One has to question the many years of neglect from the commercial art world, and government departments of Arts and Culture who have allowed one of our national treasures to pass in such poverty. Funds are still being sought by his family to pay for his funeral. Most of the comments from Jackson are from memories of conversations over several years, during my stay in the Limpopo and subsequent visits January 1991 until December 2009


Rudi Neuland sculptures Leszek Skurski paintings Joanna Skurska textile objects

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Cecil Skotnes, African Still life, signed, acrylic on carved and incised wood, 121,5 by 124 cm R600 000 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; R900 000

Important South African Paintings, Furniture, Silver, Ceramics and Jewellery INCLUDING A COLLECTION OF WORKS BY WILLIAM TIMLIN AND THE EDITH DODO COLLECTION

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PROFESSIONAL A great South African artist passes Includes: SA Business Art and SA Artlife Titles Acclaimed woodcarver and Charismatic spirit...

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