OBLIQUE: The so-called fruits of life Abrie Fourie at Fried Contemporary, Pretoria 02
by Tracy Murinik Oblique: angle; thought; observation; reference; inference; narrative. Image. Soundtrack. Film. Commentary. Proposition. Imaginary.
When the act of reading confronts the act of looking. Interpretation: a projected search for meaning. In addition to a tightly edited selection of photographs in Abrie Fourie’s recent Pretoria-based iteration of ‘OBLIQUE: The so-called fruits of life’ – his ongoing project since 2011 – at Fried Contemporary, there are several other narratives that Fourie brings into this exhibition that both inform and reflect upon the works on show. These include short excerpts as wall texts/artworks from Ivan Vladislavićs The Loss Library and Other Unfinished Stories, of which three stories are reprinted in Fourie’s 2011 ‘OBLIQUE’ catalogue. On one wall, for example: “The new perspective changes my sense of the place completely. It clarifies things and I am sorry to have seen it.*” On another: “What about the story the writer would have written the day after he died?*” The exhibition also includes a narration by South African actor Marcel van Heerden of a text by critic and writer Sean O’Toole, ‘The so-called fruits of lives.’ The narration is part of a film installation featuring a series of slow-changing slides of all the images included in Fourie’s follow-up publication, Labor Berlin 11, OBLIQUE, produced in 2012. This was the film’s first screening. Much of the film, in the space/ timeframe between the slideshows, comprises projected white light against the cubicle’s wall, together with the narrated soundtrack: a story of migrancy, borders, the imaginary, desperation, survival and a longing for meaning; to be meaningful.
OBLIQUE: THE SO-CALLED FRUITS OF LIFE / TRACY MURINIK
His photographic works on the show are comprised of images taken mostly in various spaces in Pretoria, where Fourie was born and in Berlin, where he currently lives, with several other smaller images included that reference other parts of South Africa, Germany and one of neighbouring Switzerland. Most of the images are architectural to some degree – of an interior space; or a detail of a structure; or of an image shot of the outside from within. Those images that are not of formal structures nevertheless make reference to architecture, even when makeshift. Fourie’s photographs are bold, interesting, clearly framed and delineated, formal – even those of seemingly familiar moments of everyday banality – and they are opaquely beautiful. Narrated by the artist through seemingly straightforward captions, they are titled by stating what you are looking at and where: Kaffee Schmidt, Schererstraße, Berlin, Germany; Korridor, Steinbächle, Ilshofen, Baden-Württemburg, Germany; Detail: Voortrekker Monument, South Africa; Empty room view, Plein Street, Sunnyside, Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa, for example. The titles are only seemingly straightforward though, because as much as they locate what you are looking at, they provide no context to why you are looking at them. Their connections to one another appear to happen at a formal rather than a strictly thematic level. What are we supposed to read onto, or into them? How do the narrative texts Fourie introduces guide how we might, or should, read them?
01 Abrie Fourie, Corridor, Steinbächle, Ilshofen, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, 2010. Hand printed black & white photograph on Baryta paper, 30 x 30 cm. 02 Abrie Fourie, Detail, Voortrekker Monument, South Africa, 2001. Lambda print diasec, 80 x 120 cm. 03 Abrie Fourie, Empty room view, Plein Street, Sunnyside, Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa, 2001. Lightjet print diasec, 30 x 41cm. 04 Installation view, ‘Oblique: The So-Called Fruits of Life’ at Fried Contemporary, Pretoria. All images courtesy the artist, Fried Contemporary Pretoria and SMAC Gallery Cape Town
Poignant, for me, is how Fourie has for this particular iteration narrowed down his imagery to works reflecting his two home towns (and home countries): two ideologically structured spaces whose borders both shifted in the early 1990s; spaces inhabiting both the intimacies of home and the obstructions to same. Pretoria and Berlin. Spaces left and returned to. Perhaps, for Fourie, spaces of shifting perspective. Places marked physically and psychically by boundaries of control, containment, inclusion and exclusion. The inside and the outside. Points of one’s positioning. Obscured vision, looking out or looking in; how much and how far you can see. Oblique points from which to interpret and imagine what it is that you are seeing or looking for within the space of the unknown, which is just out of reach. Into the space of imagining and the slippage of
photography’s ‘real’ into the projected space of interpretation and fiction, based on the clues we believe we are reading, but always from the photograph’s prescribed view: its incomplete picture. Fourie comments that his approach is “not so much defining a place, as circling the relationship between spaces, sign and self; it hints at that silent tension between absence and presence, abstraction and reality.” Tracy Murinik is a writer, commentator and curator based in Johannesburg. Abrie Fourie’s ‘OBLIQUE: The so-called fruits of life’ was on at Fried Contemporary (Pretoria) from 31 March - 30 April 2016.
Published on Jun 7, 2016
Review by Art Africa Magazine, June 2016 of Abrie Fourie's exhibition: 'Oblique - the so-called fruits of life' held at the Fried Contempora...