Der Abschied (The Farewell) an exhibition by artist Johann Louw on show at the Smac Gallery in Johannesburg, is a dramatised production. It feels more like an installation than average white-cube presentations. There are heavy green velvet curtains at the entrance to the main space; Mahler’s music fills the gallery; there is a salon-style hanging and a combination of odd objects placed among several of the artworks. It’s over the top and unnecessarily complex. There’s a hilarity about the drapes, dusty old furniture and taxidermy juxtaposed with the art. Louw is an established South African artist painting in a style comparable to that of Lucian Freud, the British artist known for his grotesque nude portraits. The paintings in this show are dominated by distorted figures of humans and animals beautifully rendered on canvas. They bring to mind dark psychological explorations around existential themes. Textural and lively, seen in Bobbejaan aan die Verbykom (2017) or Bobbejaan op Pane...

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