Lizamore gallery opens window on a new generation of artists
What kind of art is being produced now? As in the world of fashion, there are many movements and "isms" shaping art and they morph, rise and implode at a rate of knots.
Ideas spread quickly and retire just as fast. Yet retrospectively, emerging patterns can be detected.
Lizamore & Associates’ exhibition 35 years: Trailblazers features art that has (mostly) been recently produced by young and newcomer artists associated with the gallery, yet it is a sort of retrospective.
Gallery owner and founder Teresa Lizamore, who is celebrating 35 years as a curator, mentor and facilitator, has always sought out overlooked, unknown artists and provided a platform to exhibit.
Some of the artists have been channelled through mentorship programmes.
The exhibition opens a window on to the main movements — discreetly hinted at through groupings — that have gripped a generation of artists looking to define themselves and find a foothold in the art world.
Abstraction predictably emerges as the most popular mode with artists such as Bev Butkow, Sofia van Wyk, Lizette Chirrme, Lorenzo Nassimbeni, MJ Turpin, Paul Senyol, Bevan de Wet and, to some degree, Banele Khoza — all embracing this style of visual expression.
But the art they produce is certainly diverse.
Van Wyk’s art appears form driven and is the result of a dialogue between sculpture and drawing.
Nassimbeni, who hails from the realm of architecture, presumably arrives at his marks and lines through mapping or imagining a built environment and a subversion of that vocabulary. He invests a lot in a line – it sets the scale and tone, from which a structure is birthed.
Turpin’s works, which were recently part of a solo exhibition at Hazard Gallery, appear to be an attempt to produce a dispassionate form of art generated by a machine, the Zombie referred to in the title.
Or, is it the artist that is the zombie, churning out the latest fashion in art that is not guided by ideas or concepts?
Whoever made the works, they did so at precisely 3am according to the title of a triptych defined by Turpin’s characteristic splash of neon green.
Despite the early hour, the art is perfect-looking and controlled. It is almost centred on generating the ideal mark.
The notion of perfection that underlies this triptych is at odds with abstraction as being guided by intuition as if in search of imperfection and embracing human foibles.
His language is distinctive, as recognisable as is Chirrme’s textile abstract art advancing anthropomorphic forms from fabric collages
If Senyol makes art at 3am, you imagine he might be listening to jazz. He is not as invested in arriving at a single line as Nassimbeni or Turpin might be. Rather, he strives for a cacophony of lines, shapes, forms and colour.
It is not as haphazard as it seems. The formula is defined by two qualities of lines: the naïve doodle and solid forms and shapes that interact.
His language is distinctive, as recognisable as is Chirrme’s textile abstract art advancing anthropomorphic forms from fabric collages.
As the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art’s opening exhibitions will attest, staged photography has dominated visual expression in SA and elsewhere on the continent.
Lebohang Kganye arrives at it in a fairly unique manner by enlarging photographs (typically from family albums), cutting them out and turning them into static set pieces, which she manipulates and animates through stop-frame film making. The result — in works such as O robetse a ntse a bala Bona (You are sleeping while reading) — is static, decontextualised images that read as stiff, unnatural and staged. In a nutshell: anti-photographs.
Usurping the dark and moody historical drawings to make sociopolitical commentary in the vein of William Kentridge is another stream of expression that JM Tshikhuthula enacts with aplomb in his pastel drawing titled Mhani (A Priest).
Not all the artworks can be neatly pegged. Vusi Beauchamp’s dark, subversive punky pop cartoon vibe in The National Guillotine, featuring decapitated minstrel faces (his preferred motif), sits in isolation.
Khoza’s art, which exists at the boundary between abstraction and portraiture, with a degree of social-media self-awareness and anxiety, also does not fit in with the rest.
Nevertheless, fitting in is not always recommended in the art realm, although the days of novelty in art are long behind us.
• 35 years: Trailblazers exhibition at the Lizamore & Associates gallery in Joburg runs until September 23.