ANDREW VERSTER, born Johannesburg 1937, trained at the Camberwell School of Art and Reading University. Lectured at the University of Durban Westville (then University College, Durban) and the Natal Technikon until 1976 when he gave up teaching to become a full-time painter. Collaborated with the architect Hans Hallen on Mangosuthu Technikon and the Brenthurst Library. Writer of short stories, articles and radio plays (winner of the BBC World Service Playwriting Competition in 1992), YOU MAY LEAVE, THE SHOW IS OVER. The second was commissioned by the BBC, FUTURE PAST with Janet Suzman. Another, WHEN IN ROME, DON'T DRINK THE WATER, was shortlisted. Short story was broadcast by the BBC, AILEEN, MARJORIE, ARTHUR AND ME.
He designed the sets and costumes for Opera Africa's FAUST, PRINCESS MAGOGO, and LA TRAVIATA and RIGOLETTO, and designs for the American production of PRINCESS MAGOGO, 2004. Costumes for THE COOLIE ODYSSEY and for THRENODY AND DANCES, a chamber opera, Women's Festival in August 2002, costumes for PRIVATE LIVES for the Hilton Festival and for the adult pantomime SINDERELLA and produced costumes for THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW at the Barnyard Theatre, 2004, and costumes for Barnyard Theatre production of GREASE 2006. 2002 DURBAN DESIGNER COLLECTION, 2002 and Miss India costumes. Durban Fashion Week 2005 featuring beadwork collection designed for the AFRICAN ART CENTRE.
Best costume design in the FOOLS AWARDS 2003 and best costume design in the DURBAN THEATRE AWARDS 2004. FOOLS AWARDS 2005 6 7 best visual artist
Film and Publication Review Board, Trustee of the Durban Art Gallery, the Arts Work Trust, Very Special Arts, Artists for Human Rights Trust and the African Art Centre. Committee of the Grahamstown Festival.
He has had over fifty solo exhibitions, is represented in many major public and private collections, and has been awarded two retrospective exhibitions organized by the Durban Art Gallery.
Numerous public and private commissions, including sculpture and tapestry for the Reserve Bank Durban, art works Durban Hilton, tapestries and a mural, ABSA Headquarters, Johannesburg and a tapestry in the ICC Durban. Three tapestries for RHODES HOUSE in Oxford. Stainless steel screens for Metro Mall, Johannesburg. Commissions for the Constitutional Court including the entrance doors, carpets for the chamber and foyer, metal gates and chandeliers.
Articles in Style Magazine, A VERY HAPPY SEDUCTION, about a visit to the Taj Mahal, and in INDIGO, FROM VARANASI TO CALCUTTA, a train journey, and INDIA, AN AFFFAIR OF THE HEART, and in LEADERSHIP and various architectural journals.
Was critic on the DAILY NEWS for twelve years and a weekly column, FROM THE BACKWATER for four.
Andrew Describes his work and method:
MISQUOTE would be an apt description of the way I work and think.
Quotation - appropriation, sampling, borrowing, stealing, there are many synonyms - has always been a staple of art making. Everyone from the beginning of time has taken someone else's ideas and made them their own. Indeed one of the great pleasures of looking is in tracking an idea from today back and back to see when and where it was born. The secret is to make the new version seem like the original and the original like a copy
In my work I quote from myself often - that is from previous works - and from material I've gathered squirrel-like from here, there and everywhere, stored in drawers and boxes, in photographs and on disc, and mostly in piles on the floor and on tables and chairs and on every other flattish surface round the house and in the studio. I have an archeologist's instinct for where a particular something is hidden but when I am searching, I come across something else that starts off another train of thought. And it is these serendipitous discoveries that point me in directions I'd not planned.
My process is simple. With a reference in one hand and a pen or a brush in the other I transcribe the information. A quote sometimes, a free interpretation at others and always an improvisation. And then this first idea is married to another and another and a composition evolves. The decisions are made as I go, held in check by the vaguest of concepts, so that the final event is always a surprise.
Composition is finding the link between things which apparently have no connection. The more unlikely the components and the most disparate the elements, the more potent the brew.
Images from the beginning of time mingle, Africa and India, Europe and America, the serious and the trivial, things buried in my mind surface at a moment unexpectedly, and marry. In each work I write my own history which in turn is entangled with everyone else's. We live several lives at once. Every moment, experiences are overlaid. Past and present rub shoulders. I retrieve my past in a way that is neither logical nor predictable.
Anachronism and eclecticism are two favourite words.
There are two Indias in my life - Little India, the Durban that has been home for over forty years - and the other one I got to know more recently. Combined they have changed my life and my vision. The Hindu philosophy of the interdependence of everything in the universe makes perfect sense. And that to upset the tiniest part sets off ripples through the entire cosmos, something the ancients knew and which the western world is beginning to understand technique must work together.
For every idea there can be many possible solutions, but only one which is right. Ben Shahn called it "the shape of content." Those moments when the two marry are rare.
What is true about picture making is true of everything else I do. I apply the same logic - or lack of it. To writing a radio play - after winning the BBC World Service Playwriting Competition, ten years ago, I was commissioned by them to write another which was also broadcast.
Or a short story - a few have been published and one broadcast by them.
Or working on projects with architects as I have done since the seventies.
Or making a range of outfits for the Durban Designer Collection, or a new range of beadwork for the African Art Centre.
My work in the theatre follows the same thought pattern, and as an amateur in that field, I have an advantage of not knowing that some things are not possible. Recently I worked on Bellini's Romeo and Juiliette at the State Theatre
A lot of my work is collaborative. Where I lack specialized skills, I work with those who have them - the eight wood sculptors who carved the doors for the Constitutional Court, the man who wove my carpet designs, the neon technicians who constructed the chandeliers, the blacksmith who fashioned the gates.
Although I cannot sew, the costumes I make look exactly like my designs which I either draw or construct full-size with pins and pleating on a dummy, because of Shan Naidoo who is Durban's most experienced pattern-maker.
In tapestry there is Marguerite Stephens. And for the works which celebrated the centenary of Gandhi's SATYAGRAHA, it was a collaboration with Marklyn Govender and Clint Singh.
In Melrose Arch, mosaic designs were carried out for a building and for the paving in the piazza by Jane Durand and her studio.