Abrie Fourie at Joáo Ferreira
by Paul Edmunds
'Whatever, Wherever' sounds like a throwaway title for an exhibition, but I suspect Abrie Fourie uses it to loosen the ties between the photographic images he produces and their particular sources. He shows these as large board-mounted prints and in variously sized lightboxes, which he hangs on the wall or places with apparent randomness on the gallery floor. His palette of cold, steely blue and rich silky red creates images that both deflect and invite your gaze, and is at once reflective and inviting. Alongside these, on a small LCD monitor, he is showing Philippians 4.8, a series of animated still photographs.
In a lot of the images there is evidence of some activity and it is usually violent in some way. A radiating fracture in a windscreen, drops of blood tracing a wounded stagger or - more innocently - a dropped ice cream. Fourie somehow drains these events of their narrative and presents them as an arrangement of tones, textures and design. At the same time though, he manages to harness the energy and power of the action that caused them. A large print of the collapsed Strijdom Square in Pretoria is stained indigo. There is a strange disparity of scale - for some reason it looks simultaneously like a small model and a vast panorama. All this is offset by the size of the print, which is large but not overwhelming.
The low, murky, cool register of the image serves this effect well. Fourie's lightbox images of plastic bags snagged on barbed wire create similar confusion. While the bags sit very close to the picture plane, there is immense distance between here and the furthest strand of wire. The familiar blue and white stripes of those Pick 'n Pay bags are picked up by the pinstripe of a corrugated roof on which sits an angry snarl of barbed wire in a nearby print. The wire is both menacing and forlorn. On the floor opposite sits an A4-sized lightbox, which holds what appears to be low-light photograph of a mass of pitch. Looking closely one picks out some letters on a banner and realises that you are looking at an image of a protesting crowd, and you have mistaken their banners for highlights on a complex, disturbed, oily surface.
Philippians 4.8 comprises 12 different animations on DVD. Each lasts around two minutes and consists of up to 10 images displayed in quick succession. Again Fourie exploits the abstract qualities of his subject matter to create a play of light, tone and texture. In one several figures walk across shadowed tarmac, light intermittently picking out patches of saturated red on a dress. Another features abandoned bicycles still locked to trees and posts. This reads like a hectic staccato race across a cityscape. Another features a stack of books (probably bibles), all but one with lush red edges to their pages. The lone white book rapidly changes place in this arrangement in successive frames, evoking frenetic music, meditating perhaps on the element of chance.
The surfaces, tones and hues of the show are very attractive. The work is not as inaccessible as it first appears, but does give up its true rewards quite reluctantly. It is unfortunate that the largest lightbox holds a wrinkled transparency, but I understand the great cost involved in making this right. The small LCD screen is very desirable, but I wonder if the animations shouldn't have been shorter. Two minutes is a long time for the average viewer who is champing at the bit to see the next work in the cycle.
Opens: April 9
Closes: May 3
João Ferreira Gallery, 80 Hout Street, Cape Town
Tel: 021 423 5403 or 082 490 2977
Fax: 021 423 2136
Hours: Tue - Fri 10am - 6pm, Sat 10am - 2pm