Give-and-Take, Push-and-Pull

Give-and-Take, Push-and-Pull

From May 4 to 27, 2017, SMAC Gallery will present Give-and-Take, Push-and-Pull by South African artist, Themba Shibase.

While Shibase’s concepts – rooted in the interrogation of current socio-political issues within a Pan-African context – are conceived over an extended period of time and are ongoing, the paintings included in Give-and-Take, Push-and-Pull were all produced during the course of this year. This body of work has provided the prolific painter an opportunity to reflect on the themes and ideas explored through the physicality of painting, subsequently wrestling with the idea of giving and taking as manifested in various ways.

Drawing influence from Cornel West’s seminal text, A Matter of Life and Death (1992), Shibase attempts to articulate the intricacies of identity construction, desire, and the life-death dichotomy. This ultimately allows for an investigation into the poetic dynamic between giving and taking, adding and removing, revealing and withholding, and how these processes plays themselves out in the evolution of a painting.

Amidst the loose yet considered brushstrokes of Shibase’s paintings, there are moments that compel us to reflect upon the construction of our own identities, our fundamental desires.

Iconic socio-political figures such as De La Rey, Yahya Jammeh, David Rockefeller and Robert Mugabe are depicted in some of the paintings as explicit examples of the deep desire for ascendancy that is embedded within Shibase’s idea of giving and taking, pushing and pulling. These figures exist as manifestations of how the give-and-take dynamic that the artist depicts is not always as mutual as it is implied; there is the explicit desire to take, not necessarily to give back in return.

The relationship between sexuality and desire is also explored through variably subtle and provocative images of nudity. The commercialisation of pornography, together with the pervasive exploitation of nudity as a commodity in the media, has particular influence on Shibase’s depiction of human figures. Such influence is best illustrated in the implicit violence that often characterises his portrayal of human figures. These tormented figures are involuntarily appealing, which can be difficult to explain. Perhaps the best way to capture the essence of this attraction is the notion that, like sex, violence sells. According to Shibase, “There is an obvious viciousness in how bodies (particularly those of women) are put out as objects of sexual pleasure and desire, predicated by the power of the media”.

Give-and-Take, Push-and-Pull thus exists as a metaphysical manifestation of the exchange between the application of oil paint to the canvas and its removal; the relationship between the processes of thinking and making; striking a balance between the technical and conceptual elements on which a painting is premised; the experience of painting from a spiritual versus a psychological point of view; working as an artist within a gallery space and managing the expectations that lie therein. These tangible concepts further propel the cyclical nature of the life-death dichotomy that Shibase’s brush illustrates in layers.

Themba Shibase was born 1980 in Port Shepstone, Durban, South Africa. He holds a master of Fine Arts degree at the Durban University of Technology (DUT), where he presently lectures in painting, drawing and art theory, whilst pursuing his PhD. Shibase is a contemporary artist who interrogates current political and social issues within a pan-African context, concentrating primarily on painting, drawing and mixed media. Shibase has featured in several exhibitions in Durban, Johannesburg, Cape Town and New York. He was nominated as one of the finalists for the Spier Contemporary Award in 2007 and the MTN New Contemporaries Award in 2008. Shibase recently featured in The Circus and The Zoo at the Michaelis Galleries, University of Cape Town, South Africa.


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