Archive: Issue No. 110, October 2006

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Feedback is an open forum for readers to share any comments and insights relevant to art practice in South Africa. We reserve the right to edit all submissions.

From: Brenden Gray
Date received: September 25
Subject: Johannesburg reviews

Why is the Goodman reviewed every month and other galleries are not? Maybe it's because the shows there are always so good. What do the rest of you think?

Brenden Gray
artist, critic and first year lecturer at Greenside Design Centre College of Design


Michael Smith, Gauteng editor, replies:

Your criticism is valid, and to that end I have, last month and this month, attempted to step up our coverage of Gauteng shows. This month, four shows are reviewed (three by me, one by Sue Williamson), and last month two were reviewed. While the ideal would be some sort of critical acknowledgement of all interesting shows each month, the reality of balancing my employment at ArtThrob with other employment simply does not allow this.

In terms of my focus on the Goodman, all I can offer is this: the Goodman Gallery, with its incredible size for a commercial gallery, offers artists the opportunity to really stretch out and produce convincing shows of sustained exploration. Most shows I have reviewed are the culmination of more than a year's work in the respective artists' lives, and as such represent broader views of the artist's exploration, always preferable to the 'snapshot' sense given by most group shows or shows in smaller galleries. From a reviewer's point of view, there is often simply more to write about in this context. Other galleries in JHB that are similarly important are Gallery Momo and Art on Paper Gallery, both of which have hosted shows I've reviewed. This is by no means a definitive list, simply my observation thus far.

Furthermore, the Goodman has a history of representing or showing many of SA's most interesting contemporary artists: in the last year as Gauteng editor I have reviewed shows by Penny Siopis, Brett Murray, Mikhael Subotsky, Lisa Brice, Ranjith Kally, Senzeni Marasela, Ruth Motau and Diane Victor - a young critic's dream, frankly. Not only has the work been of an amazing standard, but it has allowed me to explore some issues of relevance and significance to current South African social and political discourse.

So, hopefully the reviews become less about the credentials of the venue and more about the degree of engagement with social issues offered in the work. This is possibly proved by the fact that every show I've reviewed at Goodman (bar one - the Kally-Marasela-Motau show) has also been seen as worthy of focus by the Bell-Roberts publication Art South Africa. Their reviews have usually been published after ours, which means that ArtThrob is by virtue of its digital nature, quicker off the mark than slower print media.

However, in very sincere terms, I take your inference that exclusive focus on a few institutions presents a skewed view of the art scene in Jozi. I promise to do more to spread the love. Note to readers: the decision to review Brenden Gray's show at the gordart Gallery's Project Room was taken before he submitted this Feedback, and was in no way done to deflect his criticism. I promise. I can prove it.

Michael Smith, Gauteng Editor

The Feedback section for dialogue and interaction has existed on the ArtThrob site since its inception in 1997. Readers may also submit reviews, though this option is seldom taken up. One of the main aims of ArtThrob is to encourage discourse and the exchange of views on all matters concerning the production and reception of art in South Africa.