Report from South Africa – July 2014

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

Peter Eastman, Deep Chine XIV, 2014, oil on Aluminium Mohau Modisakeng, Ditaola VI, 2014, Inkjet print on Epson UltraSmooth Gerald Machona, People from Far Away, DVD, 2012 Guy Tillim, Joburg: Points of View, installation view, Stevenson Gallery Rowan Smith, Emptiness (Salt and Vinegar II), 2014Jelutong, enamel and chrome

With snow falling again on Table Mountain in July, what was at one point in the 1980s a once in a lifetime event in Cape Town is now becoming an annual taster of life under the picturesque Swiss Alps. Well perhaps not quite, as the snowfall only ended up looking like somebody had knocked over the saltcellar, but certainly things they are a changing. And this went for the art world too, with some strong exhibitions by two ‘bright young things’ (one in Joburg and one in Cape Town), two old hands teaching themselves some new tricks and one young established artist redefining his practice. It was almost like Christmas had come early. Well, except for the fact it’s normally summer for us at Christmas.

Guy Tillim at the Stevenson Gallery in Johannesburg

Guy Tillim, perhaps one of South Africa’s most naturally gifted photographers, confirmed his change in thematic focus with his exhibition Joburg: Points of View. Like his two pervious exhibitions, which were heavily underpinned by formalist concerns, Joburg takes the city’s structural development as its point of departure. Michael Smith asks however, whether this is merely a case of Tillim turning a blind eye to South Africa’s most prescient questions.

Gerald Machona at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg

Zimbabwean born Gerald Machona, who has been a regular exhibitor in major group exhibitions of the last few years, produced his first solo-exhibition for the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg last month. Investigating notions of migration and displacement through the increasingly familiar motif of ‘afrofuturism’, Mochona’s work, as Percy Mabandu suggests, responds to many similar projects with a slightly more jaundiced eye.

Rowan Smith at Whatiftheworld in Cape Town

'No Everything' is the exhausted utterance of the recently returned Rowan Smith. Having arrived back from a stint of studying in the US, Smith has seemingly done some thinking about the current implications of colonial rule. Irreverent, sardonic and almost obsessively produced; Smith’s exhibition at Whatiftheworld is one of the best by any young artist of the last few years.

Mohau Modisakeng at Brundyn + in Cape Town

Like Machona, Mohau Modisakeng is one of the rising stars of the South African art world. His work Ditaola, or divination bones, is on a scale rarely seen in South Africa. Addressing ideas of traditional African beliefs Ditaola negotiates the contemporary experience of a young black South African, while at the same time referencing the country’s fraught history.

Peter Eastman at SMAC Gallery in Cape Town

Like many painters working in South Africa today, Peter Eastman is now trying his hand at abstraction. Don’t be fooled by the reproductions of the work, warns Tim Liebbrandt, these are not photoshop filters but rather works filled with visible and dense brush work. Liebbrandt asks though, whether these works are concerned with anything more than ‘form’, and whether that might be a source of perturbation for some.

See here for more ArtThrob news, reviews and features from South Africa

July 2014