Trained as a sculptor at the Michaelis School of Fine Art in Cape Town, Vuyile Voyiya is perhaps best known for his remarkably articulated linocut prints, which, with their expressive and sensitive modulation of form, are about as close as one can come to achieving three dimensionality on paper. In this simple but unforgiving medium, Vuyile works largely with images of the human body. Often suspended in space, reacting defensively to an unseen threat, to a person or an action beyond the picture frame, the subjects of Vuyile's works induce a sense of extreme disquiet in the viewer.
As well as an educationist, actor, television producer and curator, Vuyile is known as a filmmaker, notably directing and co-producing, with Julie McGee, The luggage is still labeled: blackness in South African art 2003. This, as the title suggests, was an interrogation through a series of interviews on whether the processes of transformation in South Africa had achieved any improvement in the situation for black artists.
'As an artist I have a particular platform created that I can utilise to the best of my skill to express my own opinions, feelings bigger than me, feelings that I probably do not have the same skill in articulating in other areas of life. For me, as much as the message is significant, I am still moved by the creativity and process of making art. That is important after all is said and done. My work is about art, a process of discovering and articulating new discoveries.
'People may read and have read some of my works in very different ways, and that I find quite enriching. The important thing is, though, that they are attracted to the work for what it is and not necessarily by the subject matter or any opinion that I might have.'
Vuyile will show his new work in a solo show entitled 'Pentimenti' at the AVA in Cape Town in August. This Italian word refers to the changes that an artist will make in the process of bringing an artwork from the initial stages of drawing to the final painting - changes that are often hidden forever, or only revealed when years later, the process of cleaning may reveal new details of the artist's original intentions.
'The title of this exhibition', says Vuyile, 'refers to our diverse life experiences in society, good or stressful. Sometimes we see these experiences, sometimes we do not or choose not to see them. Sometimes we peel the layers by chance or intention and are pleasantly surprised by unexpected juxtapositions - or horrified by the discovery. In a way, the exhibition explores notions of bliss at the same time expressing its opposite'.
Two new series of linocuts will be shown: Reconciling discordant chords and Black and blue. The first is about relationships between men and women, and of the difficulties and abuses inherent in those relationships. The second, with its connotations of bruisings and beatings up is reminiscent of a series that Vuyile made as a student at the Community Arts Project in 1988, called Rhythm in ? time. This earlier series showed in closeup a young man apparently ducking and diving in his efforts to shield himself from a searchlight. Says Vuyile, 'What that series was referring to at the time (1988 - the harsh final days of apartheid) was the political situation. I think we are seeing a repeat of that in the present day, not necessarily in South Africa but in other parts of the world: people are being persecuted for political difference'.
There will also be a new video piece, entitled When silence is not golden which relates to the notion of the abuse of women and the indifference of society to that abuse. The piece will be made from a series of charcoal drawings, changed and erased and redrawn to create the animation. Vuyile's colour of choice is black. 'I find colour can be so seductive but I am more attracted to drawing - colour on its own can become the main thing, with black and white, there's no place to hide.'
In 2002-3, Vuyile and co-producer Julie McGee of Bowdoin University in the US worked on a film which had considerable impact on those who saw it in its revelation of the deep level of dissatisfaction amongst black artists at what they felt to be the superficial level of transformation achieved - or not achieved - by art and educational institutions in South Africa.
Says Vuyile, 'The luggage is still labeled: blackness in South African art was a huge learning curve that goes back to the theme of an earlier series of my prints, The barricaded rainbow at the end of the sordid tunnel of history. That series related the promises of the new dispensation and how some of those promises were being very exaggerated or misread in a literal way by the people on the ground. So in the film, the question was: How do we go beyond that sordid turnnel of history? How do we engage with the issues? It was educational for me. And it was good that people criticised the film - one got to find out how people felt about the issues.'
'I have a few projects in various stages of early development... '
Born in Cape Town in 1961, and still lives and works in the city.
2005 'Pentimenti' - AVA Gallery, Cape Town
'The Renaissance', Cape Gallery, Cape Town
2001 'Homecoming', Guga S'Thebe, Langa
2000 AVA, Cape Town
1995 Auto Atlantic Gallery, Cape Town
Contemporary Prints, US Gallery, Stellenbosch
'Siyawela', Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, UK
'Images for Human Rights', Durban and Cape Town
1994 'Fresh Cream', Chelsea Gallery, Wynberg, Cape Town
'Fresh Cream', Grahamstown Arts Festival
U.S. Gallery, Stellenbosch
British Council, Cape Town
'Continental Drift', USA
'Displacements', Northwestern University, USA
1993 Volkskas Atelier, Regional Exhibition, SAAA Gallery, Cape Town
Volkskas Atelier, National Exhibition, Pretoria
Art from the Western Cape, Grahamstown
1992 'I was Loneliness: tribute to Muafunguejo', Primart Gallery, Cape Town
'Art from South Africa', SA National Gallery, Cape Town
'A Zanier Future', Chelsea Gallery, Cape Town
SAAA, Eastern Cape, King George VI Gallery, Port Elizabeth
'The Enlightening Breath', Encico, California, USA
1991-2 9th Biennale of Sydney, Gallery of New South Wales, Australia
1990 'Art from South Africa', Oxford Museum of Modern Art, UK
1989 'Art/Images from Southern Africa', Kulturhuset, Stockholm Sweden
'Art on Campus', University of the Western Cape
1987 CAP Open Day Exhibition, Cape Town
Friends of Italy Exhibitions, Cape Town
1985 International Year of the Youth Exhibition, Cape Town
1985 Co- founded the SHAWCO Advice Office
1985.86 Co-ordinated the unionisation of The Argus and Cape Times news vendors and incorporation into MWASA Times
1985 Studied at CAP (Community Arts Project)
1986/90 BAFA Michaelis School of Arts, University of Cape Town
1987/90 Children's Art School Teacher, CAP
1990 Children' Art Coordinator
Printmaking Art Teacher, CAP
1992 Information Officer, South African National Gallery
1995 Education Officer, SANG
1998 Coordinator / Facilitator of the Millennium Art Project (Cape Town Component), Naharesse-Paris
2001 Education Coordinator, 'Homecoming', Guga S'Thebe, Langa
2001 Exhibition Coordinator and facilitator, Thupelo, SANG Annexe
2002/3 Education Liaison Officer; Iziko Museums of Cape Town
2004 Curator, 'Herstory, negotiating tradition and modernity', AVA, Cape Town
TELEVISION AND FILM EXPERIENCE
1991/2 Voice actor and puppet manipulator - Junk Funk Children's TV Programme (Starnet TV)
1998 TV Production Course - Mercury Productions
1998 Co-produced, co-directed - Gemaakte Hare student production, SABC, Cape Town
1999 Cameraperson, floor manager, director trainee - eTV Morning News
2000 Co-produced, co-directed Toothless Tigers?, a documentary of the demobilisation of APLA and MK cadres (UCT Historical Studies Department)
2001 Co-producer, coordinator, cameraperson, Head North: Visual Cultures in Dialogue, a documentary on collaboration project between the SANG and BildMuseet, Umea, Sweden
2002/3 Co-produced and directed The Luggage is still Labeled: blackness in South African art
2003 Produced and directed Kentridge at the SANG, an educational video project introducing the artist William Kentridge and his work for the Education Department, Iziko Museums of Cape Town