Archive: Issue No. 64, December 2002

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Berni Searle

Berni Searle


Berni Searle is the SBYO 2004

Cape Town artist Berni Searle is the 2003 winner of one of the most longstanding art prizes in South Africa, the Standard Bank Young Artist Award.

Searle, whose career gathered momentum after winning a major prize at the Cairo Biennial of 1998, has become one of the most visible of South African artists, increasingly peripatetic, undertaking art projects and participating in exhibitions across the globe.

Trained as a sculptor, Searle now works almost entirely in digital mode, using large scale prints and found objects or videos to explore themes of identity and history, often through performance in which the artist herself takes a central and symbolic role. As Standard Bank Young Artist, Searle will be the featured artist on a solo show in the Monument Theatre Gallery on the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, a show which will tour other centres in the South Africa in the following year. A catalogue will accompany the show.

The budget for the Standard Bank Young Artist Award is quite modest - the prize itself is R20 000, the amount allocated for the production of new work R15 000, and the figure allowed for the catalogue, R40 000. In the digital world, R15 000 does not go far, but as Searle has been making new work for overseas shows, this will be fresh to South African eyes.

As the artist herself says, "I have been out of the country so much in recent years, that I really welcome the opportunity to show my work here."

Searle will have to balance her local commitments with those internationally. A solo show in the Axis Gallery in New York's trendy Chelsea district in September 2001 led to an invitation for Searle's first solo museum show at the Matrix Contemporary Art Program at the University of California, which will open in February 2003.

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