Tuesday March 1
Countdown to March 9, the day my work is supposed to leave, beautifully crated, for Johannesburg for my solo show at the Goodman. The Goodman would like to have the work a full week before the opening, to allow for installation.
Artist Ed Young is working with me as assistant. Much of our energy is focussed on engraving copperplate text into a large sheet of glass, 1.5 x 1 metres. The electric engraving machine is suspended from the ceiling, which does make work easier than with the little hand-held Dremel engravers, but it still takes a very long time to engrave each line.
The text we are engraving is extracts from the archives about the fight between early Cape governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel and the burghers, who accuse him of grabbing all the best land, 'filching away' their slaves, and all manner of crimes. They conclude: "The Governor may justly be considered as a scourge of the people of the land .., he is insensitive to virtue... and coarse knaves who live by roguery and theft are his best friends."
The Governor, of course, has plenty to say in reply, denying all accusations in tones which alternate between contempt for the burghers, wounded innocence and self pity.
At the time, the dispute led to his recall in disgrace to Holland.
The engraved glass is to front a copy of a painting of the Governor on his farm, Vergelegen, surrounded by slaves. The original of the painting is in South Africa House in London.
A second piece, entitled The Profit and Loss Account of Simon van der Stel lists the slave purchases and sales engraved into glass over a painting of him at the Castle receiving gifts from local inhabitants.
Wednesday, March 2
Engrave, engrave, engrave. The rest of the studio is being very tolerant of the high pitched screech of the needle.
Thursday March 3
Out to New Crossroads. The artist who has been commissioned to paint the copy of the Willem Adriaan painting is 20 year old Manelise Mene, who showed enormous talent on the Memorial Street Boards project we did there last year, and is to start formal training as an artist this year. Collect the painting in his absence. Painted in the negative, so all the white tones are black, etc, it looks great. But he has forgotten to sign it.
Friday March 4
Manelise comes into the studio to sign his painting.
Monday March 7
We decide that rather than put the whole piece, painting plus engraved glass and frame, together in the studio, it will be less risky from the breakage point of view to send the elements up separately and start building a special crate for the glass. It will be lined with thick styrofoam boards, allowing for no movement, and we will make feet for the crate so that it can only stand on its bottom edge.
Friday March 11
Most of the work leaves, including the precious glass, now complete.
Saturday March 12
I am a panelist on a discussion group organised by the Market Photography Workshop. Other panelists include George Hallett and Guy Tillim, under the chairmanship of Peter Mackenzie. Part of the Month of Photography calendar, the function of the panel is to consider the current state of SA photography and how the past has impacted on this.
Embarrassingly, my mind is back in the studio to which I will soon be returning, and when I am asked to comment on a previous speaker, have to admit that I did not hear what he said.
Monday March 14
Still so much to do, and I am fly to Johannesburg in the morning. Work through the night, leaving the studio at 6 am.
Tuesday March 15
Pack in 10 minutes and ride out to the airport, thinking I will sleep on the plane. I don't. Too wound up. Am met by the Goodman Gallery and arrive at the gallery to hear David Brodie saying, "Well, I've got good news and bad news". The bad news is that my nightmare has come true. The glass has shattered into six pieces on the journey up to Jo'burg. Call the freight people. They will send a manager out for an inspection.
Wednesday March 16
Am staying with Penny Siopis, in Melville. The morning a team from Elle magazine are coming over to photograph the house for a series on artist's houses. The house already is filled with objects from all over he world, from angels heads to naïve paintings. Catching sight of one empty wall, in no more than ten minutes, Penny assembles a large wall installation of silver metal body part icons. The photographer and stylist arrive, and start moving things around. Penny's dogs, bullterriers Adonis and Angela rush around barking excitedly.
Penny leaves. I leave. When we return, we learn that the dogs bit not one but both of the team.
At the gallery, the freight person arrives and admits that the crate came off the Cape Town truck not on its edge as it was supposed to have travelled, but on its side, rammed in at the top of the van on top of other crates. What is there to say? The safe transport of work is a never ending problem for artists.
Friday March 18
Penny Siopis' monograph was published recently, and it is gorgeous. This morning she is decorating a window in Exclusive Books in Hyde Park with layers of red tulle studded with glass eyeballs to display the book. The red glows from one end of the shopping centre to the other.
Saturday March 19
Apart from the missing piece, the show is up, and I think it looks as good as it is capable of looking, which is the most any artist can ever say. Linda and all of the gallery staff, Neil, David, Kirstie, Melissa and Didier have been extraordinarily helpful and supportive.
Lots of people at the opening, and at the end of the day, that 'thank goodness it's up' feeling. Now the show will just have to run its course.
Sunday March 20
Bruce has come up for the opening, and Rafiq Asmal takes us on a tour of the Constitutional Court and the Old Fort Jail. A great deal of work has been done on the Jail section since the opening of the Court a year ago, and history is recalled through old objects and videos of inmates of the cells telling of their experiences. It's most impressive.
Monday March 21
Fly back to Cape Town. A marvellous feeling of lightness is setting in. The period leading up to an exhibition is so concentrated and dense.
Friday March 25
It's the Finissage of 'Illuminando Vidas - Ricardo Rangel and the Next Generation', the show of Mozambican photography at the João Ferreira Gallery. The party is being given by The Mozambican Society, and there are so many beautiful young women in the gallery, it looks more like a fashion occasion than an art event.
Thursday March 31
Oops. A message from Kendell Geers lets me know that I incorrectly identified the image of his work which appeared on the cover of the February issue of Contemporary magazine. In last month's diary, I referred to the piece as ET wrapped in chevron tape, but it wasn't ET, it's a skeleton. Sorry, Kendell.