Out of The Cube

cape reviews

What is this I don't even: A review of 'I Saw This'

Cameron Platter at Whatiftheworld / Gallery

By Tim Leibbrandt
12 February - 29 March. 0 Comment(s)

Cameron Platter
STATIONS, 2014. Pencil on paper 500 x 250 cm .

If Francisco Goya had been trawling the depraved depths of Internet forums instead of the Peninsula War, 'What is this I don’t even' may well have found itself inscribed as a caption to one of his macabre etchings. An Internet culture catchphrase originating in 2007, it is used to express confusion, or as a response to a post so shocking or silly that one is left speechless. The phrase came to mind repeatedly during my first viewing of Cameron Platter’s latest exhibition ‘I Saw This’. This is not to imply that the works on show are necessarily shocking or silly, but merely to mention that it serves as an appropriate response to the ‘this’ in the exhibition’s title.

art events calendar


buy art prints

Mikhael Subotzky Johnny Fortune

edition of 60: R8,000.00

About Editions for ArtThrob

Outstanding prints by top South African artists. Your chance to purchase SA art at affordable prices.

FIND OUT MORE Editions for artthrob
This is no less curious

Cameron Platter
This is no less curious
Sculpture: Plein tree wood, stonepine, stain, polish
260cm x 140cm x 60cm


Platter’s exhibition title references Goya’s work (lifted from plate 44 of Disasters of War (1810 – 1820)), as do three of the 'totem–like' sculptures (to borrow the press release’s wording). ‘I Saw This’ certainly doesn’t stray from Platter’s established visual vocabulary of laborious colour pencil drawings, wooden sculpture, porn, fast food packaging and assorted trash-culture detritus. When you find yourself walking through a forest of enlarged wooden butt plugs, there can be little doubt that you’ve wandered into a Cameron Platter show. Is it juvenile? Of course. But Platter’s unabashed commitment to representing all things puerile and base remains somehow endearing and impressive.

It is a language in which the artist has become increasingly fluent at relaying complex ideas. The phrase 'I saw this' points to Platter following Goya’s ideological lead, isolating aspects of a warped society as they are encountered and declaring them as 'seen'. The point is not so much that a distinction between high and lowbrow exists within society, but rather to suggest that despite any evidence to the contrary, there is a hearty helping of perversity fundamentally entrenched within its very fabric.


Cameron Platter
Installation shot


The point is driven home with the Gold series of charcoal sketches. Drawn in various Miami strip clubs, the sketches literally function as depictions of things that the artist saw. Stylistically, they are realised in a manner that floats between the early twentieth century sketches of artists such as Mattise, Picasso and Braque. This is not to argue high ambitions for Platter, but perhaps lower ambitions for the artists that his work resembles. By explicitly parodying the style of early modernist male ‘masters’, Platter eschews art historical significance and lays bare (if you’ll excuse the pun) the reality that has been ingrained in this sort of art all along. It seems an obvious point, but the discrepancy between the responses to 'Oh, it’s just Cameron at the strip club again' and 'Oh, it’s just Pablo at the brothel again', does warrant emphasis.

The Matisse connection resurfaces with Stations (2014), Platter’s homage to Matisse’s central mural at his Chapelle du Rosaire. Taking into account the history of the Whatiftheworld gallery space as a decommissioned synagogue, the upstairs portion of the exhibition takes on the feel of Platter interpreting the model of the ‘artist chapel’. It has long been established that Platter goes to extraordinary lengths to produce works that look cheap, tacky and lacking in skill. In this regard Stations stands as one of his singularly most impressively-worked pieces to date.

The level of the mark-making in the overlaid imagery of interracial porn DVD covers, a KFC menu and the centrepiece from Matisse’s chapel is superb. Viewed closely, the work is an abstract splodge of solid blacks on cadmium yellow. Seen from afar, KFC Variety Feasts, 'Black Market XXX' and Matisse’s depiction of Veronica wiping the face of Jesus begin to fly out at you. Stations forges a visual link with the four hand-woven tapestries in the lower exhibition space, furthering the impression of a chapel space. When I earlier alluded to uttering 'What is this I don’t even', it was primarily in relation to these works - they require the viewer to take a step back in order to decipher anything from the abstract collage of garish colours. On some level, I suspect that this is how Platter views the world: fragmented details leaping forth from a chaotic mass of detritus.

Pig Dig

Cameron Platter
Pig Dig 2014, Pencil on Paper, 185cm x 125cm


Less abstract are the enlarged butt plug sculptures, which the press release coyly (and hilariously) refers to as objects with a 'charged history'. They are another example of the pull between high and perceived low culture in Platter’s work. Resembling a display in some sort of ethnographic museum, these objects are in one sense translated into a witty double entendre on the word ‘fetish’ (a word that finds a regular frequency of use in the South African art world) and, in another, a polite suggestion from Platter about where to store your ‘totemic’ modernist sculptures.

This is not to say that everything in the exhibition is equally successful. Unless there is a reference that I’m missing, the ‘Pussydick’ inscribed on the wooden washing machine in Forcible Love Lonely Man Man of Man (2014) seems to be there more as a formality than anything else. The same is true of its usage in three of the otherwise abstract pencil on paper works in the lower exhibition space. It’s not clear that the words add anything to the pieces besides functioning as a sort of signature for the artist through synonymity.

At the time of viewing the exhibition, I had similar feelings regarding the four Hungry Lion (2014) drawings. Upon subsequent reflection, the Matisse connection once again provides an access point for these works, the repetition of the 'hungry lion' motif (the perennial king of the beasts) relating to Matisse’s association with the Fauves (literally translating from the French as ‘wild beasts’). In this sense the works recall the concerns of the Gold drawings discussed earlier.

While ‘I Saw This’ doesn’t reinvent the Big Gulp lid by any means, it does introduce some new elements, such as the Gold drawings, along with bringing back a few old favourites which have been absent from the last couple of exhibitions, like the ceramics. Easily viewed, in a relative sense, as a safe, inoffensive showing by Platter, the exhibition’s addition of a spot of subtlety to the mix is perhaps its most valuable asset, regardless of whether you do or don’t even...