'Wild Collaborations' at Art on Paper
by Robyn Sassen
Power's her name. She's a large terracotta figure placed at the base of the long staircase which leads to Art on Paper's main exhibiting space. Made by Tamar Mason, this extraordinary figure, simple and ochre but for the blue object she holds, magnificently captured the notion of an untameability, perfectly setting the tone for 'Wild Collaborations', a group show of prints made at the Artists' Press, now situated in White River.
The remainder of the exhibition comprised lithographic and intaglio prints, and artists' books made by invited high profile artists in collaboration with master printer Mark Attwood. It was a varied show, not necessarily grouped thematically or logically, but this was a quality which gave it its freshness, showcasing each artist's work as a separate experience.
Participating artists included Kathryn Smith, Colbert Mashile, Fiona Pole, Robert Hodgins, Frank Ledimo, Kim Berman and Espoir Kennedy amongst others, each doing their own thing as they do it best; each embracing the printmaking medium so that it fits - or is challenged by - their particular issues and conceptual concerns.
So while Smith continues making complexly titled 1950s nostalgic photo lithographs, marrying image with text in subtle, threatening tones, Pole renders spaces and buildings in central Johannesburg with disarming boldness: flat earthy tones embrace colonial architectural embellishment and contemporary urban sprawl.
By the same token, Burundi graduate in Biology and Chemistry, Kennedy works with barbershop posters and the sophisticated yet fun legacy they have developed, straddling, as they do, popular culture, tourist and fine art. Kennedy pushes the concepts and formal characteristics of these posters further, using popular icons, like Mandela. The works, bright, funky and charming, evoke Warhol's pop commentary on social icons, with an unmistakably African spin.
The wildness in these collaborations is about stretching the parameters of possibility within printmaking restraints. This is not wild as in uncontrollable or unrestrainable, but wild as in allowed to play, without the responsibility of towing a politically appropriate line.
Closed: November 18
Arthrob will be visiting the Artists' Proof Studio in White River during January: watch this space for an overview of the experience!