Over the past three months, this group has engaged in an interactive process of theory and practice in exploring the essential requirements of how to make it big in the art world.
The title of their exhibition – MINE – alludes to one of the core requirements of success in this highly competitive field: the development of a visual language that is unique, bold, and exciting; that says something new and says it in a manner that has never been seen before. The provocative manipulation of matter and materials defies the traditional, adds depth to the contemporary, and re-defines the artists within the context of their highly specific lives.
MINE presents bodies of work in a sweeping variety of media, with vibrant oils and acrylics telling important stories of everyday life, moody graphite adding grainy depth drawn from life, funky animation that saunters in and out of absurd situations, outrageously delicious lightboxes, the movement of wind-swept landscapes captured in collaged hard copy, and a strange, warped and totally new form of photography that simulates the folding twists of our dynamic environment.
Elizabeth-Anne Stanley Sparg was born in 1976 in East London, South Africa. Sparg lived in the Transkei before moving to Pretoria, where she matriculated from Pretoria High School for Girls in 1993.
She went on to complete her BA degree majoring in Fine Art and Psychology at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg (now UKZN) in 1996, and obtained her honours degree in Psychology in 1997. After a short period in the UK, Sparg moved to Johannesburg and in 2001 completed a Foundation Course in Art Therapy through the Ububele Centre. Sparg began working as a Graphic Designer in 2002, which introduced her to the digital arts. She moved to Durban in 2007 where she currenlty works as a practicing artist and freelance illustrator.
Sparg produces artwork in both new media and traditional art forms.She held her first solo exhibition of paintings in 2008 at artSPACE Durban, entitled Nice to Meet You and is currently completing a course in digital animation, at the Centre for Fine-Art, Animation and Design.
"My work explores the notions of who we are and who we present ourselves as, in the face of the real or perceived expectations of those around us. I employ brightly coloured, wild, fantasy creature as symbols of our true selves, bringing them to life through digital drawings and animation superimposed onto photographic snapshots and video clips of everyday life.
I use the drawn image combined with real life footage (video and photo) to highlight the question of what is real and what is not. Historically, photography was considered a means of capturing the real truth of a situation, but with the advent of new technologies and digital manipulation, the realness or truth of the photographic image has been called into question. The widespread presentation of fantasy as reality in contemporary society is further evident in the use of special effects, virtual realities, online personas, wii games, and so on.
In a similar way, we often present a more socially acceptable version of ourselves which is perhaps not the truth or reality of who we are, or want to be. The person we present can then be considered the fantasy, the special effect. Or alternatively, the creature becomes the fantasy. It is who we long to be, our hopes and dreams, so often put down as “living in a fantasy world”, with the reality being the job we hate, the place we don’t want to live, the person we have become, or the laughter we stifle, in the face of society’s expectations."
Renee Leslie was born in 1952 and grew up in Pietermaritzburg. After attending Edgewood Teacher Training College, she taught for many years, with art being one of her subjects. In 2005 Leslie resigned to pursue a career in art.
Leslie’s work is about her experiences of landscapes and people. She has a loose and immediate style, focusing on expressive mark-making. She favours mixed media, collaging and drawing with various tools on prepared backgrounds.
"My work is a visual diary of places and people I have seen. They are images which excite me visually. The images are generally of places I’m passing through on my travels in South Africa and Africa, as I am interested in reflecting my roots. My presence in these places is transitory and, by creating this image, the landscape becomes a remembering of places lost, as in a dream.
Collage work is also very visual. By placing paper fragments down, manipulating them and placing them in a new context, I create this new reality. The way I use collage is by integrating those fragments into the work so they are not immediately obvious. These alien fragments are now an integral part of the landscape as I once was. The layering of paper fragments can be seen as a metaphor for experiences, layered one over the other.
The work floats on a clean white surface which frames it. It is as if seen through a window, the view just out of reach and unattainable, reinforcing the idea of being ephemeral and fugitive .
I enjoy the freedom and the unexpected surprises of working in mixed media. My preference is to work loosely and intuitively, allowing the work to lead me. I’m interested in expressive mark-making and an imaginative interpretation."
Simmi Dullay's former achievements include exhibiting at the Travencore Gallery in New Delhi, commemorating Ghandi’s concepts of non violence.
Current activities involve studying at D.U.T. obtaining her Masters of Fine Art, designing the publication “Abiku” created by Mukoma wa Thiongo (the son of the seminal anti-colonial author Ngugi wa Thiongo) though a well established author in his own right. The publication aims to define a new critical African voice expressing the concerns of our generation and contemporary culture. Participated in “Heritage Festival” for the Kizo gallery in September.
She has exhibited in Holland, Amsterdam in the group show Afrovibes in 2008, in Denmark and the Reunion Islands.
"I sat down to write about my visual praxis, but instead today’s experience at the doctor came pouring out. I kept on saying ‘focus on the thesis, on what is relevant regarding my work’, but it was like a festering bloody boil that had been lacerated…I couldn’t do anything but let nature take its course. After writing it I read it over and over again, questioning why it was so important to me to write this down. It is not a piece of brilliant writing (not that my writing other wise is anywhere near brilliant) but it didn’t even excite me. It has nothing much to do with my images, apart from this kind of experience being very common in my life –but then I can not stuff my life into a mini thesis…and finally it dawned on me that the process of writing is very much like the process of making art for me.
The function of my writing is:
Ritualistic/spiritual/meditative; a cleansing process though creativity
To write my story in relation to the worlds story
The cultural production of writing
Writing as resistance, activism and mobilization for social trance formation
I have diaries going back to when I learnt how to write and have not stopped writing since. I used to love painting, drawing and writing in my diaries with water colour, lead, fine black pens, and ink using my father’s fountain pens. As a pre-adolescent I began to produce my diaries consistently. I recall writing every night before sleeping, some of our duvet covers are still stained with faint marks of ink at the top from accidental spills. Already then I found intersections between writing and visual art exciting. On a purely pleasurable level layering text and image would thrill me in the way it enriched the surface suggesting dimensions hidden between text and image.
Writing is a ritual that takes my experience and transforms it into a ceremonial rite through the creative process. I began to understand that writing like my visual production is not about content, it’s an exercise that allows me to bring all that’s fallen apart together again. Every time I experience direct racism it is a shock to my system, like (unknowingly) being injected with poison ink. By writing it, literally drawing it from my body takes me through the creative process to escape metaphorical suicide and make beauty out of negations."
LESLEY MAGWOOD FRASER
Lesley Magwood Fraser was born in 1957 in Ireland, emigrating a year later to Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) with her family. She attended the Bulawayo Technikon, graduating in 1978 with a National Diploma in Applied Art and Design, specialising in Graphic and Textile Design.
She has been a member of Jeanette Gilk’s Garret Artist group for 20 years, and paints with renowned Durban artist Maggie Strachan.
Magwood Fraser was a South African finalist in the Winsor & Newton 2000 Millenium competition, a worldwide show. Her work was also selected for the Umvubelo Women’s Day exhibition at the Durban Art Gallery, which travelled South Africa. Her work on the Jabulisa 2006 exhibition was purchased by the Margate Art Museum for its permanent collection.
Lesley’s first solo exhibition Belle of the Ball was held at artSpace Durban in 2006. In 2009 she exhibited at Kizo Gallery, Durban, and Bamboo Gallery, Johannesburg, in Scratching Surfaces.
"Inspired by my travel sketchbooks and a body of work I did last year within the Garret Artists group, this work called “Mythologia” has evolved. My hybrid creatures combined with my drawings create a sense of absurd reality, a quirky, fantasy element. Born in Ireland and living in Africa my whole life, I consider myself a hybrid.
Working on prepared papers ensures an interesting starting point to my drawings. Combined with the techniques of frottage (rubbings) and lino printing, my pages become almost journal like, quick renderings of ideas and images. The act of layering my images captures different myths into one, and the text becomes part of the composition, combining elements to make a visual narrative.
My intuitive mark-making is important as drawing is my passion, creating loose, expressive images. Drawing on prepared surfaces often gives an unexpected, surprising result. This aspect of chance ensures an immediate, unlaboured element to my work. The combination of fantasy and reality is explored as I recontextualise the figures into new dreamlike situations, creating an aura of mystery. From the early Renaissance, drawing from life has formed the basis of many of the great works of the Western world. The discipline of drawing adds fantasy to the element of reality. The images form the narrative, moving from one composition to the next, colours and text flowing throughout the work.
With sketchbooks we create a reminder of a particular place or moment, which artists have done throughout time. This work creates a reminder of the concepts of myths, dreams, fantasy and the physical act of drawing from life."
The first 39 years of her life she spent in a creative “wilderness”. When she began painting, firstly under the guidance of Dee Harris and then later Robin Townsend, her delight was overwhelming!
Arbuthnot’s oil paintings have been characterised by her bold brush strokes and liberation of colour. She enjoys a limited palette. On occasions, when she is painting vigorously, she squeezes straight from the tube often mixing the colours on the canvas!
The artist writes that, “This is where I can really let myself go, not hesitating to wonder if it is correct, but just letting my heart take over! It becomes an imaginary tussle between myself and the canvas as if the canvas has a personality too.”
In 2008, Arbuthnot became a student of Pascale Chandler. Her world of art exploded. New doors began to open, including being nominated as one of 23 finalists for the START Nivea Art Award in May 2009.
“If you want to walk fast,
If you want to walk far,
Walk together.” – African Proverb
"This collection of paintings extends my interest in relationships between people. In a series of paintings of Cakey, a total of seven canvases (50 x 50cm) will show the “heart” of a woman, the “Mama uBuntu”, I have gotten to know.
I met Katrina Molefe 18 years ago before my youngest daughter was born. Initially our relationship was rocky but later a wiser attitude followed which created a more peaceful and harmonious relationship. It was as if we were two equal sized, knobbly, rough stones rubbing against each other, resulting in smoother edges! I respect and love her for who she is. A single mother of three children, she has managed to accomplish the monstrous task of being the overseer of four Domestic Housing schemes in her pledge to give other domestics a secure future. Her integrity and accountability has been unwavering despite the challenge of greed and dishonesty.
My art pieces will endeavour to challenge people’s attitudes and relationships with people around them – whoever they are. The reward of getting to know people is a precious gift. It is discovered after persevering down a road of reconciliation and love, allowing our weaknesses, which keep us bonded to the past, to be unchained."
Cally Lotz was born in 1951 in Melbourne, Australia. After schooling in Zimbabwe, Lotz attended elective courses in Art and Design at Bath Academy of Art, England. In 2003 she registered for a BVA degree with UNISA, and is completing her Honours in November 2009.
Lotz held a solo exhibition Apocalypse at artSpace Gallery, Durban in 2009. Recent group exhibitions include MINE, KZNSA Gallery, Durban, (2009), ALPOA, artSpace Berlin, Germany (2009), Nivea ‘Start’ Art Award exhibition, KZNSA Gallery, Durban (2008), and Expanding Horizons, artSpace Gallery, Durban (2007). Lotz was a finalist in the Nivea ‘Start’ Art Award in 2008.
"The intention with this body of work is to examine issues of ecological concern, as triggered by my own experience of the recent Australian bushfires. The shock and horror of being in Australia at the time, just a few kilometers from the fires, led to this area of research. The bushfires that Australia experienced this summer preview the potential for damage that climate change has. By foregrounding the real-life consequences of this disaster, I attempt to challenge the viewer into re-considering both the status quo and alternatives.
Australian philosopher Glen Albrecht (2008) coined a term solastalgia to describe the effects of global warming on the mental state of Australians. The combination of words solacium (comfort) and algia (pain) infers an emotional disquiet that results from nostalgia firmly rooted in the now. The pain of nostalgia comes from taking comfort in the things that have given one pleasure in the past, while realizing that these things are no longer. Solastalgia, however, indicates a present that is becoming a past before one’s very eyes: The environment, which we imbue with so much meaning, is disappearing as we watch it. Albrecht (2008) writes that “Solastalgia is the ‘lived experience’ of negative environmental change”.
I have used the devastating fires as a metaphor for apocalyptic change. As a variation of the concept of ‘altered reality’ often shown in contemporary art, this body of work suggests the reality of ecology altering. It is driven by a continuing concern with the world that is in extremis ecologically.
My work process began by taking a series of photographs in the Drakensberg area of Kwazulu Natal where I live. I bent and twisted them to depict the fracturing of the landscape. This creates a sense of ambiguity, in that the first image of each series is experienced as a memory of a situation. Like solastalgia, it fills a space that is rapidly disappearing in a sort of ‘absent presence’. The series of photographs becomes the proof and quiet testimony to a powerful occurrence.
The documentary nature of photography has informed this exhibition, resulting in the images being kept to an A4 format. Also the indexical quality of photography is highlighted. As indicator of time and place, these reflections on the prospects of transition imbue the work with a quality of the anachronistic.
My ideas further found form in a thirty second 3-D animation made in collaboration with Heart Media. This work is presented in a cinematic loop, portraying the landscape slowly cracking and breaking, and then recovering. This work refers to the notion of the landscape as a breathing entity, and perhaps serves as a reminder that after man has destroyed his own existence, the planet will recover without us."
LEE SCOTT HEMPSON
Narratives are socially situated performances, ways of acting in and making sense of the world. (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005:641).
Narrative is retrospective meaning making – the shaping or ordering of past experiences; a way of understanding one’s own and other’s actions. (Chase, 2005:656).
"My paintings / artworks, I came to realize in recent years, have always been narratives. They have been a way of trying to portray my understanding, or lack thereof, of humanity. They have been and are still an emotional expression of my reaction to life’s events.
In the 1980s when I received my artistic training at Technikon Natal my paintings were grounded in social realism. I sought to tell of the social and political injustices of the time; the canvases were my voice to speak of the brutal unfairness of the apartheid system.
Thematically, my work has meandered along a few different routes since then, but has on the whole stayed within a social voice mode. In the 90’s I angrily reflected upon societal expectations of women’s roles; how media and society had affected my perceptions of self. It was then that I started to use personalized symbols in my work. This use of symbols as visual prompts has stayed with my work and I am continuing this in a new series about people’s stories. These stories that I term ’’ daily narratives ‘‘, have been gathered through the interpretation of pictographic playing cards. These cards have been developed by my self as an interactive tool to gather stories in a playful and informal manner.
I create stories. These tales are of hope, perplexion, joy, anger, of understanding and defining self and of societal expectations. People’s tales, no matter how worldly or little - little as in “you know….on the way to work today…” and stately as in “we have a crisis, we must meet …..” are all gems to me. These narratives are reflections of society, of cultures, of values and attitudes to daily realities.
I have been collecting stories and over the next three months intend to interpret the multitude of truths and realities behind the stories told to me on canvas and mixed media. The narratives have been generated by a simple playing card game. These cards, that I have developed for the express purpose of gathering stories have stylistic simple black and white images on them. The style of illustration is called ‘pictographic’ and these types of imagery are found on information signage boards at airports; for example directions to a baggage counter and road signage in our cities and surrounds.
The tales I have gathered reflect the day to day-ness on the one hand, of people's lives; the rituals of those realities and, on the other, the emotions that surface. There are stories of love and romance, of heartbreak, confusion, questioning of identity, religious faith, addiction and loss, adventures and prodigal homecomings. They are universal stories and yet deeply contextual of our multicultural landscape."
"I have drawn my theme from the truism that “looks can be deceiving” and use portraiture to unpack this simple concept as well as my own identity. The act of portraying myself and the people I relate to allows me to reflect on such questions of who am I, what I am about, what I stand for and, ironically, how I want other people to read me. By writing about my: “Work on this body of work has allowed me to shamelessly accept and appreciate my contemporary urban lifestyle. It is this lifestyle which is reflected on my canvas.”
My urban lifestyle evokes the notions of being received as some sort hip youth around Identity. To me my identity is important, as it defines my fate in the urban environment. But to the art world, they describe my urban lifestyle as an art form; I can say they find it creative side of me within the context of my 'Mask' which is my urban lifestyle.
Although this was the first time that my work is seen within this context, I had been developing works around the theme of being deceived by the public and people which I relate to.
I challenge myself to explore my ideas on a more physical level through my urban outfit. Which I describe as moving around the city towards myself and test myself, I move towards a viewer – I thought of art as an exchange system. An occasion where the person in the role of artist comes face to face with a person in the role of a viewer."
Mbhekeni Mbili was born 1975 in Umlazi Township. From a young age, drawing figures with a stick in the sand, he found he had a natural artistic ability. His teachers would complain that he was ignoring his studies, preferring to sketch, but one primary school teacher did recognize his ability and encourage him in his art.
In 2005, following encouragement from a customer at the petrol station where Mbili was working, he participated in a one-year art programme at the Bat Centre “to improve himself”.
In 2006 he entered the Absa L’atelier competition; his work was sent to Jhb and one work was sold.
In 2007 he was a finalist in the Nivea Start Art Awards.
In 2008 he attended the Centre for Fine art, Animation and Design to refine his cartoon and animation skills and had a show at KZNSA, “Soccer Vibe”. He sold nine of his works.
In 2009 he had a solo show at the KZNSA Gallery titled “All Eyes In African” where 90% of the work sold. On the strength of this he was commissioned to produce four paintings for the interior of the new Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban.
"In this new body of work I reveal the life that has passed, that we no longer see in the townships and in our cities. I look with nostalgia at a time when communities were stronger, and where now there is social breakdown. Schools no longer have gospel choirs, there is less community involvement in the youth, the aged... The social fabric is tearing apart, people care less about one another, are more arrogant and more focused on material success. Value of life is based on money, not family values. Families have broken down. I wish to remind viewers of this time gone by.
The combination of fine art and cartoonish style makes it easy for me to express myself, and is a fluid way to express my ideas. Some of the work reveals the mood in the township amongst people who are ready for 2010, everybody is talking about sport and excited upbeat, positive."