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This exhibition consists of a selection of work produced over two years. During this period I attended two residencies. One at the Budapest Art Factory in Hungary and the second at Entabeni Farm, by invitation of the SA Foundation for Contemporary Art, in Knysna, South Africa. My experiences between these two places and the village, Rosendal in the Easter Free State, where I live, and Johannesburg, my home city, were decidedly different, but there were also some important constants. My interest as an artist lies in the landscape and the impact humans have on our movement within space and the perceptions that the ‘owners’ of land, whether public or private, impose on our reading of place. For this exhibition I explored diaphanous barriers as a visual link. In Budapest it was the covering of state buildings under restoration (amongst other the State Opera House), in Rosendal it was the covering of fruit trees with frost cloth, In Johannesburg the safety fences at roadwork sites and in Knysna, a natural barrier in the covering of land by young invasive trees taking root after devastating fires. Conceptually these diaphanous vails speak of protection and peril. The coverings (grids), in all instances, change the reading of the shape of the thing it covers. They stimulated me to enquire, at first intuitively, but ultimately, through reverse engineering the rational interpretation of marks left upon the location. The exhibition consists of three series. In the series Blind I explored colour (Cadmium and Cobalt) for its disorientating abilities. As toxic metals they are key components in the development of contemporary communication and 'green' technology. I used inversion and complementary colour to mimic the process of seeing and being blind. In State Opera, I explored the fascist politics of Hungary under the leadership of Viktor Orbán. Here I focused on state owned buildings under renovation. Orbán’s policies are seen as inspirational by dictators globally. He actively uses the arts as a tool in propagating a fundamentalist Christian state. He is known for disastrous environmental policies, oppression of gender diversity and encouraging xenophobia. Colour and inversion yet again played an important role in my attempts to ‘see’ this landscape. In the series After the Fire I continued to explore the same pictorial language. Knysna holds particular interest to me as my grandfather six generations removed, Rutgert van Huyssteen, was one of the first colonial settlers and landowners in the district in the late 18th century. My ancestors partook in importing many of the current exotic trees to Knysna and were co-responsible for the destruction of the natural forests. I visited Knysna three years after the devastating wildfires of 2017. The crunch of the burnt debris was still tangible underfoot. Adolescent Black Wattle shoots competed in a frenzy for space creating an impenetrable diaphanous thicket. These invasive exotic plants stifled all other plant growth. Although green these new-fangled forests felt dead and ominous. They were like beliefs without context. The areas worst hit by the fires and the current invasion of foreign plant species were where the natural forests were disturbed. Digesting these non-spaces cannot be done without acknowledging the marks my ancestors left on the landscape. Their intent was probably not malevolent, they simply wanted to survive, but their legacy of ownership and privilege is problematic. This exhibition is a literal and metaphorical nod to the book The hidden life of trees by Peter Wolleben. In the book the secrets, ecosystems and memories of ancient forests are described. The author laments their destruction and the loss of their memories. The contrast between the fantastical delusions of a dictator like Orbán, personifying the policies of neo-liberal capitalism and its capillary networks and the dreams of a conservationist at Entabeni Farm in Knysna, and some lessor human versus nature interventions, are pitted against each other - The irrational order of a fascist state versus the rational chaos of conservation. This exhibition happened to take place during the height of the Corona epidemic in South Africa, which inspired the work Crumple Zone.


Reconstruction, Watercolour on paper, 152 x 101cm, 2020, Framed


Viktor's Cadenza, Shredded black background paper and glue, 75 x 55cm, 2019, Framed


Midnight at the Opera, Watercolour and charcoal on Fabriano paper, 75 x 55cm, 2019


State Opera, Watercolour on Fabriano paper, 75 x 55cm, 2019


Patterns of Absence, Watercolour on paper, 75 x 52cm, 2020


Knowledge and Glory, Watercolour and charcoal on paper, 75 x 52cm, 2020


Labour and Wealth, Watercolour on paper, 76.5 x 56cm, 2020


Purity, Watercolour on paper, 76.5 x 56cm, 2020


Pause, Distort, Play, Watercolour on paper, 152 x 101cm, 2019, Framed


Blind II, Watercolour on paper, 26 x 36cm, 2018, Framed


Entangled - Carbon, Cadmium and Cobalt, Watercolour on paper, 66 x 162cm, 2019, Framed


Shelter III, Watercolour on paper, 73.4 x 50.9 cm, 2020, Framed


Shelter II, Watercolour on paper, 73.4 x 50.9 cm, 2019, Framed


A Forest Without Memory I (After the Fire), Watercolour and charcoal on paper, 105 x 75.5cm, 2020


A Forest Without Memory I (After the Fire), Watercolour and charcoal on paper, 105 x 75.5cm, 2020.


A Forest Without Memory. II (After the Fire), Watercolour and charcoal on paper, 105 x 75.5cm, 2020


The Conservationist’s Garden, Watercolour and charcoal on paper, 75.5 x 105cm, 2020.


Olive Branch, Wild Olive, SA Pine, Maranti Wood. 150 x 166 x 74cm, 2019-20


Crumple Zone, Watercolour on paper, 105 x 75.5cm, 2020


142 Jan Smuts Ave, Parkwood | info@gallery2.co.za | +27 (0)83 457 4851, (011) 447 0155/98 | www.gallery2.co.za

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Wessel van Huyssteen - Between the Grid and the Mark  

Between the Grid and the Mark A solo exhibition by Wessel van Huyssteen at Gallery 2 15th of August - September 5th 2020 The exhibition wi...

Wessel van Huyssteen - Between the Grid and the Mark  

Between the Grid and the Mark A solo exhibition by Wessel van Huyssteen at Gallery 2 15th of August - September 5th 2020 The exhibition wi...

Profile for gallery2
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