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Archive: Issue No. 42, February 2001

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Greg Streak

Greg Streak
Dressed to Kill, 1997
Video still

Greg Streak

Greg Streak
Freaks (you looking at me looking at you), 1997
Coloured wax cast of rabbit, canvas
Life size

Greg Streak

Greg Streak
Proposals for Where I Would Like to Live:Womb, 1997
(from a series of 7 works)
Half-tank, mild steel with magnifying glass and black oil

Greg Streak

Greg Streak
Hermet, 2000
2mm mild steel sheeting, welded - untreated
Installation view
Site specific work at !Xoe 2, Nieu Bethesda

Greg Streak

Greg Streak
Hermet, 2000
Mixed media
Installation view
!Xoe 2, Bell-Roberts Contemporary

Greg Streak

Greg Streak
Dreams in Red, 1999
From: Video triptych Whose Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue?
Video still

Greg Streak

Greg Streak
Semi-Detached, 1997/8
sound proof insulation foam, microphone, Amplifier, speakers, ventilator

Greg Streak

Greg Streak
Semi-Detached, (detail) 1997/8
Wood panel covered in black sound proof insulation foam, microphone, Amplifier, speakers, ventilator

Greg Streak

Greg Streak
Pacifier, 1996
Mixed media

A feature on an artist in the public eye.

Greg Streak
by Virginia MacKenny

Modus operandi:

Two years in Amsterdam at the Rijksakademie (1997-98) gave Greg Streak the distance he needed to stand outside of what he describes as the 'whirlpool' of South Africa. In South Africa, the constant questioning and dissection of his identity as a white male had become increasingly restrictive; working in a more global context freed him up, allowing for reassessment and work that became less specific and more ambivalent.

This is reflected in the variety of forms that Streak's work takes. Sometimes lean, with a serious, minimal flavour, at other times engaging in figuration or issues of narrative, his work plays between abstraction and representation. With a sharply critical and eclectic eye he re-makes, interrogates and claims as his own a diverse range of references ranging from modernism in his Proposals of Where I Would Like to Live to B-grade movies as is evidenced in Dressed to Kill a video work which wittily questions the nature of reality, fiction and representation as well as alluding to the violence in the South African context.

Streak's initial concerns with the political context in which he found himself is reflected in earlier works such as Pacifier (1996), a Kafkaesque figure in crucifix form. An Orwellian Big Brother feel to it is undercut by its graphic, comic like presentation giving the work an edgy discomfort characteristic of much of Streak's work. The series Freaks (you looking at me looking at you) (1997), created during his residency at the Rijksakademie, for instance, presents objects for scrutiny: a flayed rabbit found at the local market, cast in wax, a piece of skin suspended in liquid - the viewer supplied with a magnifying glass - they invite one to look whilst at the same time repelling one.

Conflicting responses are also generated by other works. An interest in the architectonic and its human associations is a continuing thematic concern. Proposals for where I Would Like to Live (1997-8) hints, via its title, at utopianism, but refuses to deliver any level of expected comfort. These 'proposals' instead present the viewer with maquettes; variations on small architectural spaces; modernist in form, but loaded with referential associations. Essentially inaccessible they speak of isolation, enforced restriction, hermeticism and introspection. Semi-Detached (1997-8), a larger variation on the theme, is a room-sized box, covered in black sound proof insulation foam with no entry point, which becomes less a place of refuge and more one of solitary confinement or imposed seclusion, suggesting, as the title reinforces, a dislocation from life.

Streak's video work is particularly meditative. Meticulously planned and often labour intensive, the final product's appearance belies the effort behind it. Often understated, these quiet works reflect existential concerns without, however, becoming didactic. Ambiguity, equivocation and lack of certitude mark his, often ironic, engagements with philosophical issues.

Artist's statement:

"I am interested in subversion _ at looking at the inside, out. Black and white do not interest me _ I prefer grey _ I like my darkness to be lit - to investigate darkness _ to become it. Like trying to breathe in a vacuum. Much of the more recent work has explored my own sense of ambivalence _ suspended. Floating moments where introspection and alienation are consciously engaged and interrogated. To catch myself looking at myself _ looking deeper and deeper - microscopic investigations into the microscopic _ infinitely."


Wrapping up 'Pulse', part of an international network of projects created under the umbrella of R.A.I.N. (Rijksakademie International Network), of which Streak curated and organised the South African section. Under the title 'Open Circuit' the project was specifically sited in Durban to highlight issues of inclusivity and exclusivity, centre and margin, high-tech and lo-tech. Supported by a mini conference to debate the issues, the show included both local artists such as Stephen Hobbs and Jeremy Wafer and international artists such as Mark Bain (USA), Sharmila Samant (India) and Isaac Carlos (Portugal). The final part of the project is an interpretation of the original themes as seen through Jo Ractlliffe's photograhy and the video lens of Sebastian Diaz Morales to be shown at the NSA towards the end of February. A catalogue will be be launched at the opening.

Before that:

A busy 2000 included a two-person show with Andries Botha entitled 'Divine' at the NSA, participation in 'Outpost', a travelling curated show of contemporary art from KwaZulu Natal, and a spot in Stephen Hobbs' 'Tour Guides of the Inner City'. Streak's submission for !Xoe 2, a site-specific work at Nieu Bethesda, was a large, cross-shaped structure, reminiscent of the roof of a house, sunk into the Karoo landscape. Speaking both of burial and disinterment this marker in the landscape was only truly visible form the air. Engaging with notions of archaeology and property; occupation and abandonment, absence and presence, inclusion and exclusion, the vocabulary here allows for socio-political, historical and personal concerns to intertwine.

Participation in a residency in Mumbai, India and a four-person show there as part of the Indian contribution to the R.A.I.N. intiative extended Streak's international exposure. So too did Streak;s selection for the show 'A.R.E.A. 2000' in Reykjavik, Iceland, curated by Gavin Younge. The showing of the video triptych Who's Afraid of Red Yellow and Blue? a play on Barnett Newman's work of the same name, allowed for the piece to be fully realised for the first time. Reflective, slow-moving and evocative, the triptych, comprised of Dreams in Red, Jaundiced (yellow), and Leaving (blue), encapsulates a speculative and contemplative approach to issues of mortality. The three panels depict; a minimal, but visually rich, Caravaggesque close-up of a head from whence blood slowly seeps and then returns as in a death/life breath; a spill of indigo-coloured liquid reflecting the sky and the silhouette of a departing figure and thirdly a yellow, urine-like, pool where lifeless feet float suspended. The work engages modernism's obsession with formalism, here embodied in the utilisation of the primary colours, whilst meditating on a fundamental in human existence: death.

And before that:

Dreams in Red, was included in 'Video Views', a show curated by Emma Bedford (1999) for the South African National Gallery. Prior to that Dreams in Red had been seen in Amsterdam at Arti et Amicitiae in 'The Mind on Scale: the Lava Edge', curated by Christine Sluysman, where Streak showed with the likes of Pippilotti Rist and Mark Dion. Other European engagements during 1998 were in the UK in a group exhibition at the Axiom Gallery, Cheltenham and one at Toadsmoor Mill, Stroud where Streak created a site-specific video of the passage underneath the mill's exhibition floor incorporating the sound of the mill's water. Entitled Above the work inverts the viewer's sense of reality; alerting them to their context, the work reveals a hidden space, in tantalisingly close proximity, whilst denying true access to it.

Next up:

Plans afoot for the 'Pulse' project for 2001 and a one or two-person show in a yet to be confirmed venue.

Selected Curriculum vitae:

1971: Born Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
1988: Matriculated at Durban High School
Currently: Living and working in Durban
Training and Residencies:
2000: Open Circle, Mumbai, India
2000: Open Circle, Mumbai, India
1997 - 1998: Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam
1995 - 1996: Masters Degree: Fine Art (MFA) with distinction, Technikon Natal, Durban, South Africa
1993 - 1994: Worked as full time assistant to Andries Botha
1989 - 1991: National Diploma: Fine Art, Technikon Natal, Durban, South Africa
Selected Exhibitions:
2000: Open-Circuit' - self-curated exhibition NSA Gallery, Durban, South Africa (Mark Bain(USA), Isaac Carlos (Portugal), Stephen Hobbs (SA), Jeremy Wafer (SA)....)

Four-person exhibition Lakeen Art Gallery, Mumbai, India

'!Xoe 2' off-site, Bell-Roberts Contemporary, Cape Town, South Africa
'A.R.E.A. 2000, Reykjavik art Museum, Iceland (curated by Gavin Younge)

'Outpost', Association of Arts, Pretoria, South Africa (curated by Storm van Rensburg and Virginia MacKenny)

'Tour Guides of the Inner City', Johannesburg (curated by Stephen Hobbs)

'!Xoe 2'site specific, Niue Bethesda, Karoo, South Africa (Andries Botha, Jeremy Wafer, Gavin Younge,....

'Divine' with Andries Botha, NSA Gallery, Durban, South Africa

'Unplugged (V)', Market Theatre Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

1999: 'Video Views' with William Kentridge, Clive van den Berg, Tracey Rose, Malcolm Payne, Kendell Geers, Penny Siopis and Randolph Hartzenberg, South African National Gallery, Cape Town (curated by Emma Bedford)

'The Mind on Scale: The Lava Edge' with Mark Dion, Ashley Bieckerton, Daniel Noguiera, Pippilotti Rist...., Arti et Amicitiae, Amsterdam (curated by Christine Sluysman)

1998: 'Open Ateliers', Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam

'Semi-Detached', group exhibition Toadsmoor Mill, Stround, U.K.
'DIS-EASE', Axiom Gallery, Cheltenham, U.K.

1997: 'Open Ateliers', Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam
1996: 'Some Man-made Objects', solo at N.S.A. Gallery, Durban, South Africa

'Jabulisa: Art of KwaZulu Natal', Standard Bank National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, South Africa (touring to Standard Bank Centre, Johannesburg;Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg, Durban Art Gallery, Durban)

1995: Bartel Arts Trust - Opening Exhibition, BAT Centre, Durban, South Africa

'Artists invite Artists', Durban Art Gallery, Durban, South Africa

1994: 'Forms of the Future', Durban Art Gallery, Durban, South Africa

'Vacated', John Waldron Art Centre, Indiana, U.S.A.

1993: Two-person show with Siemon Allen, Institute of Contemporary Art, Johannesburg, South Africa
1997 - 1998: International Bursary from the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, South Africa.
1996: Finalist for Emma Smith International Bursary
1995: Joint winner: National Arts Youth Festival
1994: Winner: Durban Arts Festival (visual arts)
1993: Merit Award and Scholarship - Technikon Natal for Masters study (Highest Aggregate - School of Arts)

Winner - Natal Post 'Young Achiever Award': sculpture proposal

Merit (2nd) - Durban Arts Festival (visual arts)

1992 - 1993: Honours study (distinction)
Exhibitions curated:
2000: 'Open Circuit' for Pulse project, an initiative of R.A.I.N. (Rijksakademie International Network)
Public Collections:

Work is represented in numerous private and public collections both locally and abroad including:
Durban Art Gallery, Durban, South Africa
Des Fisher, Cape Town, South Africa
Thami Mynele Foundation, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Marlene Dumas/Jan Andriesse, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Selected Bibliography:
2000: !Xoe 2 Off-site review: Paul Edmunds (artthrob 29.11.00)

Open-Circuit review: Paul Edmunds (artthrob November 2000)

'Outpost' exhibition pamphlet (September 2000)

'Divine' review: Virginia MacKenny (artthrob 05.04.2000)

1999: 'At Last, Video as Art and Here at Home', Benita Munitz, Cape Times (15.04.99)
1998: 'Shapes Echo our Culture', Gloucestshire Echo (March 1998)

'South African Art - Eurocentric Influence?' psychology thesis proposal, Anne Kanneworff, Amsterdam, Netherlands

1997: 'South Africa in Colour' catalogue, Stadparkspaviljoen, Groningen, Netherlands
1996: 'Some Man-made Objects', review: Dan Cook (Sunday Tribune 24 November 1996)

'Searching for Identity...' Marianne Meijer (The Mercury 13 November 1996)

'Stuttgart meets Durban, Durban meets Stuttgart' catalogue

1994: 'Images in Metal', Elizabeth Rankin, Wits University Press, Johannesburg, South Africa