Beyond Matter is an exciting exhibition of new works by six contemporary South African artists, taking widely varying approaches to art-making. Mediums include oil paint, beeswax, bronze and wool dust, as well as the elements of fire, water and air.
In the search for the essence or the ‘real' matter of life, each artist's work reflects a constant flow between inner reflection and external searching.
South African Art is recognised as being rich with world class talent, and of reflecting - seemingly compulsively - the country's historical and ongoing narrative of internal struggle. In Beyond Matter however, Regi Bardavid, Penelope Stutterheime, Sandile Zulu, Brendhan Dickerson, Bonita Alice (now resident in London) and Peter van Straten have been invited to consider their work and concerns as South African art-makers outside the narrative of struggle. By exploring beyond the physical and material and by challenging perceptions of our world there is a possible reinterpretation of what is considered to be reality. The theme is multi layered, encompassing ideas and the exploration of quantum physics, spirituality, the imagination and desire. With this in mind each artist has been invited to go Beyond Matter.
An overriding theme in the work of Bonita Alice is that of our desire for connection to place. Previously exploring our heightened need for a personal heaven, and reflecting on memory, Bonita has come to realise that the landscapes she depicts in her work are not external ones at all, but instead exist internally. Through these imagined landscapes she visits different locations and times, in defiance of the limitations of linear time. Her visual references are genres that are concerned with a heightened experience of the real... contemporary graphic novels and Japanese prints.
Having developed her work through various mediums, Bonita is currently creating drawings, as she says, much like a sculptor. Using dyed wool 'dust' (the waste generated from the cutting of commercial felt) and glue; she constructs these, usually circular, images. Bonita initially began using the 'dust' in a series of works relating to death, and has continued to use it as a means of evoking a texture reminiscent of the past and of nostalgia.
Regi Bardavid is known for her search on the unconscious as a medium towards intuitive insight and creativity. Her works are an exploration towards the spontaneous, where relinquishing self control allows images to appear. Finding a similarity within the practices of traditional South African healers, Bardavid searches for something bigger and more meaningful than herself. A mystery that is significant of life, spirituality and the unknown.
This deconstruction of established knowledge is a landscape of the psyche, where the expression is nothing but the creative act. The work is neither descriptive nor semantic, but rather embodies a primordial, archetypal energy. Working with beeswax, oil and pigments her paintings become a layered tactile journey of mark making and colour. Bardavid's process includes meditation, free drawings, pouring paint and incisions. The painting paints itself. Her intuitive works are a way to contact her subconscious so as to reach the collective unconscious.
Brendhan Dickerson is a South African sculptor who creates complex counter-balancing mobiles and fire sculptures that satirically comment on the ironies of daily life.
Despite the hard mediums he uses, Dickerson's mobiles appear to be sensitive line drawings suspended in space, which become animated when stirred into motion. This further reflects his fascination with precariousness, and the fact that the world is constantly changing and transforming.
Peter van Straten
Through his work Peter van Straten sheds light onto those liminal places where normal thought breaks down, where a 2 or a 7 might be found in binary code, intending for his paintings to be like windows through which we could temporarily flee the monopoly which our reality has become.
Into the scenes he finds or remembers, he bleeds such aspects of our present experience that most provocatively and emotively tug at consciousness, layering experience with subtleties almost to the point of madness. Mystic rather than surrealist he bends the mundane towards the utopian, luring and tempting the viewer into an altogether more playful and illuminating landscape of the self.
The primary medium used by Stutterheime is oil paint on canvas, utilising an impasto application. Her subject matter has evolved through landscape, portraiture and still life to an abstract and esoteric form, drawing inspiration from the landscapes. The work is highly symbolic, tapping into drawing from dream images and the unconscious, and conveyed through colour and form, the images are a representation of transformation and journey. The viewer is invited to relate primarily to the work on an emotional level. These paintings are a portrayal of Stutterheime's inner spiritual process.
Although influenced by many external forces, such as science, history and politics, the overriding theme linking all of Zulu's work together is that of creation, destruction and identity.
Using fire as his primary medium, this powerful element has the ability to both cleanse and destroy whilst combining air and water to control and manipulate the fire creates an evocative metaphor of life. He also uses fire to explore his complex interests in science, astronomy, genealogy and pan-African philosophy, and has created a working method that relies on both rhythm and repetition. These patterns and repetitions often express an indeterminate space in which time is rendered as rhythm.
Although his process is one of deep introspection and meditation, Zulu has also looked to science and scientific method in a search for a language to articulate the inherent wholeness of these natural, psychological, cosmological relationships.
Describing fire ‘as a torch to spread light on an investigation', the process of burning engages in a transformative act that may be healing, enlightening or cathartic.
Date: 20th - 25th October 2008
Opening hours: Monday to Thursday 10am - 9pm , Friday 10am - 6pm, Saturday 10am - 2pm
Venue: Menier Gallery, Menier Chocolate Factory, 51 Southwark St, London SE1 1RU
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