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PAINTINGS. DRAWINGS. PHOTOS. ZANDER BLOM


PAINTINGS. DRAWINGS. PHOTOS. ZANDER BLOM


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ANTICIPATING A FUTURE IN THE MAKING

In July 2006, mid-winter in Gauteng, a young graphic artist from Pretoria, by then

Sean O’Toole

a resident of Johannesburg, presented his debut solo exhibition at an experimental gallery in Braamfontein. Titled Sounds and Pictures, the promotion for this exhibition of monochromatic graphics and electronic sound works included a black and white poster of the artist photographed at night, back facing the camera, left foot balancing on the stump of a desiccated tree no thicker than his leg, teetering, about to fall. Appearing beneath the photograph was the following caption: “The Painter of Space Hurls Himself into the Void.” No doubt conceived as a jokey, vernacular re-enactment of Yves Klein’s infamous Leap into the Void (1960), a black and white photograph depicting the Nice-born judo expert and painter of the conceptual void diving off a suburban wall, Zander Blom’s exhibition poster remains striking. Wholly speculative in conception, particularly since there were no paintings as such on his solo debut, in outcome the crisp one-liner he fashioned has nonetheless proven remarkably generative. It foresaw the future before it was fact. Comprising 31 oil and graphite paintings on rear-treated Belgian linen, 37 ink and graphite drawings on paper and 27 photographs, the exhibition PAINTINGS. DRAWINGS. PHOTOS. marks another debut for Blom: it is his first fully fledged show of paintings. Four years and bit since he boldly announced himself as a painter without any paintings to show, Blom has unequivocally hurled himself into the void, without reservation or hesitation, immersing himself and the viewer in what he calls “the chaos of the painting mire”. Chaos, voids, hurling, mires – the language of abstract painting is primal, violent and hyperbolic. It cannot be any other way. The reason is simple enough: the painted void is not a void, not literally. It is a mental construct, a fictional space, a “four-sided arena” for action, as Harold Rosenberg famously described it in 1952. Viewed collectively, the four-sidedness of Blom’s paintings is visibly apparent. For the most part, his paintings occupy a space within the frame; rarely do his topographical constructions, geometric reverberations or curious experiments with mark-making leak off the canvas. The action is largely bounded, so much so that we become critically aware of the frame itself. By their nature, photographs – the medium that announced Blom to a national art audience – offer an eviscerated fragment from a larger life. (This is not to condemn photography; I am merely drawing attention to an operating condition of this fecund medium.) While Blom has always eschewed naturalism, his photographs nonetheless make us aware that we are seeing a fragment. He may not intend it, the camera more of an experimental sketching tool in his hand, but the outcome is unavoidable. In one photograph included on this exhibition, two intersecting cornices in a room meet almost dead centre on the picture plane, from which point a blue cable drops down


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to a projector mount. Despite the minimalist composition, oblique angle and clear interest in linear pattern that underpin the work, the photograph invites peripheral digressions. Is that a gallery? If it is, can we infer some sort of institutional critique from his depiction of a place of creative display as a voided space? Or is this his house? If so, how many tins of white acrylic paint does he have stored in his garage to endlessly erase those private experiments in form he paints on his walls and then photographs? Blom’s abstract paintings invite none of this sort of circumnavigation of the event. All that exists is the event proper, the physical residue of which is marked by its uneven topography, blackened ecology and defunct history. By history I mean art history. Much of Blom’s work is a process-bound critical engagement (through reading, looking, experimentation, re-enactment, destruction) with the legacy of western modernism. He makes this explicit in his exhibition by including a reproduction of Frank Stella’s Hatra II (1968), Blom disturbing Stella’s hard-edged semi-circular construction with tendrils of black paint. While most of his compositions on canvas are composed within a bordered space, Blom’s paintings are more than simply studies in confinement. In fact, I think the obverse holds: each canvas exists as a discrete, self-enclosed world. In one of the larger paintings installed at the entrance to the exhibition, an untitled work redolent of Klein’s swirls of blue or Shozo Shimamoto’s eruptions of black, an encrusted black sludge dreams of becoming a river. The brushwork is instinctual and unremarkable; the mood is violent and ecstatic. In a far smaller work, which like all the canvases is untitled, the droning evanescence of extreme death metal is captured as a series of haunted black forms, some fully filled in, others mere squiggles. Sometimes, only occasionally, he allows the free-form musical riffs that characterise his orchestration to cohere and assume a more formal structure: in one painting, three graphite lines suspend a Malevich-like black sphere in blank space. It is a moment of equilibrium, albeit fleeting in its formal perfection. Blom’s immersive abstractions are in the main tentative and agitated, the product of obvious delight; that they come cloaked in rapture does make them strangely immanent, furtive almost, which is not to mean unknowable. Everything about their condition inheres in the moody artefacts. Nothing is contextual. And yet, in their final, nameable physical form, Blom’s artefacts transcend the frame, becoming both a requiem for a defunct knowledge and (like that poster) an anticipatory gesture towards some possible future in the making. Sean O’Toole is a writer and art journalist living in Cape Town


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LIST OF WORKS

Page 4. Untitled 2010, ink and graphite on paper, 53 x 37cm

Page 14. Untitled 2010, oil and graphite on linen, 121 x 94.5cm

Page 5. Untitled 2010, oil and graphite on linen, 238 x 169cm

Page 15. The Black Hole Universe. Chapter 1 Scene 001 S達o Paulo, 2009, C-print, 60 x 87cm

Page 6. Untitled 2010, oil and graphite on linen, 239 x 182cm

Page 16, from top. Untitled 2010, oil on linen, 50 x 65cm Untitled 2010, ink on paper, 56 x 76cm

Page 7. The Black Hole Universe. Chapter 1 Scene 021 S達o Paulo, 2009, C-print, 60 x 87cm

Page 17. Untitled 2010, oil and graphite on linen, 198 x 147cm

Page 8. Untitled 2010, ink and graphite on paper, 52 x 37.5cm

Page 18. Untitled 2010, oil and graphite on linen, 94.5 x 73.5cm

Page 9. Untitled 2010, oil and graphite on linen, 204 x 142cm

Page 19. Untitled 2010, oil on linen, 85.5 x 63.5cm

Pages 10-11, clockwise from top left. Untitled 2010, ink on paper, 52.5 x 37cm Untitled 2010, ink on paper, 110 x 75cm Untitled 2010, oil on linen, 106.5 x 77cm The Black Hole Universe. Chapter 1 Scene 016 S達o Paulo, 2009, C-print, 60 x 87cm Untitled 2010, ink on paper, 50 x 31.5cm Untitled 2010, ink on paper, 105 x 75cm The Black Hole Universe. Chapter 2 Scene 003 Berlin, 2010, C-print, 60 x 87cm Untitled 2010, ink on paper, 56 x 76cm The Black Hole Universe. Chapter 2 Scene 005 Berlin, 2010, C-print, 60 x 87cm Untitled 2010, oil on linen, 56 x 76cm Page 12. Untitled 2010, ink on paper, 76 x 56cm Page 13. Untitled 2010, oil and graphite on linen, 114.5 x 84.5cm

Page 20, clockwise from top left. Untitled 2010, ink, graphite and acrylic spraypaint on paper, 48.5 x 36cm Untitled 2010, oil on linen, 76 x 56cm Untitled 2010, oil and graphite on linen, 38 x 28cm The Black Hole Universe. Chapter 2 Scene 006 Berlin, 2010, C-print, 60 x 87cm Untitled 2010, ink, graphite and acrylic spraypaint on paper, 76 x 56cm Page 21, clockwise from top left. The Black Hole Universe. Chapter 1 Scene 022 S達o Paulo, 2009, C-print, 60 x 87cm Untitled 2010, ink on paper, 110 x 75cm Untitled 2010, ink, graphite and acrylic spraypaint on paper, 52 x 37.5cm Untitled 2010, ink and graphite on paper 56 x 38cm Untitled 2010, ink, graphite and acrylic spraypaint on paper, 56 x 38cm


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Page 22, left to right. Untitled 2010, oil and graphite on linen, 76 x 56cm Untitled 2010, oil and graphite on linen, 100 x 64.5cm Page 23. Untitled 2010, oil and graphite on linen, 105 x 75cm Page 24. Untitled 2010, oil and graphite on linen, 96.5 x 63.5cm Page 25. Untitled 2010, oil and graphite on linen, 105 x 75cm Page 26. Untitled 2010, oil and graphite on linen, 102 x 86cm Page 27. Untitled 2010, ink on paper, 110 x 75cm Page 28, clockwise from top left. The Black Hole Universe. Chapter 2 Scene 009 Berlin, 2010, C-print, 60 x 87cm The Black Hole Universe. Chapter 1 Scene 002 São Paulo, 2009, C-print, 60 x 87cm The Black Hole Universe. Chapter 1 Scene 007 São Paulo, 2009, C-print, 60 x 87cm The Black Hole Universe. Chapter 2 Scene 027 Berlin, 2010, C-print, 60 x 87cm Page 29, clockwise from top left. The Black Hole Universe. Chapter 2 Scene 012 Berlin, 2010, C-print, 60 x 87cm The Black Hole Universe. Chapter 2 Scene 001 Berlin, 2010, C-print, 60 x 87cm The Black Hole Universe. Chapter 2 Scene 013 Berlin, 2010, C-print, 60 x 87cm The Black Hole Universe. Chapter 2 Scene 029 Berlin, 2010, C-print, 60 x 87cm

Pages 30-31, central works, left to right. Untitled 2010, oil and graphite on linen, 198 x 140cm Untitled 2010, oil and graphite on linen, 198 x 120cm Untitled 2010, oil and graphite on linen, 198 x 140cm Page 32. Untitled 2010, oil and graphite on linen, 77.5 x 58cm Page 33. Untitled 2010, ink and graphite on paper, 85.5 x 61cm Page 34, clockwise from top left. The Black Hole Universe. Chapter 2 Scene 032 Berlin, 2010, C-print, 60 x 87cm The Black Hole Universe. Chapter 1 Scene 010 São Paulo, 2009, C-print, 60 x 87cm Untitled 2010, ink, graphite and acrylic spraypaint on paper, 86 x 61cm Untitled 2010, oil and graphite on linen, 65 x 50cm Page 35, clockwise from top. Untitled 2010, oil and graphite on linen, 102 x 86cm The Black Hole Universe. Chapter 1 Scene 017 São Paulo, 2009, C-print, 60 x 87cm The Black Hole Universe. Chapter 1 Scene 020 São Paulo, 2009, C-print, 60 x 87cm Page 36. Untitled 2010, ink, graphite and spraypaint on paper, 105 x 76cm Page 37, left to right. Untitled 2010, ink on paper, 110 x 75cm Untitled 2010, ink on paper, 110 x 75cm Pages 38-39, clockwise from far left. Untitled 2010, graphite and acrylic spraypaint on paper, 52.5 x 37cm

The Black Hole Universe. Chapter 1 Scene 012 São Paulo, 2009, C-print, 60 x 87cm Untitled 2010, gouache on paper, 38 x 56cm Untitled 2010, ink on paper, 76 x 56cm Untitled 2010, ink and graphite on paper, 85 x 60.5cm The Black Hole Universe. Chapter 2 Scene 041 Berlin, 2010, C-print, 60 x 87cm Untitled 2010, oil and graphite on linen, 77.5 x 58cm Untitled 2010, graphite on paper, 86 x 61cm The Black Hole Universe. Chapter 1 Scene 001 São Paulo, 2009, C-print, 60 x 87cm Untitled 2010, ink and graphite on paper, 105 x 75cm Untitled 2010, oil and graphite on linen, 105.5 x 75cm Untitled 2010, oil on linen, 91.5 x 61cm Page 40. The Black Hole Universe. Chapter 2 Scene 021 Berlin, 2010, C-print, 60 x 87cm Page 41. Untitled 2010, oil and graphite on linen, 198 x 164cm Page 42. The Black Hole Universe. Chapter 2 Scene 008 Berlin, 2010, C-print, 60 x 87cm Page 43. The Black Hole Universe. Chapter 1 Scene 018 São Paulo, 2009, C-print, 60 x 87cm Page 44. Untitled 2010, oil and graphite on linen, 105 x 75cm Page 45. Untitled 2010, ink on paper, 104 x 75cm


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ARTIST BIOGRAPHY

Zander Blom was born in 1982 in Pretoria and lives and works in Johannesburg. His first major body of work, The Drain of Progress, was exhibited in Johannesburg (2007), Cape Town (2008) and London (2009). The Travels of Bad followed, showing in Johannesburg and Cape Town in 2009. Both bodies of work were published as limited edition artist’s books. In 2010 Blom exhibited The Black Hole Universe: Mapping the Void at 5x6x9, Berlin. Group shows include Ampersand, Daimler Contemporary, Berlin (2010); Black, Blank Projects (2009); Why Not?, Kuckei + Kuckei, Berlin (2009); Disguise: The art of attracting and deflecting attention, Michael Stevenson, Cape Town (2008); and .ZA: Young art from South Africa, Palazzo Delle Papesse, Siena, Italy (2008). In 2009 Blom was included in the Younger than Jesus artists’ directory published by the New Museum, New York. He was awarded a Red Bull House of Art residency in São Paulo in 2009 and will take up a Fountainhead residency in Miami in 2011.

ARTIST’S ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

My sincere thanks to Dominique Cheminais, Jaco van Schalkwyk, my family, Glynn and Greg Cheminais, Michael MacGarry, Jan-Henri Booyens, Wim Botha, Joost Bosland, Andrew Da Conceicao, Sophie Perryer, Michael Stevenson and all at the gallery.

Catalogue no 54 October 2010 Cover image Untitled 2010, oil on linen, 106.5 x 77cm Right Untitled 2010, ink and collage on paper, 27 x 37cm MICHAEL STEVENSON Buchanan Building, 160 Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock 7925, Cape Town, South Africa Tel +27 (0)21 462 1500 info@michaelstevenson.com www.michaelstevenson.com Editor Sophie Perryer Design Gabrielle Guy Photography Mario Todeschini Printing Hansa Print, Cape Town


MICHAEL STEVENSON


Zander Blom: Paintings. Drawings. Photos