CHRIS THURMAN: Mining the aesthetic from the stuff of extraction
Alexander Calvelli’s art sees little difference between portraying heavy mining infrastructure and the quaint streets of its picturesque settlements
Mining has been significant as both subject and symbol in the work of many SA artists: from David Goldblatt to Gerard Sekoto and from William Kentridge to Sam Nhlengethwa. This is hardly surprising, given the industry’s prominent role in shaping our country’s economic and sociopolitical (not to mention physical) landscapes.
When I think about art and mining, the drawings and paintings of Jeanette Unite in particular come to mind. Unite responds to what might be called the “aesthetics of mining” by discerning the curious beauty to be found amid heavy industry; at the same time, however, she offers a critique of the environmental damage caused by mining, as well as the various forms of violence and exploitation in which it is imbricated.