First Thursday 3rd March
From large-scale installation work to small images no larger than 30 X 30 cm, there are some very exciting exhibitions already running or opening this coming week. The 3rd March is the first Thursday of the month which means late evening opening in Braamfontein as well as on the art strip in the Lower Rosebank area. Several exhibitions open that night and offer a very varied and wide range of artwork.
David Krut Parkwood: group exhibition
Opening at David Krut is inch x inch (more correctly i.n.c.h x i.n.c.h), a group exhibition of small scale works (less than 30 X 30cm) from almost 40 artists with lots of very well-known names amongst them: William Kentridge, Penny Siopis, David Koloane, Diane Victor, Stephen Hobbs, Bronwyn Findlay, Sandile Goje, Maja Maljević, Robyn Penn, Faith 47 amongst others. Some are new works and some come from the David Krut archive with many of these artists coming from the Krut stable. An extensive variety of mediums is represented including etchings, paintings, photographs, linocuts, drawings, and even sculptures. This promises to be a very exciting exhibition.
Circa on Jellicoe: Phillemon Hlungwani
Down the road at Circa on Jellicoe Phillemon Hlungwani’s exhibition From Giyani to Alexandra opens. Hlungwane who was born, as the title of the exhibition suggests, in Giyani, came to Johannesburg in 2000 after matric to study at the Johannesburg Art Foundation and then at Artists Proof Studio where he still teaches. I look back to when his works were really affordable and could kick myself that I didn’t buy some of his work back then. Often working monochromatically, in both his prints and charcoal drawings, he has introduced colour into his work in recent years. His figurative work remains rooted in the landscape and urban scenes. While some of his renderings of street scenes verge on ‘township potboiler’, he has produced some technically extraordinary work.
Momo, Parktown North: Jonathan Freemantle
Opening at MOMO on 7th Ave Parktown North, is Jonathan Freemantle’s Der Heiliger Berg II. I first saw Freemantle’s work at the Standard Bank Gallery’s exhibition Exact Imagination, 300 years of botanically inspired art in South Africa where the specially commissioned work Temple of Flora 2014 was shown. Along with resembling a greenhouse structure, the Temple of Flora is, as its name suggests, part sacred space as well as alluding to an alchemical lab . With proportions based on the geometric harmony of the golden mean, the entire symbolism of this structure is complex and layered. In the ‘greenhouse’ Freemantle places 5 different plants species with each each plant having 3 incarnations: the botanical plant itself; the distilled version of the plants in the form of essential oils; and a painting of the plant in which the oil from the plant has been used to paint the image. So the essence of the plant itself forms a part of the final medium used to represent the plant – a rebirth or remaking of the plant in a different form.
In his holy mountain paintings on Der Heiliger Berg II, he invokes a similar ritual. Freemantle has spent time in two mountain ranges- Rannoch Moor in Scotland and the Magaliesberg in the Cradle of Humankind. Taking rocks from these mountains he grinds them into powder form, mixes this with beeswax, turpentine, linseed oil and Damar resin (from the Damar tree) and uses it to paint the images of the mountain or Heilige Berg. These archetypal ‘holy mountains’ have an aesthetic power and looming other-worldly presence.
Goodman Gallery: Alfred Jaar
And at Goodman is the very exciting exhibition by Alfredo Jaar, the Chilean installation artist. This is his first solo show in South Africa entitled Amilcar Frantz Patrice and Others. Jaar’s work responds to contemporary gobal events and deals with issues such as social inequality, genocide, and how Africa is imaged in the media. The exhibition gets its title from works dedicated to the African intellectuals Amilcar Cabral, Frantz Fanon, Patrice Lumumba as well as musician and activist Fela Kuti. Two works on the show deal with the Rwandan genocide (moving in both senses – non-static and deeply emotional) while a third is a chronological series of Newsweek covers showing how the world media ignored the Rwandan genocide.
Two works take chronologically arranged book-covers from international publishing houses showing how Africa/Africans are represented at different moments in history by the Western world. A large installation work at the centre of the exhibition suggests that Johannesburg could become a major financial hub in Africa – so a note of optimism in an otherwise deeply sobering and reflective exhibition. This exhibition runs until 10th April.
Concurrently at WAM: Alfred Jaar
Showing concurrently at Wits Art Museum (WAM) is Jaar’s major installation entitled The Sound of Silence (which has been exhibited around the world). Reflecting Jaar’s long time interest in the politics of media images and the role of photojournalism, this installation was created in response to Kevin Carter’s controversial Pulitzer prize winning 2006 photo of the child with the vulture nearby. Here Jaar problematizes the relationship between photography, violence, famine and human suffering. He raises questions around how we (the general public) consume media and what our role is in terms of responsibility. Our passive onlooking, and lack of empathy and involvement in the horrendous situations around us, gives rise to the title of the exhibition Sound of Silence. The artist said about this installation: “It is a lamentation. It’s a poem that asks about ethics of what we (photojournalists) do when we shoot pain.” This exhibition which runs until 23rd March has been described as mesmerizing, powerful, haunting – so expect to be challenged and moved.
And make the most of this March #LateThursday – there is so much on offer.