‘Accid3nt of Place’ refers to the tradition of Dada or Dadaism within art history - the avant-garde movement in the early 20th Century that rejected the logic, reason and aestheticism of modern capitalist society. Dada has become synonymous with the creative process as being ‘accidental’. Dada offered a further rejection of the conventions of high art which stresses laborious technique and action. The exhibition title also refers to the idea that this artist’s body of work could only have been produced in South Africa. Artworks and the exhibition installation are an exploration of our social and political landscape and as such are presented as a cultural/artistic tool of resistance.
Exhibition Curator Bren Brophy notes, “As a South African I am typically drawn to contemporary artwork which is socially conscious, ideologically savvy and in tune with our peculiar post-colonial historical context. I am most often disappointed by the allure of meaningful and relevant art making only to discover that beneath the thin exterior veneer lays a selfish and naive artistic psyche. Emerging Durban artist Peter Ford succumbs to none of these pitfalls. His new body of work, in spite of its obvious self-assurance offers an honest, guttural, humble even, insight into the fraught realities that neo colonial arts practitioners face within an often violent, displaced and conflicted ‘African’ identity”.
Ford speaks to these lived realities by investigating his personal responses to South African vernacular culture. He uses found objects, the detritus of middle class culture, combining them with his formal more traditional art making – painting, drawing and sculptures to produce works that at once deconstruct and reconstruct. Fords abiding interest in sign writing leads him to explore typography and text within the context of street culture and indigenous vernacular language.
The titles of Fords new works offer a chilling glimpse into the artists personal actions and reactions to a social reality that is often less ‘African Renaissance’ and more ‘Paradise lost’. “Binners”, (found wooden church crucifix with beggars streets signs), “Self Defence Art”, (assemblage with sheath for hidden steel panga, a bush cutting tool, but also in South Africa considered a ‘traditional’ weapon).
Fords formal arts training, (Btech Fine Arts, Durban University of Technology), roots his practice in the visual language, as such his works operate on both an aesthetic and conceptual level. They straddle both the ‘subversion’ of artistic cannons and political correctness.
The artist questions but does not abandon his faith in line, form, colour, composition but rather subverts the often perceived facile intentions of Western European conventions of ‘high’ art’. His work resists the sentimental temptation to be ‘meaningful’ by way of offering to correct an incorrect world. In this way the artist gleans ...’collects that which is lost and forgotten’...the materials that society has abandoned to reconfigure their meaning and significance. The gravitas of Fords new work lies not in the innocence of discovery and the experimentation with non-traditional materials but in the unrelenting determination to be authentic to both his artistic and technical pedigree whilst also remaining true to an, at times, less than artful harsh reality. It’s the stuff that history will remember and therein lies the rub.