Archive: Issue No. 59, July 2002

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Alan Alborough
Split Decision 2002
Detail, viewed through the widow of the Goodman Gallery at night

Alan Alborough wins FNB Vita Art Prize 2002

Alan Alborough, nominated for his national touring exhibition as the Standard Bank Young Artist for 2000, has won the FNB Vita Art Prize 2002 for a work titled Split Decision 2002. Alborough wins R35 000 and the considerable kudos of the award, past winners of which include Moshekwa Langa (2001), Terry Kurgan (2000) and Jo Ractliffe (1999). The announcement was made at the opening of the Vita exhibition, at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, on Saturday July 13. The other nominated artists were Usha Seejarim, Jeremy Wafer, Abrie Fourie, and the collaborative team of Bronwen Findlay, Daina Mabunda and Faiza Galdhari.

The judges' statement reads: "This year the FNB Vita Art Prize exhibits an interesting diversity and range of medium, process and aesthetic. Most artists have engaged with mirroring societal issues, reflecting on important aspects of South Africa today: race, Diaspora, land claims, gender, spiritual concerns, economics and ethics.

"The notion of place and community is explored in the work of both Usha Seejarim and Bronwen Findlay's collaboration with Daina Mabunda and Faiza Galdhari: this work is a sensitive interplay of identity and materiality. Through Seejarim's work we are given an opportunity to accompany her and witness intimate personal narratives by people in her community. Wafer's powerful use of codified language explores the relationship between land, people and art. Fourie's impenetrable wall aggressively denies access and stands in contrast to, and protective of, the projected fleeting images of loss, transience and intimacy.

"This year's winner, Alan Alborough, is both the most difficult and the easiest choice. Difficult because of the work's clever manipulation of circumstances, conceptual underpinning and its impact on the audience/viewer. Easy because once you get it, there is no other choice. It is an extremely apt use of space and place in a deconstruction of the institution of art as well as the particular moment in South Africa.

"Alborough's artwork exposes the binaries of gallery/artist, viewer/object and context/subject. He draws the viewer into a game of chance and choice. By selecting Left or Right the viewer is presented with a series of choices that are continuously mirrored in a perpetual cycle. This territory is a negotiated one, of trying to bring all the pieces together. Choices we face daily range from simple to major and from the personal to the political. The success of the work is its ability to be at once evasive and inclusive. The viewer is invited to enter into the process, choose sides and retain a memento, but cannot ever possess the work in all its complexity. The work is democratic and didactic in allowing each viewer to walk away with an original artwork. It is witty, beautifully crafted and thoroughly thought out."