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, 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.
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.
'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.
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.
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.