Clive van den Berg: Underscape

Clive van den Berg: Underscape - Omenka Online

Following Clive Van den Berg’s recent survey at the KwaZulu Natal Society of Arts, Goodman Gallery is pleased to present Underscape, a cross-section of paintings by the artist that considers the “distemper” of our lived experience in relation to landscape.

On the nature of this theme in his work, Van den Berg notes:

“A swelling of earth, a hollow or dispersed pile of stones that once marked a grave or embattlement, are the grammar of my landscape vocabulary. These vestigial mutterings of geography are the prompts that I respond to in making my work, a kind of interstitial speech, connecting the remnant to its repressed or forgotten source… I grew up in Luanshya, a small mining town in Zambia and now live in Johannesburg, one of the largest of all mining towns. Perhaps it is the occasional shaking of the land, its stuttering as a shaft collapses or a plate realigns, or indeed the sudden appearance of sinkholes, those most compelling of negative spaces that first made me curious about that other landscape, the underscape.

For Van den Berg, land serves as a powerful marker for the anxieties contained in both the personal and the political. The artist seeks to unpack this by separating the idea of land into the spheres of ‘above’ and ‘below’ ground. Using this dichotomy the artist is able to differentiate between what we idealise on the surface, and what exists unresolved below. Historical depictions of land, which were primarily filtered through Western perception, sought to possess the territory by recording its surface image. In turn, Van den Berg confronts the tradition of South African landscape painting, by peeling “the surface off the land and mak[ing] the landscapes porous”.

Van den Berg sees the body and the landscape as sites that carry memories and scars. In turn, these symbols evoke desires, which the artist aims to reveal, often through the illuminating power of light. Van den Berg does this by presenting a new kind of visual language, one that attempts to break syntax without relinquishing its necessity. In this sense, the artist darts between allegory and abstraction in his works, creating tensions and polarities that simultaneously arrest and excite the viewer when encountering them.

Misheck Masamvu (b. 1980, Penhalonga, Zimbabwe) explores and comments on the socio-political setting of post-independence Zimbabwe, and draws attention to the impact of economic policies that sustain political mayhem. Masamvu raises questions and ideas around the state of ‘being’ and the preservation of dignity. His practice encompasses drawing, painting and sculpture.

Masamvu studied at Atelier Delta and Kunste Akademie in Munich, where he initially specialised in the realist style, and later developed a more avant-garde expressionist mode of representation with dramatic and graphic brushstrokes. His work deliberately uses this expressionist depiction, in conjunction with controversial subject matter, to push his audience to levels of visceral discomfort with the purpose of accurately capturing the plight, political turmoil and concerns of his Zimbabwean subjects and their experiences. His works serve as a reminder that the artist is constantly socially-engaged and is tasked with being a voice to give shape and form to a humane sociological topography. In 2020, Masamvu took part in the 22nd Biennale of Sydney.

Masamvu’s work has been well-received and exhibited in numerous shows including Armory Show (2018), Art Basel 2018, Basel Miami Beach (2017), 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair New York (2016), São Paulo Biennale (2016), and the Venice Biennale, Zimbabwe Pavillion (2011).

Clive van den Berg: Underscape runs until 15 January 2022 at Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg.

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