Must See Exhibitions This March
by Ladun Ogidan
We offer you a selection of shows this March you shouldn’t miss.
Peter Eastman: Coldstream
March 2 –April 1
SMAC Gallery is pleased to present Coldstream, Peter Eastman’s eighth solo exhibition and his third with SMAC Gallery. The exhibition comprises of a series of new oil on aluminium paintings, depicting Eastman’s characteristically pensive and atmospheric forest-scapes.
Eastman’s practice can be described as a form of contemporary impressionism, characterised by similar qualities like small but visible brush strokes, broad compositions and unusual visual angles. Drawn from the Knysna Forest region near Plettenberg Bay – where the artist’s family retreat is located – the emphasis of these woodland scenes is on an accurate depiction of light and its changing qualities, rather than dutifully referencing the location.
Emollient and meditative, Coldstream features a selection of works where Eastman’s focus on the shifting qualities of light and reflection has expanded. By depicting movement, he highlights these elements as a crucial part of human perception and experience. The palette is reduced to two colours – one dark, evoking shade, and one light, picking out the “millions of points” of sunlight dancing across the foliage, falling in pinpoints on the branches, rocks and water. Eastman’s skilful chiaroscuro interpretation of light is almost xerographic, yet remains both painterly and expressive.
Mikhael Subotzky: WYE
March 2—April 2
In WYE, an immersive three-screen film installation, Mikhael Subotzky treads the tumultuous terrain of the “white male psyche”.
When three fictional protagonists travel between England, South Africa and Australia, their projections onto these landscapes mirror colonial mindsets in the historicised past, the vexed present, and an imagined post- corporeal future.
According to Subotzky: “The white South African man carries the mark of the colonial explorer whose ‘superior’ relationship to ‘foreign’ lands sticks stubbornly to their projected and internalised positioning in the contemporary body politic.”
An unsettling and beautiful piece, WYE tackles white guilt with demanding complexity. While, on one screen, we inhabit the intrinsically arrogant mindset of a 19th-century British settler on his arrival to the Eastern Cape, on another we follow a 21st-century South African man who walks a Port Elizabeth beach seeking a ‘blank canvas’ free of crime and ‘politics’ before emigrating to Australia. On the third screen, we enter the white male body itself, which has become ‘colonised’ in the name of a futuristic form of psycho-anthropology.
Esther Mahlangu: A Tribute to Nelson Mandela
Melrose Arch Gallery
March 2—April 2
Globally acclaimed South African artist Esther Mahlangu will unveil an important series of works based on drawings by Nelson Mandela on March 2, at The Melrose Gallery in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg.
The Esther Mahlangu – A Tribute to Nelson Mandela exhibition will consist of artworks the 81-year-old artist created in 2004, in collaboration with Nelson Mandela but never exhibited publicly. They consist of six prints of drawings made by Mandela that Mahlangu embellished in her abstract Ndebele style. Several other paintings by the artist will also be on display.
Accra: Portraits of a City
ANO Art Space
March 4 — April 1
Accra: Portraits of a City, marks the inaugural exhibition and opening of the Ano multi-purpose contemporary art space. Works to be presented include photographs from Deo Gratias, Felicia Abban Latifah Idriss and Mae Ling Lokko, Sculptures from Paa Joe and a performance on the Kpeshie Lagoon by Serge Attukwei Clottey.
The exhibition will also mark the launch of the Cultural Encyclopaedia in Ghana.
James Barnor Revisited
Archi Afrika Gallery
March 5 — April 5
James Barnor Revisited hosted by Archi Afrika Gallery, is a photographic exhibition to commemorate Ghana’s 60th anniversary. Photos exhibited will extend from the gallery to Jamestown Café, as well as the surrounding community. The exhibition will be accompanied by acoustic sounds from Gilbert Addy.
A Painting Today
March 6 – April 22
A Painting Today hosted by Stevenson Cape Town, proposes an encounter with painting, the most traditional of media, filtered through the contemporary logic of Instagram. Because of social media, the most common way to view pictures today is sequentially. This has triggered a fundamental shift in how we think about images, emphasising their place in the fourth dimension, time, over a timeless two-dimensional existence.
The exhibition features Anna Boghiguian, Francis Alÿs, Turiya Magadlela, Penny Siopis, Mduduzi Xakaza and Portia Zvavahera, and is conceived as a slideshow, or Instagram feed, in the flesh. It will open with one work, and every day a painting will be added. Over the run of the show, a total of 47 paintings will accumulate on the walls.
Control over the process will be reduced to a minimum. The gallery will determine who to invite, but the sequence will emerge from an interplay of external factors, such as the date of acceptance of the invitation, painters’ schedules, and logistics such as stretching, shipping and framing. The list of invited painters will reflect the personal interests of the curatorial team, and will include young artists who have never been exhibited in the gallery, alongside people it represents, as well as international visitors alongside important historical figures.
Simon Gush: The Island
March 9 – April 7
From March 9 to April 7, Stevenson Johannesburg will present The Island by Simon Gush, his sixth solo exhibition with the gallery. Following the thread of Workplace (2015) and Work (2013), this exhibition is occupied with labour. Moving away from perceptions of work and the role that professions play in shaping identity, The Island investigates the sometimes fraught, consistently complex relations between South Africa and Lesotho.
In his new photographic and video works, Gush observes the displacement and dependency that characterise the movement of people and resources between the two countries. Gush frames this exercise as “thinking about a space that is thinking about someplace else”. He continues, “Lesotho, a country landlocked by South Africa, was referred to as ‘the island’ by the African National Congress during the anti-apartheid struggle. Despite the fact that Lesotho has no sea, the image of an island speaks to a way in which Lesotho might become visible, differentiated from its surrounds, a mountainous land rising above the ocean of South Africa, which often seems to render it invisible.”
Phoebe Boswell: For Every Real Word Spoken
March 10—April 22
Tiwani Contemporary is pleased to present For Every Real Word Spoken, a forthcoming solo exhibition of the work of Phoebe Boswell. Boswell is known for combining traditional draftswomanship and digital technology to create drawings, animations and installations, and with For Every Real Word Spoken, Boswell will continue her exploration of this expanded field of drawing.
The exhibition gathers a series of new, near-life-size nude pencil portraits of the artist’s friends, fellow artists, curators and acquaintances, some of whom Boswell had worked with previously on her interactive installation Mutumia (2016), a salute to those in history who have used their bodies in protest when not permitted to use their voices.
These new portraits show women standing up, holding their mobile phones to their chests as if to take a selfie, but showing the devices’ screens to the viewer. The pose is inspired by Adrian Piper’s Food for the Spirit, a series in which Piper periodically photographed herself over the month of July 1971, in front of a mirror, variously clothed and unclothed.
For Every Real Word Spoken will demonstrate that a body is never just a body, but a sign, which is read according to categories – of gender, family, race and so on – through which connections between groups are inevitably inferred. Varied societal approaches to the body, and the similarities or—more significantly—conflicts amongst them, therefore carry critical power in the way we relate and respond to one another.
The female body, especially the black female body, has a persistent stereotyped portrayal: of frailty, naivety, primitivism, vulnerability, victimhood, a body to be dominated or, indeed, a body to be ignored, one lacking in portrayal or visibility. The trans body tends to be situated even further outside these margins. In acknowledgement, Boswell’s portraits will highlight the materiality of the body, its composition as flesh and bone, its outline and contours, its weight, its individuality and history, revealing scars and marks, flaws and alterations.
Stephen Friedman Gallery
March 17—April 22
Stephen Friedman Gallery is pleased to announce a presentation of new work by London-based, South African artist Lisa Brice. This will be the artist’s first show dedicated to works on paper and will be comprised of a large group of intimate gouaches using vibrant cobalt blue.
Raqib Bashorun: Realm of Freedom
March 18—April 5
From March 18 to April 5, Omenka Gallery will present Realm of Freedom, an exhibition of recent work by leading contemporary sculptor Raqib Bashorun.
“This body of work was inspired by the thought of the common agitations we all share irrespective of race, tribe or nationality and the tsunami of hardships meted out to us. There are few places where I tend to enjoy an absolute sense of freedom…It is however uncertain if I had discovered or found the freedom—I do not know what your take is on this subject and I am uncertain if indeed you have found yours.”
Raqib Bashorun is one of the most prominent artists working in Nigeria today. His exemplary career as an artist and a teacher is marked by significant exhibitions around the world and the quality of a younger generation of artists he has influenced defining their spaces on the Lagos contemporary space. Since 1987, issues of waste, recycling and environmental sustainability have engaged the artist, underscoring a preoccupation with found materials, which he skillfully reproduces as objects of beauty and usefulness.
Chris Denovan: Artificial Beasts
Art in the Yard
March 18—April 11
The exhibition will showcase Denovan’s new body of work, an exploration of portraiture as well as a commentary on the artistic act of portrait-making itself and what that means in a contemporary world full of digital self-identification.
The initial inspiration was to produce composite portraits from images sourced from the web. Denovan explains “I collage different facial pieces from different places, not just one whole face that is taken directly. The beasts in Artificial Beasts is in a way referring to me creating these Frankenstein-esque beautiful monsters. My desire is to create life or a portrait from nothing.” His aim is to create fictional identities and inject “life” into them; giving them “personalities” by a choice of clothing, accessories, expression and thus exploring notions around the idea of the portrait. What elements are needed and what works when absent? To name them, he used a web-based, random name generator that enhances their fictional existence, but at the same time turns them into personal entities.
Denovan’s aesthetic inspiration of pre-modern portraiture sets us within a timeline and highlights strongly, the way in which our perception of portraiture has changed, for 100 years ago having your portrait painted or photographed was a rarity, something quite distinct now. With the selfie and personal profile pictures the portrait is mundane. The Artificial Beasts sets out to highlight the product of such overuse but also returns a little charm back to our perception of portraiture.
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