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
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.