New Painting at the KZNSA
by Francesca Verga
'New Painting', curated by former-KZNSA curator Storm Janse van Rensburg opened at the KZNSA on April 23. The exhibition featured South African artists who are active both locally and internationally, including the likes of Ryan Arenson, Conrad Botes, Moshekwa Langa and Johannes Phokela. There is no overarching thematic governing the exhibition, the focus resting on the actual medium of painting in recent South African art. The death of painting has regularly been declared, starting with the invention of photography in the 19th Century, but this show goes some way to reflecting its most recent resurrection.
The exhibition encompasses a great diversity and variety in its description of what constitutes this so called 'New Painting'. Due to its association with tradition and the notion of 'high art', the inclusion of Dineo Bopape's A Love Supreme, a video projection and installation of detritus such as plastic bags, and of Tanya Poole's stop motion video animation Drift was surprising in a show largely dominated by oil on canvas.
Drift depicts the emotional and psychological spaces between people. The shifting painting shows a woman watching her partner drift off to sleep. Whilst asleep, he is inaccessible to her, depicting her aloneness in the moment and in the wider context. The combination of painting and video made for one of the most compelling works on exhibition. Poole was joint winner of a 2004 Brett Kebble Art Award for a similar work.
One of the most powerful and enthralling works was Deborah Poynton's Safety and Security, whose immense scale (200 x 600cm) and quality of its craftsmanship impressed viewers.
Johannes Phokela works, Land of Cockaigne and Pantomime Mortal Vice, reflect his practice of appropriating traditional oil painting to reveal the subtexts of colonialism. He inserts recognisable African imagery into his subversion of Dutch 17th century art, revealing its underlying colonial discourse.
Tracey Payne's work Budding Yin, with its dominant pink washes, reveals a bound, naked woman. Payne investigates the Buddhist notion of samsara, which describes the cycle of life, death and rebirth. Her other work Toward Late Spring depicts women who are freed, both literally and figuratively from bondage.
An extensive catalogue has been published, with a lead essay by Virginia MacKenny. The exhibition moves to the Unisa Art Gallery, Pretoria from May 9 to June 2.
The KZNSA Gallery
166 Bulwer Road, Glenwood, Durban
Tel: (031) 202 3686
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