Archive: Issue No. 60, August 2002

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Marco Cianfanelli

Marco Cianfanelli
Interference, 2002
PVA, 2K and GV ink on steel, Acroglass and canvas
200 x 165 cm

Marco Cianfanelli

Marco Cianfanelli
Scenario, 2002
Paint on acroglass and steel

Marco Cianfanelli

Marco Cianfanelli

Marco Cianfanelli

Marco Cianfanelli
Untitled, 2001
12 m x 2.6 x 1.2

Marco Cianfanelli

Marco Cianfanelli
Untitled, 2000
30 cm x 80 m

Marco Cianfanelli

Marco Cianfanelli
'Untitled', 2000
Springbok hide, digital print, paint, glass and stainless steel
1250 x 1050 cm

Marco Cianfanelli

Marco Cianfanelli
Digital sketch of 'Passenger' 2002
Paint on steel, acroglass and canvas
243 x 178 cm

Marco Cianfanelli
by Michelle Ticknor (August, 2002)


Marco Cianfanelli's slick, pared-down, iconographic recent works are intricately linked with the complexity of loving South Africa. He began his career painting landscapes and continues to be concerned with romanticised space and its inverse - that which is marginalized through the very act of romanticising. His works address the relationship between beauty and violence, of consumption and acts of self-preservation that are more violent than perceived threats of violence. Cianfanelli 'bastardises' materials, whether 'painting' digitally, making oil paintings and then branding them, digitally manipulating photographs to evoke a sense of nostalgia for the South African landscape or branding animal hides with Italian Renaissance architectural patterns or geometric grids.

As in his object-oriented work, Cianfanelli's public projects prompt visitors to question their own negotiation of space. He has built a consultation room for the Inyangas at the Faraday Muti Market in Johannesburg and developed the Hollard Street Mall Project in Johannesburg's CBD with a sculpture of vertical steel poles depicting a bird in flight - or "protective" captivity - alongside a fractured map of mosaic strips that invite visitors to question the meaning of various depicted iconic images. These include Chappie the chipmunk, an AK47 and a woman hailing - or cursing - a taxi van. Cianfanelli has said, "[The mosaic] may be seen as troubling or celebratory, depending on the viewer's interpretation. It is intended to affirm the urban context, with all its contradictions." Architechnology, October 2001.


"Architecture is one of the ways in which we express ourselves spatially. My current work is an investigation into this form of expression. The use of razorwire is extensive and its function is obvious - the emphatic and aggressive demarcation of boundary and property. I am interested in the broader symbolic ramifications of this spatial "act" and how it points toward issues of isolation and segregation. It questions whether the negative effects of cultural separation and indifference may actually rival the threats that motivate the extensive erection of boundaries.

"Formally these works seem to hover somewhere between drawing, painting, digital art and printmaking. A single, pale and muted colour is used comprehensively throughout the artworks, creating a neutral or deadpan field in which the image of the compounded razorwire exists. The images are made apparent through their omission, creating cavities, which allow one to peer beyond the masked Acroglass to the hidden canvas. The play of light and shade on the canvas simultaneously reveals, duplicates and obscures the "absent" image. In their arrangement the razorwire appears both chaotic and designed, referring simultaneously to expressive gesture and decorative pattern. Ironically, the compounding of the razorwire erodes the visual "barrier" created by the masked Acroglass."


Cianfanelli is this year's winner of the coveted 2002 Absa L'Atelier prize for his work 'Interference', one of a body of white on white, paint on canvas, Acroglass and steel works. In addition to a cash award of R70 000, the prize will take him to Paris for a six month residency. His award winning work depicts silhouettes of coiled razor wire, fighting - or playing - figures, township housing structures adjacent to Italian Renaissance sculptures - or police crime scene drawings. Life in South Africa, cross referenced with the artist's Italian and German heritage.

On this year's Klein Karoo National Arts Festival, Cianfanelli �was included on Clive van den Berg's 'Once Were Painters' exhibition. On this, as in his 2002 two-person show with Stefanus Rademeyer at The Art Space in Johannesburg, the artist showed work addressing "obscuration, omission and duplicity, creating after-images that exist almost as a point of absence or emptiness." An increased use of digital technology was an evolution from - or reduction of - the artist's previous bodies of work that addressed similar themes but with more physical materials such as photographs and stretched animal hides �beneath glass.

'Romance and cynicism' commingled in Cianfanelli's first solo exhibition in Cape Town in 1998 at Mark Coetzee Fine Art Cabinet. Split between two spaces, the exhibition toyed with visitors' points of entry, only permitting access to certain areas of the gallery and making certain works such as a floor size installation of beach sand moulded into the shape of repeated Renaissance architectural forms, visible only from a distance. 'Atlantis' drew a parallel between the myth of Atlantis, its existence and loss, and the idealised image of Cape Town as an 'international' city of leisure and sensory beauty.'

For his first solo exhibition 'Record' at Johannesburg's Generator Art Space, Cianfanelli executed landscape paintings that assumed an indelible mark on collective memory, when branded with the generic house, tree, milk bottle or cloud, and later, punctuation marks. This show also included the actual use of landscape such as pressed mielie husks and charred patches of grass that were then branded with images of Italian Renaissance icons, including Michelangelo's slaves, or the ubiquitous bowl of fruit, playing with notions of familiarity.


Marco leaves Johannesburg for Paris in January 2003 to complete a six-month residency as part of his Absa L'Atelier award. He plans to take only a laptop computer and video camera to focus on digital and video work. He also hopes to develop a website to share his experience in Paris with Absa directly, ideally broadcasting the site in Absa branches throughout South Africa. Upon his return from Paris he will have a one-person exhibition at the Absa Bank Gallery.

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa
BA/FA (painting) University of the Witwatersrand

Selected Solo Exhibitions:
'Atlantis' - Mark Coetzee Fine Art Cabinet, Cape Town
'Record' - Generator Art Space, Johannesburg

Selected Group Exhibitions & Commissions:
Two-person exhibition with Stefanus Rademeyer, - The Art Space, Johannesburg
'Once Were Painters' - Klein Karoo National Arts Festival, Oudtshoorn
'We Love Our Customers' - Hungarian Embassy, New York
'Hollard Street Mall Project' (SA Eagle Company), commissioned by landscape architecture firm, Green Inc. to design and produce steel sculpture and mosaic project, Johannesburg CBD
'Pikitup Sculpture', commissioned by Green Inc. Landscape Architects to design and produce sculpture installation, Braamfontein, Johannesburg
'Tour Guides of the Inner City' - Rembrandt van Rijn Gallery, Johannesburg
'Sasol New Signatures Revisited' - Klein Karoo National Arts Festival, Oudtshoorn
'Emotions and Relations' - Sandton Civic Art Gallery, Johannesburg
Rosebank African Market, commissioned by Kate Otten Architects to produce mosaics and stainless steel sculptures, Rosebank, Johannesburg
'Channel' - Association for Visual Arts, Cape Town
'!Xoe - Site Specific', - Karoo, Eastern Cape
'Taking Stock' - Co-curated and exhibited, Johannesburg Stock Exchange
'Faraday Station Muti Market Project', - Commissioned by KCS Projects to design and build a consultation cubicle for the Inyangas (Traditional herbalists)

Awards and Fellowships:
Absa L'Atelier Competition
Absa L'Atelier Merit Award

Michelle Ticknor is an independent curator and art dealer. Before moving to Johannesburg in 2002, she lived in New York where she worked for the artist management company Mixed Greens ( promoting, curating and selling art by emerging visual artists.


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Willie Bester
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Willem Boshoff
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Conrad Botes
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Andries Botha
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Kevin Brand
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Candice Breitz
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Leora Farber
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Bronwen Findlay
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Stephen Hobbs
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Isaac Khanyile
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Greg Streak
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Strijdom van der Merwe
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