Abrie Fourie: End of the World
reviewed by Andrew Lamprecht
This is the catalogue or documentation of a series of works previously installed in both the US and SA by the talented Pretoria-based Abrie Fourie. Small in size (about 16cm square) the book is a good example of an exhibition catalogue that becomes a portable exhibition in itself. I did not see the exhibition so it is interesting to consider Fourie's work solely through the reflection of this document. And it stands its ground. For Fourie, as stated in his introduction, and as Laurie-Ann Farrell underlines in her essay, the exhibition collectively represents a self-portrait, and as the title suggests this is a self-portrait at a point of termination and (happily for the art world) a new beginning.
Anyone familiar with Fourie's photographic work will realise that tiny reproductions of some of his large scale prints will create a very different impression from that of the original work. As Farrell says of his Brett Kebble photography award-winning Solitary Confinement and similar works: '[they] bend the limits of digital pixellation in the creation of an oversized encapsulation of silence and solitude.' In a way then, this reverse process, of reproducing such images in this small book, along with texts and ancillary material, makes this place of silence and solitude intensely personal for the reader in a way that an exhibition never could.
There is much relating to the artist's deep Christian faith, including texts by John Gross and others, and a rather touching if somewhat incongruous image of Fourie lying prostrate before a sculptural group of Protestant reformers in Geneva. (What would they have said of a believer bowing down to such graven images of mere mortals?) And it seems to me that if I may extend the papist analogy that Abrie has opened, this lovely catalogue evokes something of the illuminated books of hours of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. Intended as a guide to personal prayer and religious contemplation, they ordered their contents in set sections, demarcated by texts and opened by an image. Each section was supposed to be addressed at a specific time of day and as such the volume marked time.
So too, I would suggest that this book can be seen as a marker and guide. The essays (with the exception of Farrell's excellent and insightful piece) are less useful than the artist's own short statements but they too serve a purpose in directing us to certain details and contexts. But it is the images and the story they tell that makes this gem of a catalogue scintillate. What a brave and ultimately good decision it was to reproduce images that one would have thought could not be reproduced. Rather than living up to the old 'the catalogue doesn't do them justice' adage what has been created by their concentration between covers is something more than an apocalypse: it is a signpost to the future.