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South African Art Times: February 08 Gallery Guide

South African Art Times: February 08 Gallery Guide



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Published by: Art Times on Aug 11, 2008
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BathedIn Light
With their latestshow Florida Road’s
The Bank Gallery
continues to shine.
By Peter MachenIn these times of rolling darkness,he contents of Light Show at theBank Gallery are pointedly contem-porary. In what seems like a curato-rial narrative, the show echoes thelarge scale projection of a televisionconstantly being switched off whichdominated the gallery’s previousshow by Matthew Coombes.he Light Show, which wasconceived of as a sort of sampler or artists that will be showing in theallery through the year, gathersogether many of the psychologicalconcerns of our 21st century reality,as we move into an increasinglyunsustainable future.It is to the credit of both the curatorsand the artists involved that theshow’s experiential whole transcends
he sum of its not insignicant parts.
Curated by gallery owners HenriettaHamilton and Robert Fraser, with thedeftly multitalented Vaughn Sadie onboard as guest curator, Light Showimpresses as an example of theascendant talent that the gallery willbe showing during 2008.Dominating the show is SiemonAllen’s gorgeous appropriated workhe Birds, which literally recon-structs the Hitchcock classic, in theprocess building endless layers of 
allusion. Made from a 16mm lm
copy of Hitchcock’s 1962 thriller, Al-
len has woven the reels of lm into aat canvas, re-scaling the work with
mathematical precision so that the
woven lm occupies a similar scaleo the projected lm.
In British artist Simon Jacque’s workStorm, a series of electric storms is
shown on ve small LCD screens
which interrupt the darkness of thesmall space adjacent to the mainallery. Shot on a low-resolutioncamera-phone, there is no sound,no thunder. The tiny camera isincapable or reproducing the com-plexity and fury of a thunderstorm,resultingin a strange reductive digitalbeauty.In Jeremy Wafers haunting CloudingOver, the cloud’s lining hums anddances ever so slightly, asthe digital compression processstruggles to render distinct edges. A blue sky is interrupted by a dark
cloud which gradually lls the screen
with its dank, shifting grey.Motion and place becomes distorted,and the frame of the image seems tobulge and contract.In contrast to Wafer’s piece,Vaughn Sadie’s Pleasure of Feeling In Control overwhelms with visualsilence. A small bank of plug pointsand phone-line sockets is projectedfrom a slide projector, looking morelike a painting thana projection. The work’s title isengraved into the wall, intimating acomplacent relationship to a volatiletechnological reality.Greg Streak’s piece, Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid, consists of across constructed out of energy sav-ing light bulbs. The cross correlatesperfectly to an actual statue of Christon the cross on the other side of theroad, on the grounds of a CatholicChurch. While the gallery is acces-sible to the public, the church is lessso, surrounded by security fencing.James Webb’s work is a kind of embedded artwork, a Morse codemessage emanating from one of the
light xtures. It is in a sense only par 
-tially visible, with no gallery signageto tell the viewer that it is there. (Theshow’s curators have chosen not tolabel any of the works in Light Showwith titles and artists for this show.Instead, all such information is con-tained in the catalogue, giving theworks autonomy from their creatorsduring the viewing experience).Bronwen Vaughan-Evans providesthe only non-light-based piece, other than Allen’s The Birds. Her pieceVaughn Light, created from layers of lightness and darkness anchors theshow. On a long thin canvas, a streetlight is almost buried in the greynessthat dominates the panel. A pair of feet extend into the top of the image.The feet –belonging to Sadie – don’tappear to be falling to earth. Instead
they seem to be oating, away from
the banality below, away from theplanet, towards the light.Finally, a work by Steven Hobbes, A Point in space; containing allpoints, uses light and shadow as amedium in themselves, a delicatelyconstructed installation which cre-
ates uidly crystaline abstractionsthat ll the barred bank vault. The
work suggests real value, intangiblebeauty, and the fact that, for someof us at least, an art gallery is theperfect replacement for a bank.
Greg Streak’s piece,
Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid 
, consists of a cross constructed out of energy saving light bulbs. The cross correlates perfectly to anactual statue of Christ on the cross on the other side of the road, on the grounds of a Catholic Church. While the gallery is accessible to the public, the church isless so, surrounded by security fencing.
Page 2South African Art Times. February 2008
February Art Events Guide
John Bauer lives on a drowsy streetin ultra-respectable, middle-incomesuburbia. The neatly mown grasspavements are the glory of thishouse-proud neighbourhood, butthe pristine spick and span petersout abruptly outside John’s gatewhere weeds erupt in anungovernable thicket.Lower Claremont favours self-effacing whites and beiges, butBauer being Bauer, eschews suchrestraint. His house and garden
walls blaze with deant greens,
lavenders and ochre, and a covenof contorted, earthenware beings,like gnomes on speed, whoop it uparound the gate.John welcomes me with the well-bred grace that forms such a vividcontrast with the wildness andferocity of his ceramic handiwork.Inside bowls crowd every availablesurface, swamping tabletops,swarming over sofas, and cascad-
ing over the oor. Everywhere
there are choked ashtrays, dishesscummed with the remnants of the day before yesterday’s lunch,socks, toast, underpants andapple cores. Like a bag lady, Icheerfully sink into the squalour,turn on the tape-recorder and startyet another interview.
John’s vehement afrmations of his
belief in ghosts, auras, magicand miracles soon alerted me to hislack of the usual protectivesocial armour. However it was onlywhen he announced that onlyfuture, more evolved generationswould be capable of grasping hisartistic intentions, that his bowlswould grace the world’s greatestmuseums, command stupendousprices, and prompt intense
academic scrutiny, that I nally
understood that I was in thepresence of that loopy and outland-ish phenomenon – the genuineoutsider artist.John’s belief in himself and his giftsverges on the fanatic, and his com-mitment to the dream of ceramicperfection is absolute. Hestakes his claim to fame on incisedporcelain bowls. Thesecatapult one into a fantasy world of sickle moons and gingerbreadvillages where mermaids, depraved
sh and androgynous winged
beings disport themselves amidst arain of stars. These celestialshenanigans form an air-born fetegalantefor what thedramatis personaeseek is love, and the quest for love dominates the artist’s imagerywhich is rooted entirely in his ownexperience.Love vanished from John’s life with
abrupt and brutal nality when
he was six, and his mother andgrandmother were killed by adrunken driver. Thereafter hebecame a latchkey child. No onesupplied affection and understand-ing, and when his isolation wascompounded by dyslexia, emotionfroze over and he retreated intohimself.“I lived so long in utter loneliness,that I forgot what love was” saysJohn, “and it was only when Istarted meeting girls as a teenager, that I rediscovered it.” ‘Love’remains indissolubly associatedwith the primal union betweenmother and child,and John’s search for it was asearch for some substitute for thatlost entwinement. That substitutebecame ceramics which Johnmade from his twelfth year, partlybecause this was the only activityat which he felt he excelled, andpartly to remind him of his mother and her feminine touch. The bowls
lled the yawning emotional
the motherless boy, and this ex-plains the obsessional nature of John’s enterprise. His rate of provoid that opened up aroundduction is frenzied. Working hasbecome a compulsive rite of remembrance, and since 2002, hehas chalked up over 4,250 bowls.The quaking forces buried beyondthe reach of consciousness,erupt in an urgent gush of symboli-
cal images which ood John’s
mind, exercising an intolerablepressurewhich is only relieved when herecreates them on his bowls. The
results are not prettication
or embellishment, they are art: artas therapy, redemption andtranscendence. Such creationshave nothing to do with good taste.On the contrary they exude a raw-
ness and agrancy that make them
brazenly other.Dyslexia, an insurmountable detes-tation of reading and a doggedrefusal to study at tertiary institu-tions mercifully prevented this“wild, untutored phoenix” fromundergoing the usual processesof cultural indoctrination. Theartist’s salutary ignorance, hispassion for solitude and mania for experiment enabled him toachieve outstanding originality by
blurring gender, and shufing
the human, the animal and thedivine in passionate and uncouthimages that remain untainted bytradition, training or outside
Each bowl is a page in a diary thatforms an ongoing meditationupon John’s life, his thoughts,feelings, memories, fantasies and
daydreams. They reect on past,
present and future, uncoveringwhy what went wrong, went wrong,and why what went right,went right, mediating his experienceand making it intelligible.No other ceramist uses the medium
as an instrument of uninching self-
scrutiny and analysis, and it is thisintimate personal dimensionthat infuses his strange and anar-chic creations with a rigoroushonesty and truth.
When Anthropology, an American craft chain store with 100 outletsthroughout the U.S.A., placed an order for over R100,000 with ceramic artist, John Bauer,Lloyd Pollock decided to investigate.
Photos by Leah Walker 
Pro Helvetia Cape Town is inviting applications from professionalartists in all disciplines for grants to support local art projectsinvolving regional exchange within the SADC countries.Application deadline for funding for new projects is on1 March 2008.
Download applications forms and check criteria: www.prohelvetia.org.za
Lloyd Pollock
John Bauer demonstrates his fantastical and functional ying bowls
SA Art Times2006-2007 
The best SA visualart reading materialfor 2008
limted edition of 20 copiesbeautifully bound and trimmedCall 021 424 7733R 599,- includes postageThe complete 22 issues
South African Art Times. February 2008 Page 3
Irma Stern (1894-1966)THE SWAHILI WOMANsigned and dated 1945
65 by 56cm
R2 000 000 - 3 000 000
Auction of Decorativeand Fine Arts
Friday 15 February 10am to 5pmSaturday 16 February 10am to 5pmSunday 17 February 10am to 5pm
Old Mutual Conference & Exhibition Centre,KirstenboschNational Botanical Gardens,Rhodes Drive,Newlands,Cape Town
Enquiries and Catalogues
Cape Town office:021 794 6461
 At the Saleroom,KirstenboschFrom Friday 15February
Tel:021 761 3666Fax:021 761 3039e-mail:ct@swelco.co.zaCatalogues can be viewed on www.swelco.co.za
Tuesday 19 February 2008at 10am and 7pmWednesday 20 February 2008at 10am
Property of various owners including Estates LateVicomtesse d’Orthez (Moira Lister) and Dr GMWhiting
February Art Events Guide
A sizzling Friday afternoon nds
me sitting on Beezy Bailey’s patioat his home on Kloof Nek, sippingiced litchi juice and making smallalk as we look out at the city bowlar below.Beezy and his black female alter ego, Joyce Ntobe, are preparingor their upcoming exhibition at theEverard Read Gallery in Joburgrom 14 – 29 February. Joyce ismaking a comeback after 12 yearsreportedly occupied by a nunneryand AIDS orphans. The former domestic worker made headlinesin 1992 when some of her workswere bought by the NationalGallery after entering them in theprestigious Triennale competition.Beezy also entered, but his workswere not chosen. The art worldwas scandalised when he revealedJoyce’s true identity in a political
statement on afrmative action.
“Being Blown Backwards into theFuture” will showcase the workBeezy has done since his “FallenAngels and Other Dreams” exhibi-ion in February last year. Theartworks explore issues relatingo the demise of the white South African male and are focusedaround a central theme of fallenangels. Joyce’s works, whichcontrast strikingly with Beezy’s instyle and subject matter, deal withthe issue of inequality in South Africa, exposing the contradictions,paradoxes and ironies that makethe country what it is.Beezy shows me some of the ex-hibition pieces in his studio, whichis a light and wooden affair at thebottom of his garden, justpast the chocolate mint bushes hepersuades me to taste. Romulusand Remus are rendered in bronzeand suckle the wolf in an Africantake on Roman legend. Romulusgrows up to be the abandonedwhite colonialist and kills Remus,the modern African abandoned byhis traditional culture.Joyce’s works seem to have beencreated by a different artist entirely,and Beezy nods agreement whenI tell him that it looks like he’s stor-ing someone else’s work inhis studio. He laughs and tells methat Joyce frees him from himself,allowing him to create art thatBeezy wouldn’t dare attempt. Her new paintings are richly colouredoil depictions of townships after a
bad ood, painted by Joyce from
photographs she took on location.Beezy explains that the worksof Gerhard Richter inspired himto experiment with working fromphotographs, a taboo lingeringfrom his British art-school trainingthat took him 20 years to break.When it comes to the process of creating art, Beezy says that he islucky in that inspiration just comesto him. “As soon as I’m in the stu-dio I see things that I’ve got to do”,he tells me. He works between 10and lunchtime and again in the lateafternoons, when the natural lightin his studio is at its best and he’sat his most creative. “Once I’m inthere I just go for it”, he says. “Theroutine forces me to stick to mywork. When I was younger thingswere much wilder.” He tells mehow he used to sit on the beachand make art from driftwood, notfollowing any working schedule.
Beezy works on between ve
and 20 pieces at the same time,
“pollinating” them and itting
between them as new ideas cometo him. He says that it takes “two
minutes and 25 years” to nish a
piece, explaining that sometimeshe churns out art at the speedof light, but then goes back andmakes small improvements over a period of months or even years.
He’s been known to nish an entire
exhibition’s work in two hours.Curious, I ask Beezy what hewould have been had he not madea career out of art. He thinks for a moment, then laughs, “Insane.I realized I wanted to be an artistwhen I was very young”, he says,“but I was nervous.” The stere-otype of the struggling artist heldhim back until one day in NewYork, at the age of 21, he hadlunch with Andy Warhol. “He reallyliked my work and he encouragedme”, Beezy says, “and that wasthe moment I decided I didn’t wantto do anything but art for the restof my life.” And so Beezy became the localartist with the controversial blackalter ego we know today. He’s alsoa full-time father, and it turns out, achef of note. He gives me a lessonin the art of making “beer chicken”,a recent specialty of his, before Ileave. 2008 is going to be a busyyear, he tells me. He’s currentlyworking on a 4m high fallen angelthat unfortunately won’t be readyin time for the exhibition, then willbe organizing an “Art for AIDS”
auction in London before his rst
US exhibition, which will happenin August.
Tea with Beezy 
Carey spends an afternoon with Beezy Bailey and discovers chocolate flavoured 
 mint plants, the art of making beer chicken, and the magic of his studio.
Floods at Gugulethu - Oil and house paint on canvas
The artist,
Beezy Bailey 

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