'Graduate Exhibition' at Skone Kunste Gebou
by Fabian Saptouw
The large volume of artworks on display at graduate exhibitions can make for a rather daunting viewing experience. I found myself continually pressed for time, either pausing too long at one work, or neglecting to spend enough time with another. The second challenge was my intent to review both the Michaelis and Stellenbosch shows in one go. While there were many works worthy of my attention here, I have decided to spend time on those that were more successful.
Mareliza Nel, Francis Burger and Nadia Fouché seem to share a willingness to engage the sensual qualities of drawing. Nel created a series of intimate pen drawings, building the images' surface with a variety of lines, shapes and even delicately handwritten text. The use of the latter in the Me vs-series must have made for a very taxing process considering the concentration required to execute such a large volume of text in such a minute hand. The text is practically indecipherable, although someone very patient (or armed with a magnifying glass) may still be able to extract a full sentence from the mass of visual information.
Burger's contorted and disfigured mutations provide an interesting break from Nel's quiet pieces. In one work the bottom of the image is flooded by strange creatures, resulting in a rather bleak beach scene filled with contorted limbs, tentacles, raised eyebrows and gaping orifices. What is interesting is Burger's decision to render a small selection of these creatures sculpturally. The transition from a two-dimensional surface to a life-size object (replete with multiple appendages) is somehow less disturbing than one would imagine, the physicality of the piece making the images somehow more grounded in our reality than theirs.
A similar shift is found in Fouché's work, a series of drawings and video installations. One particularly striking work, Who won (2007), was projected underneath a staircase near the side entrance of the building. Here, a mass of submerged objects are continually besieged by unknown forces. The matter swirls around in a mesmerising fashion after each blow, each successive hit launching it in a different direction. The perpetual violence of the piece is particularly striking when viewed in tandem with her other works displayed here. Overall the videos seem to engage in a delicate process of aestheticisation through the obfuscation of our perceptual experience of otherwise banal material.
Resident prankster, Jeremy Purén, is not focussed on defining a visual aesthetic, but rather the manifestation of an artistic attitude. Action always beats in action, want n brander breek net een keer (2007) is a video installation complete with a worn-out couch and a bowl of fruit (which was a separate work). The seemingly endless series of video clips breaks with Purén's previous performances that engage the power structures of the institution. In one of the more successful clips Purén literally emptied his pockets, filled up his petrol tank and proceeded to drive up and down Victoria Street until his car eventually ran out of petrol. Aside from a brush with the local law enforcement, Purén made a total of 585 trips in non-stop fashion for roughly 13 1/2 hours. The futility of going nowhere in a very labourious manner, as well as Purén's reckless abandon, made this work stand out from the rest.
Another work that I found particularly satisfying was the collaborative poetry book The paper is you by Katrine Claasen and Wessel Snyman. The poems convey a personal journey through the grieving process, each fragmentary moment outlined with a touch of tenderness and eloquence. The fact that the book was hand-printed adds a particular touch of fragility and craftsmanship to text that is already loaded with personal memories. The struggle to handprint 600 pages acts both as a means of catharsis and a mutual journey for two heartbroken individuals.
Browsing through the fine art, design and jewellery sections at Stellenbosch one can see evidence of collaborations between students from various departments. Sometimes it is simply a photo-credit or two, other times there is a continual interaction. Although this is something that is quite prevalent in other institutions too, in this case it is a particularly interesting point with regards to the recent architectural changes in the main building. The shift to a communal studio space for first to fourth years, has the potential to break down the hierarchy within the student body. We will however have to see what the long term repercussions of Alan Alborough's intervention will be. At this point it seems to have worked rather well, producing work of varying strengths, but work that is definitely worth the trek out to Stellenbosch.
Opened: November 30
Closed: December 12
Skone Kunste Gebou
Victoria Street (opp. Neethling Str.), Stellenbosch
Hours: Mon - Fri 9am - 4pm, Sat 10am - 3pm