Archive: Issue No. 131, July 2008

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Gerhard Marx

Gerhard Marx
Sheet #2: Horizontal Figure 2 2005
cut and reconstituted map fragments
38 x 141cm

Gerhard Marx

Gerhard Marx
Skull without nomenclature 2005
cut and reconstituted map fragments
29 x 54cm

Gerhard Marx

Gerhard Marx
Binocular variation VAR III 2005
cut and reconstituted map fragments
22 x 42cm

Gerhard Marx

Gerhard Marx
Dark Sky (right-hand panel of triptych) 2005 - 07
cut and reconstituted map fragments
34.2 x 46.6cm each

Gerhard Marx

Gerhard Marx
Bird With Stars 2007
photographic contact print
49.5 x 60cm

Gerhard Marx

Gerhard Marx
Bird With Weeds 2007
photographic contact print
49.5 x 60cm

Gerhard Marx

Gerhard Marx
Grandmother with Weeds 2006 - 07
photographic contact print
48.5 x 58.5cm

Gerhard Marx

Gerhard Marx
All the Night's Sky 2007
photographic contact print
49.5 x 60cm

Gerhard Marx

Gerhard Marx
Weeds I 2007
weeds, watercolour and glue on cotton paper
93 x 142cm

Gerhard Marx

Gerhard Marx
Weeds II 2007
weeds, watercolour and glue on cotton paper
92 x 142cm

Gerhard Marx
by Cara Snyman (July, 2008)


Gerhard Marx is a director, set designer, video animator and artist, and he always carries two sketchbooks. He studied Fine Art before embarking on a career in theatre and these two interests still run concurrently.

Marx makes drawings by cutting up and reassembling already existing images and structures. By cutting and pasting layer upon layer of tiny fragments, he uses the existent lines and features of the found material to create his image contours. Topographical and star maps, as well as actual roots and stems of plants, have been used by Marx who reconstitutes them in varied images. In his earlier work, the finished collage is a seemingly spontaneous drawing, where roads are made to run around his central image in a continuous and smooth line, framed by map leftovers. Later works are more abstract and their origins less obvious, the marks are also more tentative and exploratory, tracing many contours, emerging and disappearing in a thicket of line.

Of late, Marx has begun introducing new techniques. Composite images made up of star maps and root systems copied on to acetate become negatives from which contact photographic prints are exposed. For another series, using paint for the first time, Marx pushes weeds into a mixture of black watercolour and glue to build up images of skulls. The thick tar-like base that he uses in these works naturally evokes embalming processes. Sanding these aggregates down to a beautiful polished surface exposes the tiny skeletal structure of the plants.

Marx's method and the content of the work are closely related and while the theme of mortality was touched on by his very first drawings of his ailing grandparents rendered in map fragments, it has come to define his output. The image of the skull, for example, is central. As Marx points out, both are self-effacing: their existence points to something other than itself, which emphasises an absence.

Making his reconstituted images is an intensive process and completing a single work can take months of concentrated effort. The labour with associated time passing is a Saint Jerome-like contemplation of mortality. Marx states that drawing '... creates time, the space for thinking or reminiscing, for losing your way' and that 'the amount of time, energy and focus that one puts into something, clearly manifests in the presence of the artwork... '.

Marx's work, in the reinterpretation of set structures, also questions the idea of a singular truth. If maps are trusted to plot a steady course, the destruction and reassembling of them in a clearly fictional way, can be seen as a symbolic action particularly pertinent to post-Apartheid South Africa. As Marx puts it, growing up in the 80s in South Africa, he, like many others, received 'a peculiar map' by which to live.


'When you draw, you linger on a line or on a shape, and there is a slowness involved which is important to your thinking and the consideration of the person you are drawing. On the contrary, a photograph captures an image instantaneously. Drawing therefore creates time, the space for thinking or reminiscing, for losing your way. Similarly, the line of a road on a map is a curious combination of familiarity (it is the space which is known and plotted) and the unknown. The road has to negotiate natural terrain, which gives a beautiful uncertain quality when used to draw with. I am a firm believer that the amount of time, energy and focus that one puts into something, clearly manifests in the presence of the artwork in its completed form.'

'Since the map always points elsewhere, it negates itself as object by pointing at a separate "implied" territory. I like to think that my map drawings work as evocation rather than depiction.'

'Primarily I dislike working from a point of knowing. What is a lot more challenging is to create works around something I don't understand. These works attempt to visualise aspects of things I don't but need to understand, and death would certainly form part of that spectrum.'

Interview with Warren Siebriets, October 2005.

'The skull (as object) is self-effacing in the same way that a map is: it is an object that points away from itself. The map points to the territory and the same applies to the skull, which serves primarily to evidence a passing. The same applies to the light seen emitted from stars (which might not exist anymore), as well as to an uprooted plant. Certainly the photograph works along these same lines, in that it always refers to that which has already passed. In a strange way, all these objects are very hard to see as the objects that they really are. It is this quality that attracts me to these objects - the fact that they deny their own objecthood by referencing something else, something bigger, something that was transient, ephemeral, something on a scale that is incomprehensible. It also interests me that these objects function in relation to a need for certainty: photographs (historically) as evidence; stars as coordinates and directional guides; the skull as relic and as an aid in forensics and facial reconstruction; the plant as a specimen in botany.'

Interview with Warren Siebrits, October 2007.


Paul Edmunds, selecting Marx as one of the three most interesting artists of 2005 on ArtThrob:

'Describing drawings composed of map fragments does no justice to the shifting colour fields and wandering lines of these works which are as personal as they are universal.'


Marx is the current recipient of a fellowship from the Sundance Film Festival Screen Writers' Laboratory in Utah, USA, and is working towards his next solo exhibition at Warren Siebrits Modern and Contemporary in 2009.


In 2007 Gerhard Marx presented 'photo-' at Warren Siebrits Modern and Contemporary in Johannesburg. The body of work is concerned with drawing with light and was inspired by the conceptual and material possibilities the photograph has to offer.

In the same year Marx directed Rewind, a Cantata for Voice, Tape and Testimony composed by Phillip Miller, and along with his wife, Maja Marx, contributes film material to the production which tours to the US. In 2006 his work is included in Fiona Rankin Smith's 'Figuring Faith' at the Standard Bank Art Gallery, Johannesburg and Grahamstown National Arts Festival. Marx also directs the The Collision Project composed by Clare Loveday at The Substation at the Wits Theatre Complex in 2006. He also designs the set for Truth in Translation, directed by Michael Lessick (NY), which toured internationally.


Gerhard Marx's 'Maps to get lost by' opens at Warren Siebrits Modern and Contemporary in 2005. He also co-directs Hear and Now with Lara Foot Newton, as well as managing the scenography. The production tours internationally. In 2003 Marx does the scenography for Tshepang, another production written and directed by Lara Foot Newton, which also tours internationally.


Marx is preparing for a solo exhibition at Warren Siebrits Modern and Contemporary in 2009.


Solo exhibitions

2007 'photo-', Warren Siebrits Modern and Contemporary, Johannesburg
2005 'Gerhard Marx', Warren Siebrits Modern and Contemporary, Johannesburg
2003 'New Works', Outlet, Pretoria
2000 'Drawing and Animation', Open Window Gallery, Pretoria
1999 'You are here', Civic Gallery, Johannesburg

Selected group exhibitions

2006 'Figuring Faith', Curated by Fiona Rankin Smith, Standard Bank Art Gallery, Johannesburg and Grahamstown National Arts Festival
2004 'Ten Years of Democracy Exhibition', Klein Karoo National Arts Festival, Oudsthoorn


2004 and there in the dust, co directed by Gerhard Marx and Lara Foot Newton, animated by Gerhard Marx

Selected theatre projects

2007 Rewind, a Cantata for Voice, Tape and Testimony, composed by Phillip Miller, directed by Gerhard Marx, film by Gerhard and Maja Marx, tours to USA
2006 The Collision Project, directed by Gerhard Marx, composed by Clare Loveday, The Substation, Wits Theatre Complex
2006 Truth in Translation, directed by Michael Lessick (NY), set design by Gerhard Marx (tours internationally 2006 - 7)
2005 Hear and Now, written by Lara Foot Newton, co directed by Lara Foot Newton and Gerhard Marx, scenography by Gerhard Marx (tours internationally 2005 - 6)
2003 Tshepang, written and directed by Lara Foot Newton, scenography by Gerhard Marx (tours internationally 2003 - 2006)


2004 Ampersand Fellowship, New York
2007 Sundance Fellowship, Sundance Film Festival Screen Writers Laboratory, Utah, USA


Sanell Aggenbach
(Sept 2005)

Alan Alborough
(July 2000)

Jane Alexander
(July 1999)

Siemon Allen
(June 2001)

Bridget Baker
(March 2006)

Emma Bedford
(March 2007)

Willie Bester
(Aug 1999)

Zander Blom
(June 2008)

Ralph Borland
(Jan 2006)

Willem Boshoff
(Aug 2001)

Conrad Botes
(Dec 2001)

Andries Botha
(April 2000)

Wim Botha
(April 2003)

Kevin Brand
(June 1998)

Candice Breitz
(Oct 1998)

Lisa Brice
(Jan 1999)

Lisa Brice
(Oct 2007)

Jean Brundrit
(March 2004)

Angela Buckland
(Mar 2003)

Pitso Chinzima
(Oct 2001)

Marco Cianfanelli
(Aug 2002)

Julia Rosa Clark
(July 2005)

Peter Clarke
(Sept 2003)

Steven Cohen
(May 1998)

Keith Deitrich
(July 2004)

Marlene Dumas
(Dec 2007)

Paul Edmunds
(Feb 2004)

Leora Farber
(May 2002)

Bronwen Findlay
(April 2002)

Bronwen Findlay
(Sept 2006)

Pierre Fouché
(Sept 2007)

Tracy Lindner Gander
(April 2004)

Kendell Geers
(June 2002)

Linda Givon
(Dec 1999)

David Goldblatt
(Dec 2002)

Thembinkosi Goniwe
(Oct 2002)

Frances Goodman
(Aug 2006)

Dan Halter
(July 2007)

Brad Hammond
(Jan 2001)

Randolph Hartzenberg
(Aug 1998)

Kay Hassan
(Oct 2000)

Matthew Hindley
(Sept 2004)

Nicholas Hlobo
(June 2006)

Stephen Hobbs
(Dec 1998)

Robert Hodgins
(June 2000)

Pieter Hugo
(April 2006)

William Kentridge
(Nov 2007)

William Kentridge
(May 1999)

Isaac Khanyile
(Nov 2001)

David Koloane
(July 2003)

Dorothee Kreutzfeld
(Jan 2000)

Terry Kurgan
(Aug 2000)

Moshekwa Langa
(Feb 1999)

Chris Ledochowski
(June 2003)

Kim Lieberman
(May 2003)

Mandla Mabila
(Aug 2001)

Churchill Madikida
(May 2004)

Veronique Malherbe
(June 1999)

Mustafa Maluka
(July 1998)

Thando Mama
(June 2004)

Senzeni Marasela
(Feb 2000)

Colbert Mashile
(May 2006)

Brent Meistre
(May 2005)

Santu Mofokeng
(July 2002)

Anthea Moys
(May 2008)

Zwelethu Mthethwa
(April 1999)

Samson Mudzunga
(Oct 2004)

Zanele Muholi
(Dec 2006)

Thomas Mulcaire
(April 2001)

Brett Murray
(Sept 1998)

Hylton Nel
(Feb 2002)

Karel Nel
(Oct 1999)

Sam Nhlengethwa
(Oct 2003)

Walter Oltmann
(July 2001)

Jay Pather
(Dec 2004)

Malcolm Payne
(Nov 2002)

Tracy Payne
(March 1998)

Peet Pienaar
(Dec 2000)

Andrew Putter
(Feb 2008)

Jo Ractliffe
(Mar 1999)

Robin Rhode
(Nov 1999)

Colin Richards
(Aug 2003)

Tracey Rose
(March 2001)

Ruth Sacks
(Oct 2006)

Claudette Schreuders
(Sept 2000)

Berni Searle
(May 2000)

Berni Searle
(Jan 2003)

Usha Seejarim
(May 2001)

Penny Siopis
(Sept 1999)

Cecil Skotnes
(July 2006)

Kathryn Smith
(Dec 2003)

Dave Southwood
(March 2002)

Doreen Southwood
(Sept 2002)

Nathaniel Stern
(Feb 20006)

Greg Streak
(Feb 2001)

Mikhael Subotzky
(Aug 2007)

Guy Tillim
(Jan 2005)

Clive van den Berg
(Nov 1998)

Hentie van der Merwe
(Mar 2000)

Strijdom van der Merwe
(Jan 2002)

Storm Janse van Rensburg
(June 2005)

Minnette Vári
(Feb 1998)

Nontsikelelo 'Lolo' Veleko
(Feb 2007)

Andrew Verster
(May 2007)

Diane Victor
(Feb 2003)

Vuyile Voyiya
(Aug 2005)

Jeremy Wafer
(Nov 2000)

James Webb
(Aug 2004)

Sue Williamson
(Nov 2003)

Ed Young
(Nov 2005)

Billie Zangewa
(June 2007)

Mlu Zondi
(Nov 2006)