CLOTHES ON PARADE
When Technikon art lecturer, Andre Cronje, initially arrived in Pretoria to study art, he wasn’t too sure what art classes would be like and whether they would be quite his scene. Playing safe, he enrolled for evening art classes to determine whether this was what he wanted to do.
Living and growing up in the Karoo in a small town called Kraankuil, he had never studied art but had always ha a yearning to become an artist. Fortunately the classes caught his fancy and since completing his studies, his art has dramatically changed direction.
His second one-man exhibition, “Cloth Clothing”, contrasts and complements his only solo show a few years back soon after he had finished his studies. “I was tuned into shapes and at the time I started with the triangle and also stopped there never quite making it full circle,” he says. Although this was very different from his coming exhibition, he did have two fabric exhibits as part of the show.
His fascination with fabric began when he was still at school but was picked up again when one of the Technikon fashion lecturers asked him to print some material to be used in one of then fashion shows.
Never having designed for fabrics before, his techniques at the beginning were very similar to the potato printing most of us do at school. “I cut my design into cork and then printed onto material,” he says.
From there Andre took the concept one step further. Confined to bed for a few weeks, boredom motivated him to start designing and making his own clothes. “It’s still a struggle making up my own garments but I enjoy the thrill of the finished product,” he explains.
Earlier this year he was prompted to enter the Designer of the Year competition and his witty, original men’s clothes won him the first prize and an overseas trip.
Andre doesn’t fit the description of designer and when discussing his couture, he calls the garments clothes rather than fashion. “I have always been aware of clothes but dressing up has never been my scene.”
With the “Cloth Clothing” exhibition he has tried to create an environment with a fabric backdrop and then slotted clothes into this space. The clothes are made to be worn but he is uncertain of how buyers are going to react to the fabric backdrops – which he best describes as similar to altar hangings. “I’m quite happy if people purchase the articles on their own,” he says.
*Exhibition at the Ivan Solomon Gallery at the Pretoria Technikon from 9 July to 24 July 1987
JEAN BEATON, ARTRAT WROTE
Andre Cronje for the past two years has been experimenting with fabric, printing cloth which incorporates unusually striking images juxta positioned to create arresting innovative textiles.
A reproduction of a christ statue, a recipe for marmalade, a syringe, a film stars face from the 1960, the swastika-like shape used by the AWB, a box of chocolates and more are there.
Andre uses his silk screens over and over, printing and over printing arranging and re-arranging images.
His screen is his mark, his paintbrush. His colour is rich and beautiful. He brings to his cloth the sensitivity and subtlety of the Artist.
His fabrics may not be repeat designs but they are eminently suitable to drop, to hang as curtains or wall hangings.
Some of this cloth has been made into garments, timeless clothing, shirts and jackets but also elegant wear for men and women.
The look is masculine, strong and classic. Some are his own design but he has also involved young up and coming designers, Freda Erwee, George Sutherland, Phillip Botha, Gerhard Heymans and Marissa Esterhuizen, who have responded to the challenge of working whit exciting original fabric. Whether used as curtaining or clothing Andre’s cloth must be seen as very special, different and exciting text.
UNUSUAL SHOW CREATES STRONG AWARENESS OF MIND BEHIND EXHIBITION
Although not a major exhibition, Andre Cronje’s Pictures in Polaroid is an exhibition so well conceived and rigorously planned, so meticulously executed, that it is both a show of works and an installation which orders and engages the pace of the gallery.
Ranged along each of the side walls are a long series of Polaroid photographs, each of a single red rose, each mounted and framed in exactly the same way.
At the back of the space are a series of drawings of the single rose, each on the same-sized paper, each done with a few fluid and flickering brush strokes.
Thus the viewer is strongly aware of the mind behind the show, a mind which orders and repeats which structures and co-ordinates.
This is indeed a most meticulous garden.
The show is as much about the notion of series, of steps repeated again and again with infinitesimal changes, as about the subject ‘rose’.
The artist refers, with sidelong glance, to modernism and minimalism.
Both then there is the rose, again and again. And a rose is so anti-modern, so post modern if you will
It is kitsch, lush, either pretty and sentimental, or overblown and decadent.
Cronje’s rose is particularly sumptuous and artificial, isolated and examined, and re-isolated and re-examined.
Each photograph differs slightly from the next, and these shifts of lurid light, of suggested and suggestive background texture, serve to propel the viewer from work to work.
The lighting is extreme, hinting at streetsign neon, massage parlous, night-time carnivals and some unseen revelry.
But always in contrast to any suggested associations, one is simultaneously aware of the manipulation of the tool, the polaroid.
One wonders at the processes, the techniques, to achieve the photographs.
So one is pulled towards some symbolic meaning, then pushed away towards cooler, formalist and purely technical and visual concerns, exactingly controlled.
This is a most engaging and unusual exhibition.
EXHIBITION OF PAINTINGS, DRAWINGS AND PHOTOGRAPHS
Andre Cronje’s body of work, currently on exhibition at the Cite Internationale des Arts, shows a versatile exploration of a range of artistic modes of expression. He includes for example, large lyrical watercolours of roses, a series of photographic portraits, and a large wall installation belonging to a more minimalist conceptual tradition of painting. This latter work, titled ‘A Tine Picture Of The World’ as well as the triptych, ‘Marked Territory’, show a focus and resolve suggesting that Cronje comes into his own when relying on minimalist expressive means. In the case of ‘A Tine Picture Of The World’ colour and texture alone are orchestrated to speak volumes.
‘A Tiny Picture Of The World’ consists of a wall installation of square convases, each a different hue, creating a composite of vertical colour strips, reminiscent of those used to predict fashion or sell paints and fabrics. Unlike commercial colour strips, however, Cronje’s columns of colour are mounted together to form a far less regular grid suggesting also the fragments of colour blocks which occur when one magnifies a digital computer image. Harmony and randomness are thus discreetly played off against each other. (To maintain the balance, extreme attention was given to the quality of each surface and the number of coats applied, as I observed when visiting the artist in this studio). In terms of the works’ abovementioned qualities, the title is a fitting one, suggesting the artist’s interest in extracting the basic elements at the source of a colour-crazed world much as a scientist analyses concrete matter, only to find the paradoxical coexistence of order and chaos.
In ‘Marked Territory’ Cronje uses dramatic textural contrast by combining sections of painted and unpainted canvas with dense shaggy sections made by the heavy ‘piling’ (pulling through and knotting) of coarse string. In each component, contrasts of flat colour form plain pristine horizons of which different sections are staked out in this more primitive chaotic idiom. Again the tension between order and chaos emerges as a theme. Though ‘Market Territory’ does not lose its autonomy as an abstract piece, subtle associations with the landscape tradition occur, reminding one of Cronje’s African roots, and the role of land in the history of Colonialism. As with most of the work on show, a carefully considered title enriches one’s engagement with the abstract qualities of the work.
A series of portraits, consisting of six laser printed enlargements of photographs, are mounted together in the centre of the floor, like a shrine, paying tribute to the ‘African Friends’, the works title. The hazy pools of light and colour, resulting from the use of a Polaroid and the enlargement process, add to a sense of intimacy and familiarity, as do he closely cropped compositions. As in ‘A Tiny Picture Of The World’ artifice of colour acknowledges a fashion conscious stylized world, from which one’s senses Cronje attempts to excavate once more a more personal and universal connection. It is when he relies on a minimalist abstract visual language that the best achieves this.
Website of South African Artists