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Archive: Issue No. 38, October 2000

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Kay Hassan

Kay Hassan

Kay Hassan

Kay Hassan
Paper construction and found objects
Installation view at the SANG

Kay Hassan

Kay Hassan
Paper construction and found objects
Installation detail

Kay Hassan

Kay Hassan
Non-European Libraries 1999 - 2000
Passport, polariod negatives, form, stamps

Kay Hassan

Kay Hassan
Johannesburg by Day (detail) 1999

Kay Hassan

Kay Hassan
Miner's Quarters 1997
Installtion at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

Kay Hassan

Kay Hassan
Shebeen 1997
Installation detail
2nd Johannesburg Biennale

Kay Hassan

Kay Hassan
Shebeen (detail) 1997

Kay Hassan

Umvuzo 1997
Paper construction
147 X 200cm

A feature on an artist in the public eye.

by Sue Williamson

Modus operandi:

The city streets, with their teeming population of mothers, workers, the dispossessed, migrants, street kids; the weirdness of a country where classification has been an obsession and there is enough food to go round, but plenty is thrown away while people are starving; the liveliness of a shebeen where good conversation mingles with desperation - these are some of the themes reflected in the work of Johannesburg artist Kay Hassan. Hassan's work is bold, and crosses easily and with authority from small scale works to photographs to video to installations incorporating found objects to massive paper 'constructions' - the artist's chosen word - too big for some museum spaces. These last are perhaps the works for which Hassan is best known. Using the materials of the street - printed billboard posters - as his palette, Hassan rips and cuts these, deconstructing and reconstructing them into new images. This recycling, the rawness and roughness of the technique, the free form of the constructions unbounded by rectilinear framing and adhered directly onto the wall seems wholly appropriate for these depictions of a shifting society.

Artist's statement:

"Our lives have always been torn and put together and torn - people have always been pushed around. You see it in the streets, in the kids begging, those eyes, the way they look at you. Imagine being a parent, and having kids that have to be fed, but you have no money, - so what do you do - you have to commit a crime. But I don't only reflect what is happening in South Africa, it's a reflection of what is happening in this world."


Kay Hassan was named the winner of the first Daimler/Chrysler Prize for Contemporary Art in South Africa, an extremely prestigious award which has included the making, mounting and cataloguing of a large scale exhibition, which having opened in Stuttgart, moved to Berlin, Pretoria, and this month opened at the South African National Gallery in Cape Town. The exhibition fills the central spaces at the gallery. The theme of the root of the evil, the division and classification of a nation is investigated in Non-European Libraries, a long series of small works in which polaroid negatives obtained from the Home Affairs Departments are combined with forms and rubber stamps. In the centre of the same room and on the opposite wall, we see the end result of this classification - a large scale installation entitled Flight. A bicycle loaded with possessions is backed by three of Hassan's constructions with a panoply of burdened figures surging forwards. In Bread, in the adjoining gallery, stale loaves, discarded by a too-affluent society, perhaps, are contemplated by heroic sized figures on the wall. In the final room, a row of video monitors on the floor reflect closeups of the often-battered faces of street children, while grubby bedding in the corner suggests their presence.

In the last week of the exhibition, Hassan will conduct a workshop in artmaking with local street children, showing them how to use whatever materials come to hand creatively. These projects will be exhibited alongside the artist's own work.

Before that:

In May this year, Hassan exhibited on the Dakar Biennale in Senegal. As part of his Daimler/Chrysler Award, he spent time in New York working on a series of etchings with master printmaker Bob Blackburn. Asked how the Award had otherwise affected his life, Hassan replied, "It has been great, because it has meant many people have been able to see a large body of my work. It is very important that there are artists in this country - if art can be on the centre stage, it can teach people to appreciate and preserve life."

Next up:

Hassan's work will be seen on the Galerie Seippel space at the Cologne Art Fair in October.

And after that:

The travelling exhibition will move to the Durban Art Gallery, and subsequently to a venue in Soweto. At each stage of the current travelling exhibition, different work is selected by the artist for showing, depending on the venue. And next year? "I had this life before Daimler/Chrysler and I will continue with this life," says Hassan. Selected Curriculum vitae:

1956: Born in Alexandra, Johannesburg
1957: Studied fine art at the ELC Art Centre at Rorke's Drift, KwaZulu Natal
1982-6: Initiated and taught fine art classes at the Alliance Francaise, Soweto.
1986-8: Studied printmaking with Stanley Hayter in Paris
1988-9: Guest student at the Schule fur Getaltung, Basle
1990-3: Taught at F.U.B.A. Academy, Johannesburg
2000: Recipient of first DaimlerChrysler Award for South African Contemporary Art
Solo Exhibitions
2001: Soweto Exhibitions
2000: 2000 Durban Art Gallery

South African National Gallery

Pretoria Art Museum

Hans Huth, Berlin

Wurttembergischer Kunstvererin Stuttgart

1999: Galerie Seippel, Cologne
Group Exhibitions
2000: 2000 Dak/Art 2000, Senegal

Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerp, 'Memorias Intimas Marcas'

1999: Camouflage, Brussels, 'Disorder' A3HB
1998: BildMuseet, Umea 'Democracy's Images"

Villa Medici, Rome, 'La ville, le jardin, la memoire'

1997: Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis, 'No Place Like Home'

Second Johannesburg Biennale , Electris Workshop, 'Trade Routes and Geography'.

1996: Haus de Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 'Colours'.

Bristol, 'Earth and Everything'

Generator Art Sapce, Johannesburg, 'Hitchhiker'

Wright Gallery, New York, 'Four Artists.'

1995: Kwangju Biennale, Korea

Deutsche Aerospace, Munich

1994: Newtown Galleries, 'Place of Power'
1992: FUNDA, Soweto, 'Two Decades of Fine Art'

Kay Hassan lives in Johannesburg, and has a studio in the well-known Bag Factory.