The Sasol New Signatures exhibition is on until Sunday 19 October, and if you have not been able to go yet, well, you may be asking yourself “is it worth pickling all the way to the middle of Pretoria, risking having to walk across the stage of a political rally which may or may not be promoting mob violence*, just to see a few pictures?”
Well, I can’t answer that for you. But I can present to you my favourites from the exhibition, and maybe let you make up your own mind.
5. Elevating the everyday into art. Middle-class society tends to view the people who have to wear these helmets with disdain, but here their lives are celebrated. Not the mob-group-destroying-everything-in-protest-and-not-making-much-sense-when-we-think-about-what-they’re-doing lives, but the individual’s dreams and aspirations.
Khanyile, Bongani Innocent
Glazed and smoked fired raku & screws
Five part: (1) 18 cm x 25 cm x 22 cm & (4) 12 cm x 25 cm x 22 cm
4. She stares at us with a sceptic look. But then she decides to trust us.
I adore the colours in this diptych.
Staring at this woman for long enough can help us ask questions about our own identity and place in the world. And maybe just implore us to be more trusting.
Vulnerable (eyes open) (open closed)
Diptych (2) 105 cm x 78.5 cm
3. I’m still figuring out how this work relates to the title, and am finding it very frustrating that the image I can share is so small. The devil’s in the detail, here, especially the amazing textures of the lace on this board. It looks as if it was painted on polished semi-precious gemstones. Almost as if the lace works were excavated from the rock.
Robyn Therése Munnick
Mixed media on board
Six part: (6) 50 cm x 50 cm
2. A literal green thumb! This drawing is just exquisite. So fine and detailed. And then, the title, Offering, makes me want to go plant a thorn tree today, as an offering to the earth. The great thing about thorn trees is that their roots lock nitrogen into the ground, so the surrounding plants can have access to this vital nutrient and thrive. The other great thing about thorn trees is that their roots can go up to 60 meters into the earth, to gain access to the underground water reservoirs, and their leaves can grow and provide nourishment to wild grazing animals even when there is no rain, like we’re experiencing right now. So these are just amazing trees of themselves. Thorn trees in art always suggest a reference to Pierneef, so maybe this image is an offering to the art gods.
Barton-Bridges, Catherine Phyllis (Katy)
90 cm x 96 cm
1. If I were a judge on the panel, this would be my vote for the winner. No contest. I swear, if it hadn’t sold already, I would have pawned my car to buy this.
In fact, there’s a part of me saying that if it weren’t for the heavily guarded front door, I would have tried to make off with it just then and there.
Alas, a moral sense kicked in. Ironically, because the work speaks about animal desires, and how even though we wear the skins of humans, these desires are still pretty much transparent.
Brenzel, Liesl (Cape Town)
Plesier ou dier
Resin, animal skulls & animal horns
80 cm x 70 cm x 22 cm
And finally, as a special mention, this painting
Nzuza, Sandile (Johannesburg)
“Inqol ’Engena ‘Masondo”
Acrylic on recycled wood
120 cm x 66,5 cm
leaves me feeling almost guilty. Because of the choice of using a recycled pulley to render this beautiful portrait, the sweet picture of a boy playing with rubbish is elevated to a message: aren’t we, the adults in this society, meant to be doing more to carry the children to greatness? Isn’t it our duty to educate and uplift, to try and prevent another generation from being locked in the cycle of poverty?
*although, to be fair, this past Saturday when I went there was the first time ever this had actually happened.