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SEE ART Contemporary Abstract Curated by Derek Zietsman

Io Makandal, , Entanglement III, Mixed media drawing on paper, 650 x 920mm, 2018 Photographer: Mike Hall

Allen Laing, Bevan De Wet, Blake Daniels, Colijn Strydom, Collin Cole, Daandrey Steyn, Derek Zietsman, Gordon Froud, Heidi Fourie, Io Makandal, Jenny Stadler, Lothar Bรถttcher, Natasha Norman, Stephen Hobbs, Wayne Matthews, Sarah Grace

SEE ART: Contemporary Abstract is the second instalment of the SEE ART series of exhibitions at Gallery 2 that focuses on contemporary art-making processes.

This exhibition explores the myth that abstract art, as well as the contemporary art-making process in creating ‘abstract art’, is dead. Any art student can tell you of the two golden ages of abstract art, between 1912 and 1925; and again between 1947 and 1970. Artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian, and Jackson Pollock are some of the wellknown artists from these eras.

So, did this art form, known for informal composition and general independence from overt visual references to ‘reality’, expire after 1970? A brief internet search reveals that abstract art is generally still very popular, (think of artists such as Anish Kapoor and Gerard Richter). The question is, it may still be popular, but is abstract art still radical, still relevant? When Kazimir Malevich exhibited his first Black Square in late 1915, it was regarded as enigmatic, a work that demarcated the ‘new’ art from the ‘old’ art. Some current commentators speculate that it sometimes feel as if this ‘radical’ energy has dissipated

SEE ART: Contemporary Abstract explores how selected artists approach this question, how they explore contemporary possibilities in abstract art-making. For example, abstract art is not necessarily abstract. In 1951 the Dutch artist Willem de Kooning said "There is no style of painting now. There are as many naturalists among the abstract painters as there are abstract painters among the subject matter school". The German artist Sigmar Polke, who died in 2010, moved paint, resin, meteorite dust and silk screens around in search of an image, or often maybe not. Many artists believe that, strictly speaking, there is no such thing as abstraction – that abstract art-making is a state of mind. The New Zealand artist Maxwell Harold says "The impulse moves between the instant and the gradual... in alertness and attention. … inherently mysterious, it’s a state of being where there is no recognizable ‘Mind’...".

SEE ART: Contemporary Abstract is an exhibition that reminds us of the capacity of abstraction to visualise the unknown, to explore contemporary artmaking processes that are free from tradition, which invents a new visual narrative for a post-modern, technological world.


Bookmatch Book, Henkel’s yellowwood, Kiaat, Rhodesian Teak, Mulberry, Syringa, Camphor, Bauhenia, Carob, Jozi Gold, Sweet Thorn, Olive, Karee, Jellutong, Salingna, 2018


Ancient Lake, Indian Ink on paper with aluminium pins, 100 x 113 cm, 2017

Ancient Lake: From the body of work entitled New Forms The circle is a Jungian archetype for the psyche: a symbol of eternity, wholeness and unity. It has no beginning or end. In contrast to the structured and geometric form of the circle, I embrace the organic nature of water to inform the image: it is the primary catalyst for mark making, as a carrier for pigments, incorporating its natural flow and evaporation to inform certain uncontrollable marks on the surface, causing it to warp and change shape, further exploring the limitations and the thresholds of the paper itself. Water is an archetypal symbol of birth and life, and acts a builder and destroyer. Used here as a creator, the residual black pigment resembles, it’s opposite. While the circle is eternal, the black circle alludes to the void, an absorber of light, a repressed shadow side. In Japanese philosophy the Void represents a connection to creative energy and spontaneity.

Distressed Paper Drawing I & II, drawing ink and charcoal on Hahnemuhle, 125x139cm, 2017

Distressed Paper Drawing I & II: From the Body of work entitled New Forms. Using traditional media such and ink, charcoal and paper, this work is simply an exploration of surface. Ink and charcoal are initially used to cover the paper, then, through a performative act of erasing, rubbing and distressing the surface, the marks are made reductively from darkest to lightest, as with each erasure or rubbing, residual charcoal from the surface is forced into the newly exposed subdermal paper layers. While there is no attempt at any figuration or traditional representation in the work, it is formed as residue of performance. The Distressed Paper Drawing series seeks to interrogate the surface as a boundary which predominantly retains the image.

Bevan de wet and Io Makandal Composition G, 78,5x54cm, monotype, 2017


Banshee Boogie, Oil on Canvas, 100 x 74 cm

The Sister Summoner of Klipriviersberg, Graphite and contĂŠ on paper, 74 x 57 cm

In my paintings and drawings I visualise moments of intimacy with history, both lived and remembered, exploring bodies and landscapes constantly altered, dislocated and fragmented through their internalisations of socially built histories. Through reconfiguring figure and ground relationships, I explore tales of love remembered and forgotten, histories remembered and forgotten, never allowing a definitive line between abstraction and figuration.


Dog Days, mixed media on Canvas, 89 x 72 cm

Building 15 C7, mixed media on Canvas, 61 x 76 cm

My drawings and paintings allude to literature, history, science and popular culture, I explore drawing and painting as themes in themselves. Decoration and its connotations of femininity are evident in the depictions of plants and landscapes that I worked on in recent years. These refer to art historical ideas about the landscape as well as overtly political themes such as land ownership. The degrees of abstraction that result enable me to include glitch and Rococo elements and to think more about the act of drawing. My present work revolves around Igor Stavinsky’s Rite of Spring. The ballet’s rich history acts as a springboard to work through ideas of sacrifice, Modernism, nature and the body. Of particular interest to me at the moment are the grid and its subversion.


Projecting the Future, Oil on Canvas, 100 x 100 cm


Ubuliliesthessia, Video Art, Still image from video, 2018


Triad fractaling, welded steel mesh, 43 x 43 x 134 cm

I set about making a piece that not only utilised triangles in the form of pyramids. In my usual playful way, I made the independent units in differing sizes without thinking of the end design. Once time had run out to make units, I started playfully assembling the pieces guided only by what felt right. A sense of symmetry imposed itself on the piece and by the end of the supply of pyramids, I realised that a repeated fractal design had occurred. I had not set out to do this but like a child with Lego blocks, I let the forms and the limited number guide my process. I added pyramidal feet to elevate the form and hid another pyramid within the largest one that forms the base, suggesting a pregnant form ready to repeatedly reproduce.


Body Rock, oil on acetate, 38 x 27 cm, 2018

Soft Cluster, oil on acetate, 38 x 27 cm, 2018

Recognition I, oil on canvas, 50 x 60 cm

Recognition II, oil on canvas, 66 x 73 cm

Gem, oil on canvas, 80 x 120 cm

My work tends to hover on the threshold between figuration and abstraction. Although the process is usually initiated by a photographic reference, the image evolves and mutates as the viscous paint flows across the surface, at times rendering the subject unrecognisable. Recognition I and II are experimental, process driven pieces. They were created by repeated construction and deconstruction. I wiped a half dried painting off, painted back into it, wiped down further, and repeated it across the surface, wiping it if it didn’t seem right. It is largely a materialism of my frustration (and perhaps fascination) with my inability to control the paint and the difficulty to capture a subject using only a few gestural brush strokes. Body Rock and Soft Cluster were among the first paintings I made without using a reference image. They felt like a leap into the unknown. The familiar process thrilled me into a sweat at times.


Euphoria Inaequilatera, mixed media drawing on paper, 54.5 x 42 cm

Portulaca Oleracea, mixed media drawing on paper, 54.5 x 42 cm


Summer Night Light, 130 x 160 cm, Oil on Canvas, 2018

I draw my inspiration from natural formations; e.g. rocks, tress, urban graffiti, anything that catches the eye. My working method is through improvisation, and a continuous questioning of the work in progress. It is the visual experience of the work, the way in which the painted surface approximates the movement and depth of natural configurations that each painting evokes its particular spirit and feeling.


Big Bang Bloom, Hand carved and polished cast blown glass, steel

Snake, Hand carved and polished optical crystal, steel

Obsession, Hand carved and polished optical crystal, steel

Dream, Hand carved and polished golden optical crystal, stone, steel, leather

“We do not describe the world we see, we see the world as we can describe.”- Rene Descates Light is the medium which informs us of our surroundings, giving us an understanding of our place in this universe. It is with light that we hunt the day and in the dark of the night we lay our heads down. I employ hand carved and polished lenses to accentuate and distort this light. Through these portals one observes the contiguous space within and beyond. In this current age of digital engagement and instant gratification we tend to miss the here and now. We are swooped away, fleetingly flipping through images from faraway places. Through my sculptures I attempt to bring an experience of immediacy back into our lives. Each work plays with the idea of customized algorithms bringing us this impression of the world and our place in it through an idealized filter of our digital pocket lenses. My analogue lenses open up other possibilities, allowing us to see the world with the new eyes and imagination; to capture the moment of here and now. Reference to the three geometric shapes- circle, square, triangle - are inspired and echo concepts of Kasimir Malvich’s Geometic Abstraction.


dibble dibble dopp dopp (Rain),Lithographic ink on bleached Rice Paper print 945 x 635mm, 2018

shuh, shuh, shuh (Breath),Lithographic ink on bleached Rice Paper print 945 x 635mm, 2018

My work focuses on the experiential vision of landscape. I employ subtle haptic mark-making processes that seek to evoke an imaginative sensation of water, earth and air through technologies of paint and print. My works are evocations of my own experiences in space and time. I currently work in Moku-Hanga (Japanese water-based woodblock printing) and monotype print techniques, employing each as and when I seek a particular mark-making possibility.

Disarticulation, Mokuhanga and watercolour print, 2017, 610 x 470 mm

Artist's Conk, Mokuhanga monotype, 2017, 610 x 470 mm


END OF RUN, Enamel, acrylic paint, pencil, turmeric, tape, heat, glue, pigmented coating, 58 x 230 cm

“What, then, is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms – in short, a sum of human relations, which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obilgitory to a people: turths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are; metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power; coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as a metal, no longer as coins.”


The Ethics of Wishing, Graphite on Shenxaun paper, 109.5 x 80 cm (Framed)

Wayne Matthews and Mandy Johnston I AM NOT HERE, Graphite, pencil and steel filings on Shenxaun paper, 147 x 102 cm (Framed)

Absolute love‌ Knob Knees and other Apocrypha, Graphite (pencil lead) on paper, 52 x 58 cm (Framed)

L’éditions Arrière: Ingress at the other end. “Someone had left the membrane more permeable then when I was last here” As a parody of a title, I once scrawled down the words ‘Trojan Whor[s]e’ and then, sometime after but before the exhibition of the work, I added with a titter, “ to be reared from the view”. With a simple naivety, I recognised the implication of that particular arrangement of letters/words, the accord it stuck with its objects and materials, and, at once the novel triviality of it all. At the other end I could hear a gnawing, an ineptly affixed jaw was assimilating the eschewed words making it part of her (the work), there was a subtle exchange taking place between what was supposed to lay outside of her (the work) and title, and a thing framed (she had no conventional frame). At once I concealed, the artwork as object is a trivial matter, like any other form, any language, it necessitates participation. In order for the artist to have communion with the work thy too had, after the fact, to become spectators that add meaning, participants that intersect with the otherwise inert matter of the image/object. Surely I, in my artist guise, have certain vacillating intentions and ideas when producing any given work. I contribute to it textures, to the text, condensing and compressing signs, adding difference/s. But my objectives, suspended as they are, rather, an interplay ‘between’ the intentional and unintentional, a dog-eared page finds another’s text and texture imposed on the present, a number, syllable a sign. One finds meaning in the imaginary arabesque traced in the sand below the gallows. It is only when sense, sensibility and the intellect are brought into contact with these textures that depth is brought to surface. Once the object, by whatever forces have conspired to put it there, is given to the participant it is they who have to ‘rear’ the object/image in order for it to become something of significance. Duchamp mentions, in reference to his Large Glass’s cracks, a ready-made intention… the cracks intentionally expressing an unconsidered objective, an intention that the artist none the less appropriates as her/his own. The question of artist’s statement then, as I understand it, a question to be answered by a spectator.


Biology #6, Acrylic ink, graphite, pencil, pen on Fabriano paper, 37 x 37 cm (framed), 2018

Biology #7, Acrylic ink, graphite, pencil, pen on Fabriano paper, 37 x 37 cm (framed), 2018

Through organic forms; shapes and clusters, I explore the human tendency to find shared meaning in the artifices we create – in order to support the myths of beliefs that bind us together. I am fascinated with the tension between our synthetic lives and the natural ecosystems that initiated out existence, finding a connection with a form of story-telling that predates civilisation. My choice of medium, technique, objects and subject matter were inspired by my mythological symbolism and study of the multiple scales within the ecological universe. The works celebrate the beauty of nature at these levels, embracing the connections between real and imaginary life forms.

SEE ART Contemporary Abstract Catalogue Gallery 2  

SEE ART: Contemporary Abstract is the second instalment of the SEE ART series of exhibitions at Gallery 2 that focuses on contemporary art-m...

SEE ART Contemporary Abstract Catalogue Gallery 2  

SEE ART: Contemporary Abstract is the second instalment of the SEE ART series of exhibitions at Gallery 2 that focuses on contemporary art-m...