Report from South Africa – June / July 2015

Matthew Blackman, editor of online South African art publication ArtThrob, rounds up the best of this month's magazine's news and reviews

By Matthew Blackman

Installation view of the AVA and Strauss & Co’s Printmaking Residency, 2015 Zwelethu Mthethwa, Untitled (from the Sugar Cane series), 2007. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York Jared Ginsburg, The Natural World Parts 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, installation view at blank projects, Cape Town. Courtesy blank projects Mawande Ka Zenzile, Untitled (Memory)
, 2015, 
cow dung, earth, gesso 
and oil on canvas
, 91 x 150cm. © Copyright 2015, STEVENSON

Winter in the South African art world is, at times, a forbidding affair. It is a period when the swallows and artists who have ‘made it’ head to European Biennales and art fairs, leaving a trail of café-lifestyle images across ones Facebook feed. As for the rest, who have been left behind, they seem to walk around ‘grim about the mouth’ looking to ‘knock each other’s hats off’. Even the National Gallery seems to want to dissolve and quite forget that they have a major exhibition on at the moment. Recently I had to get the staff to open doors I have never deemed appropriate for me to enter in order to get into the Omar Badsha exhibition – more on that next month. But it is not all doom and gloom because instead of resorting to ‘pistol and ball’, galleries do put together ‘winter shows’ and more recently the AVA (Association for Visual Artists, Cape Town) has started running a residency.

Jared Ginsburg: The Natural World Parts 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, blank projects, Cape Town

Jared Ginsburg has for a few years been bringing a neo-Dada/absurdist approach into focus. Mitchell Messina, now a young upcoming artist in his own right with a similar approach to Ginsburg, tackles Ginsburg’s exhibition The Natural World Parts 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Messina, in his distinctive style, finds it to be a show of works that almost made it onto other exhibitions but didn’t quite get the nod, until they got the nod this time. In this Messina addresses the idea of bringing studio practice into the gallery.

It’s Time To Talk About Value: The Case of Zwelethu Mthethwa, by Chad Rossouw

Zwelethu Mthethwa’s trial has finally begun after two years of delays. Methethwa, one of South Africa’s more notable artists, is accused of stomping a sexworker, Nokuphila Kumalo, to death in 2013. In this feature Chad Rossouw questions what a guilty verdict might mean for the reading of Mthethwa’s oeuvre.

The AVA and Strauss & Co’s Printmaking Residency

Full disclosure. Having been, up until recently, the acting director of the Association for Visual Arts, Cape Town, I am glad to say that one of our first projects in our re-positioning of the organization has met with a goodly amount of success. The auctioneers Strauss & Co have funded a printmaking workshop over June and July and so far we have been bringing in young artists and allowing them to explore new processes with a printmaker. The project is an attempt to not only increase skills development but to also bring together what is becoming, due to commercial practices, a progressively more fractured arts community.

The Art of the Possible: Mawande Ka Zenzile by Nkule Mabaso

Mwande Ka Zenzile is another young artist who has captured the attention of many in the South African art world. Nkule Mabaso, who is one of our new young crop of writers, investigates his subject matter. As Mabaso says it is through Ka Zenzile’s use of images, sourced from the Internet, that he investigates notions of power in the contemporary world.

Online exclusive published on 9 July 2015.