|Group Exhibition | Comic Art |
Troubled by the state of the nation and rendered speechless by the dismal vaudeville of the Presidentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 2015 State of the Nation Address (SONA), South African comic artists present their own personal State of the Nation Address Response (SONAR). SPEECHLESS represents a voice articulated in the visual, paradoxically, the only language equally accessible to all eleven languages.
Cover Image: Su Opperman, SPEECHLESS, Digital Print on Epson Fine Art paper, 57 x 51 cm, Edition /10, 2015
Curated by Andy Mason & Su Opperman 26 May - 11 July 2015
Featured Artists N.D. Mazin
DaniĂŤl du Plessis
Karlien de Villiers
Hanno van Zyl
Till Jesus Comes, 46 x 180 cm, Acrylic on recycled surf-board, 2015
A Gender Quilt, Canvas, textile and thread, 188 x 150 cm, 2014, N.D.Mazin (16 Drawings), Vanessa Coetzee (Fabric art)
A Cartoonist goes to Parliment (Still), Animated Video, 1.85 Minutes, 2015. To view video click on the image on the opposite page
Karlien de Villiers Bedtime for Democracy. Baantjies vir Bhutis. Speechless. The Freedom Fighter. Watercolour & ink on paper, 28 x 39.5 cm, 2015 Next Page: Hoekom Blaf die Honde by die Hekke van Paradise I & II . Monotype (1/1), 76 x 100 cm, 2015
Chip Snaddon The Laugh (Four Part Installation),Charcoal and ink on paper, 32 x 32 cm each, 2015
Kopwond (Headwound), Acrylic, PVA, charcoal on plywood,122 x 169 cm, 2015
Millionz-O-Doodz (Detail), 3 part installation, Marker on canvas, 30 x 30 x 30 cm each, 2015
Koukus, Charcoal on canvas, 38 x 76 cm, 2015
Little Bugs 1. Little Bugs 2. Pen & ink on paper, 21 x 29.7 cm, 2015 Ai Tog, Pen & ink on paper, 21 x 29.7 cm, 2015
Hollow Man, Verwoerd Rising, Rhodes Rage, Pen and India ink on Bristol board, 36 x 26 cm, 2015
Experimental Presentation, Digital Print on Archival, Rag Paper, 53 x 91 cm, 2015
Untitled 1. Untitled 2. Ink on paper, 31 x 23 cm, 2015
Work Industry. The Office. Ink on paper, 75 x 55 cm, 2015
DaniĂŤl du Plessis
Untitled (Zuma in the Chair). Clouds Over Marikana. Untitled (The Politician Ate All the Money) Acrylic on paper, 29 x 39 cm, 2015
He He He He, Ink on multi-media paper, 42 x 59 cm, 2015
Land of Milk and Honey. Zuma says itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s OK. Reverse glass painting, 30 x 42 cm, 2015
Ben Winf ield
Our land is our home, Indian Ink on Zerkall Intaglio Paper, 78 x 78 cm, 2015
Individually Titled (Twelve Part Installation), Watercolour on Archival paper, 21 x 21 cm each, 2015
The Migrantâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Compass. As You Were. Archival digital print on Bristol board, 37 x 26 cm, Edition of 1, 2015
A Point of Order, Digital Print, 42 x 59 cm, 2015
Hanno van Zyl
Smash and Grab: 9 Missed Calls. Smash and Grab: Intruder. Smash and Grab: Cash4Gold, Hannamhule Museum Etching Paper, Edition /20, 42 x59 cm, 2015
Ruling Party. Opposition Party I. Opposition Party II. Pen, ink and watercolours on Saunders paper, 24 x 28 cm, 2015
Nap Time, Digital print, 25 x 17 cm, 2015
Pay back the Money, Pastel on Paper, 42 x 59 cm, 2015
Nelson Mandela, Courtesy of The Derek Bauer Estate Edition, Digital print (printed by Tony Meintjies), Edition /10 (next available print 6/10), 112 x 200 cm, 1990
Derek Bauer is considered one of South Africaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s greatest political cartoonists of all time. Almost two decades since his final works, his art is finally being brought back to life, with the Derek Bauer Estate Editions commissioning the restoration and cataloguing of his work. Bauer composed his cartoons with care and insight. His high regard for technical skill and craftsmanship, and his insistence that nothing less than mastery over the discipline of illustration was necessary when it came to using the medium as a tool for his expression.
Opening address by Sean Christie
Good evening and welcome to Speechless. I feel bound to admit at the outset that I’m not much of a public speaker, as you might quickly infer, and I’m no oracle in regard of this country’s illustrated past, comic art included. My introduction to the world of comic art was a farmhouse toilet in Zimbabwe scaled in ultramarine lino, in which stacks of Footrot Flats and Giles annuals rose higher than the knees. I don’t mean to subtract anything from the genius of Carl Giles or Murray Ball in saying this. Footrot Flats was to me at nine what I imagine Ruskin was to Marcel Proust, aged nine. And Giles, for that matter, was what Proust said reading in its essence should be: “the fruitful miracle of a communication in the midst of solitude.” But somewhere along the line, and I honestly have no idea how this happened, I became the sort of guy to gabble on about the last Penguin Classic he’d read, or the latest PHD research on the correlation between intelligence and penis-size in adult men on the shores of bilharzia infested dams. The point is, I stopped reading cartoons as literature, rationalizing the entire enterprise as a necessary but rather low step on the ladder climb to true intellectual maturity. This of course was premium bullshit, but I wasn’t able to see it at the time. My eyes were opened quite accidentally a few years ago when one of my editors needed a two page feature for the Arts pages and asked me to check out the Open Book Festival in Cape Town. Write anything, she said, as some editors are wont to do, so I circled the comics festival component as a likely source of cheap copy and went down to do an interview with the organiser, Moray Rhoda.
It was lively but more or less chaotic in the small venue allotted to the cartoonists and I got as far as buttonholing cartoonist and author Andy Mason, whose silver pony tail I recognised from my five minutes of internet research. I whined a bit about the acoustics in the venue, which prevented me from hearing Brett Murray talk about his infamous Spear, but Andy put the ball back in my court immediately by saying if I really wanted to do some sincere work on cartooning, I would leave the anointed political commentators like Murray and Jonathan Shapiro to the usual newspaper pundits and take a fortnight to meet with some of the country’s less well known cartoonists and graphic artists. You’ll be astounded by some of the work that’s getting done, he said. And so I did. I thought to hell with the work to fee ratio, let me meet some cartoonists. The first person I met was Mogorosi Motshumi, and he blew me away with his commitment, against the grind of his two decade long struggle with HIV/AIDS, to rendering his extraordinary autobiography as a graphic novel. Part 1, and I believe Mogorosi is on to part 3 now, took me into the heart of communities of Bloemfontein and Mafeking that have never been described in writing, that I know of. They took me into the mind of a young black cartoonist working on journals like Staffrider, against a backdrop of a collapsing personal world. I remember very clearly the panels describing how a relative made the young Mogorosi drink litres of tea or some other drink as a purgative. Leafing through the work I sensed an authenticity that I have seldom found in canonized works of South African literature. It’s the feeling I get from reading Deneys Reitz’s Commando, or Sol Plaatje’s Mafeking Dairies - the really lived-through books. There was no question in my mind that this was South African literature of the first order, and when Rian Malan recently described GG Alcock’s Third World Child as being perhaps, “The first report from the next South Africa”, it was Mogorosi’s as yet unpublished story that I thought of.
Towards the end of the time I had available I met Daniël Hugo, and this was a real epiphany for me, because Daniël had just then put out a piece of graphic art that reimagined Cape town as a colony of the Ottoman empire, though bearing trace elements of a previous Dutch Heritage. It combined an audaciously imaginative narrative with images that were at once familiar and disconcertingly skewed, and the combination made an impact on me that no written thing about Cape Town had ever done. Again, I was left feeling that this was first class South African literature, or at the least the beginning of a work that might easily qualify as such. I remember chatting about this with Andy Mason sometime afterwards, whose book What’s So Funny is the full argument for considering comic art as comprising part of the national literature. He lamented that the 900 page Cambridge History of South African Literature had just come out, comprising 39 essays on everything from praise-singing to prison writing, but not a single mention of comic art, in spite of the fact that the cartooning tradition in South Africa is traceable back to Cruickshank’s famous cannibal cartoons of the early 19th century. After my fortnight in the cartooning underground I could share in his dismay and so I got the message about this glaring oversight to the editors of the Cambridge history, who sort of shrugged apathetically in response and said they rather expected to accumulate a massive list of “glaring oversights” in the fullness of time. Which brings me to the exhibition in question, entitled Speechless, in which 26 South African comic artists have responded to what the press release refers to as the “dismal vaudeville” of this year’s presidential state of the nation address.
The artists were told they would have to do without speech bubbles to stay on theme, though I see Number One’s giggle has crept in here and there, which seems fine, given that Hehehe is NOT included in the basket of newly acceptable Scrabble words, which includes the indispensable terms “onesie” and “Lolz”. As I previewed the works yesterday, which range in tone from the outraged to the hilarious, in approach from the literal to the intricately metaphorical and in medium from audio-visuals to surfboard surfaces, I was thinking again of this other kind of speechlessness, the one imposed and sustained by institutions and preconceptions. And I was struck by the thought that, if anything could be said to at least have the potential to become a national literature in a place as linguistically and culturally diverse as South Africa is, with all its many polarizations, its poor literacy rates and considering its tiny and fraught reading culture, then it is comic art above all else. So I’m very pleased to have been asked to open this exhibition, which is a testament to both the resilience and the potential of comic art, not just as a perishable response to national concerns, published in newspapers and magazines, but as a form of communication that deserves to hang on our walls and linger in our memories. My eyes were opened, and let us hope that with ground-breaking exhibitions like Speechless many more will be. Thank you.
Images © Individual artists Text © Sean Christie All Rights Reserved © Erdmann Contemporary Designed by Jannah Ruthven 2015
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