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A Portrait of a Young Artist Series: Some went mad, Some ran away

Posted on November 25, 2013.

In 2012, Artcoza ran a series of reviews, A Portrait of a Young Artist Series, showcasing final year visual art student talent from various tertiary institutions throughout the country. In 2013, we continue to explore whether tertiary students are creating art that will make us sit up and take notice.

The first edition features the talent from the University of Johannesburg’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA).

Some went mad, Some ran away

BTech Visual Arts Students Final Exhibition 2013 Review
by Karin Basel.

The 2013 University of Johannesburg (UJ) BTech Visual Art students exhibition took place at the FADA gallery 12 November to 22 November. The work presented by the young up-and-coming artists is diverse and interesting, showing a strong sense of individual exploration. The work has been presented in a professional way and each student has produced their own catalogue. The following students are presenting work: Vivienne Tillett, Jessica Van Zyl, Caspar Whiteman, Frank Wabo, Louise Kolbe and Karen Tearnan, Melissa Bester, Mbali Dhlamini, Roxanne De Rego, Elsa Ingerl, Angelique Koekemoer, Kelly Mcerlean and Andrew Ntshabele.

The wide range of interests and strong personalities are evident in the works presented. Students are able to voice their concerns for current issues using the medium of art. They question relevant socio-political issues in a fresh and enthusiastic manner and are not afraid of confronting complex problems. A comprehensive array of subjects has been dealt with in a variety of ways, resulting in a strong body of work. These issues include grappling with spirituality, questioning South Africa’s socio-political position, confronting environmental issues and interrogating aspects of personal identity.

Vivien Tillet
The Final Momento Mori
Acrylic and oil on canvas (60’x 48’)

Vivien Tillett has produced some fascinating still-life paintings. They draw the viewer in with their bright colours and detailed technique, but when one views them in relation to the other pieces on display: an installation consisting of a filing cabinet and a police pinboard, one is made aware of their ominous content. These works deal with the hideous violence of farm murders. Tillett believes that farm attacks are not being sufficiently dealt with in our country. Her works do not directly communicate the idea of farm attacks, but rather use elements and symbols which discreetly point toward the objects. Her still-life painting depicts found objects common to many farm households.

Jessica Van Zyl has produced large charcoal drawings of transformed animals. These images comprise a strong contrast in tone and vibrant marks. The creatures she has created are a means of putting a ‘face’ to an emotion. Van Zyl explains she that wants to find out what emotions would look like if they were concretely displayed instead of merely psychologically expressed. Her work predominantly consists of drawings of creatures which are manifestations of her own feelings.

Casper Whiteman has produced an installation consisting of household objects and cut down trees. His work focuses on the vulnerability of the poison-dart frog thus frogs have been incorporated into the objects he presents, both as small sculptures and paintings. He feels that we need to change our destructive practices. His work attempts to create awareness around environmental problems to stimulate change because he believes that the natural environment must be preserved and protected for future generations.

Louise Kolbe
Sukkeldraffie
Wax (200 x 200 x 100mm)

Louise Kolbe focuses on the struggle to create a national identity. She has chosen to create works which reflect the liminal state of being that South Africans find themselves in today because our past identity did not encourage a sense of unity. She sees our South African identity as something that is still in a state of change or transition. In order to portray this Kolbe has made wax sculptures of horses that are in a transient state, they are no longer recognisable as their body parts are being added to or taken away. In some cases she has created half-human/half-horse creatures to show this liminal quality. She has also produced large drawings to reflect this state of change.

Audience fascinated by Casper Whiteman’s work

Melissa Bester’s work is a personal exploration in which she attempts to document childhood trauma though the use of photographs, prints and collected items. These items are displayed in small vials presented in a cabinet. Although the objects are personal, through the process of displaying them, they become removed from the artist and she is able to look back on her life in an objective manner. Bester also produced a series of prints showing a teddy bear in various landscapes, these evoke a sense of loneliness and loss hinting at traumatic childhood experiences.

Mbali Dhlamini produced a body of work which deals with her fascination with the inherent power of the garments worn by different African Christian woman. She questions the relationship between the garments and the personae of these women once they are dressed in their religious attire. Her body of work consists of an installation made up of 12 polyvinyl chloride translucent sculptures based on religious garments. She has then used these garments in photographs and a video installation. All three pieces have an ethereal quality, hinting at the spiritual power behind the attire and rituals of African Christian practices.

Angelique Koekemoer
Contour Face
Perspex (variable dimensions)

Angelique Koekemoer’s work focuses on the relationship between identity and memory as she feels that it is our memory which informs our identity. She has chosen to work with light and shadow. She has created interactive objects form Perspex which require the viewer to use a torch to create shadows or turn a handle to make the shadows move. The viewer is thus involved in making the artwork appear on the wall. Koekemoer explains that identity is not stagnant but an ever-changing condition as our identity is in a continuous process of being re-formed throughout our entire lives as it is continually constructed out of a combination of our previous experiences and our current situation. Thus the works she makes change as the viewer interacts with them

Andrew Ntshabele deals with inner city poverty in relation to urbanisation. In order to highlight this issue he has made large paintings which focus on the rubble and waste found in inner-city Johannesburg. He incorporates found objects into these paintings. Ntshabele explains that his work comments on the effects that urbanisation has had on the city of Johannesburg in relation to its physical change, socio-economic and political change in the post-apartheid era. His area of interest is the people who live in the inner-city and its outskirts commenting specifically on the negative effects of rapid urbanisation in Johannesburg and the pressures and strains on the people.

The 2013 group of BTech students have created strong and interesting works which comment on a variety of issues. Hopefully they will continue to comment on relevant issues and prove an asset to South Africa’s future art scene.

Karin Basel is an art history lecturer in Visual Arts at the University of Johannesburg.


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