Monthly Archives: January 2016

dot 49: open[ended]ness

To live means to participate in dialogue: to ask questions, to heed, to respond, to agree, and so forth. In this dialogue a person participates wholly and throughout his whole life: with his eyes, lips, hands, soul, spirit, with his whole body and deeds.

 – M. Bakhtin –

I did my art training at what is now known as Willem de Kooning Academie in Rotterdam (The Netherlands). It was a time of exploration where process was central to the experience of art making. This approach allowed that high value be placed on the process itself, often pushing the (eventual) art product into the background. Conceptually, thinking was open-ended and galleries in The Netherlands typically display the importance placed on process by often making the choice to exhibit concepts above finished art works.

It was therefore quite a joyous experience for me when I visited SMITH in Cape Town last week for the show Sketch. This group show is curated by SMITH curator Amy Ellenbogen, who offered the participating artists exploration in their choice of medium. The follow-up show in December 2016 will allow visitors to have experienced artworks from the beginning of conception (Sketch) to the final exhibited pieces after a 12 month process.

In my view, it is a brave and necessary step that Amy Ellenbogen has taken as South African galleries appear to be, generally speaking, mostly interested in selling end-art products. Ellsworth Kelly, aptly quoted by SMITH in Sketch, says that people have a need to give art ‘a sense of fixity, a sense of opposing the chaos of daily living.’ Perhaps it is the chaos of process that disturbs gallerists …

The importance of process placed in Sketch took me back to an exhibition I had seen – or rather, experienced – at Witte de With in Rotterdam many years before where a visiting artist had filled the entire gallery – both upstairs and downstairs – with crunched balls of paper. This experience has stayed with me clearly whilst I have forgotten the many other exhibitions that sold perfect, well-rounded and beautifully framed artworks. The resonance of process is etched into my memory because, I suspect, I experienced process alongside and with the artist. My experience was, as Bakhtin says, connected to eyes, lips, hands, soul, spirit as I immersed myself and connected to the actual deed and process of paper ball making. This is, perhaps, because I myself make balls of clay on my daily walks.

Currently, I am immersed in the experience of line. I am mesmerized in the ways that line/s are able to transport energy and express movement. There is no beginning and no end and the viewer is drawn into interpreting this frozen fraction; this crack of chaos. As I continue exploring the fragility of line in a more 3-dimensional way, I shall murmur and meditate Kelly’s authenticity so that I remain in open[ended]ness:

What I have tried to capture is the reality of flux, to keep an open, incomplete situation …

playing with line & earth Photo: Sonya Rademeyer
playing with line & earth                                                                          Photo: Sonya Rademeyer

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dot 48: making art [just] for me

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

– Dr Seuss –

A few years ago I presented my work alongside many other hopeful artists from the African continent to a certain gallery in Cape Town. This application was for representation by the gallery who have a second gallery in London. Neither myself nor my friend were selected, and, as we collected our work, my somewhat dejected friend said: ‘From now on I am only going to make art for myself.’ Unknowingly to him, his utterance made a huge impact on me. I have often thought of these said words.

Over the last year or so I have noticed that artists / writers who claim to make work only for themselves generally excel at what they do. I recently read that the British author J.K Rowling says that she writes simply for her own pleasure. One of my favourite South African artists, Willem Boshoff, clearly states that he has nothing else in mind when making art than making art for himself. Assuming this to be true, there is a valuable lesson to be learnt in their collective approach. Such an approach excludes thinking how others may be viewing their own work, instead focusing on ‘being who they are’ and ‘saying what they feel’ as they express themselves. This is my primary goal for 2016: making art [just] for me.

On that note, allow me to voice myself on which artist I felt met this criteria in 2015. Of all the exhibitions I managed to see in and around Cape Town last year, the work of Gregory Stock stood above the rest. A Space Between his exhibition held as 99 Loop Gallery exhibited his kinetic drawing machines and installations.  Exploring the idea of finding himself in a transitional space of sorts (hence the title) I could not help feel that Stock had made the work purely for himself as he searched for meaning in his experiential uncertainty. Perhaps an assumption on my part, but to me the exhibited works were not made ‘to sell well’ nor was the impetus of the works particularly considered in relation to gallery wall & floorspace. When speaking to the gallery assistant at one point I was told that they had not known what to expect by showing Stock’s work.

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Collage of images from Gregory Stock’s A Space Between exhibition (2015)   Photos: Sonya Rademeyer

 I commend Loop 99 for ‘not minding about what matters.’ As for myself: as I move into 2016 I shall not mind those that do not matter.