Guilt and Innocence
Installation detail
Framed photographs

Guilt and Innocence
Installation detail

Own: Empire 1997

Truth: Blood 1996
Wood, plastic and fan
92 x 82cm

Truth: Quiet Lesson 1996
Wood, plastic, jars and chalk
106 x 90cm

Warrior 1995
Wood and plastic
170 x 90cm

Oros Goes Ndebele 1993
Wood, plastic and coins
175 x 150cm


Brett Murray
(September, 1998)

Modus operandi:

Referred to by critic Brenda Atkinson as "the dark prince of South African pop", Brett Murray is one of the country's most popular artists, known mainly for his steel and mixed media wall sculptures. Murray's work addresses the wars of the cultures, the clash between Afro- and Euro-centrism, the old and the new South Africas, often using easily reconisable media images with the addition of a subversive and bitterly funny twist. Most recently, Murray has started to address his own identity with pieces like Guilt and Innocence 1962-1990, made for the 'Thirty Minutes' exhibition on Robben Island.

Artist's statement:

"With my work I hope to critically entertain. Through satirical and tragic reflections on South Africa, I hope to shift people's perspectives and change people's minds, indulgent, arrogant and pretentious as this might sound."

Most recently:

Murray won the R30 000 competition for a public sculpture to be placed in St George's mall in downtown Cape Town (see news). Combining a small carved figure brought back from West Africa with wildly erupting heads of Bart Simpson, Murray entitled his piece Africa. The sculpture is to be completed within the year.

Before that:

Murray's show 'Own' at the Goodman Gallery last year focused on steel cutouts derived from historical drawings of landscapes, combined with jars of soil, small paintings and engraved plaques with words like "Heritage" and "Possession".

For a nine-artist installation project in the Visitors' Block on Robben Island, the jail in which Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were incarcerated, Murray gathered all the photographs of himself taken during the years of the Rivonia Trial prisoners' sentences, and set them out in little frames. Murray was born a few months before sentence was given. Considering his own role in the country during those years, and calling the piece Guilt and Innocence 1962-1990, Murray explained: "I am a white, middle-class cultural hybrid. This was and is my comfortable and uncomfortable inheritance. The political and social force beyond the confines of my family formed a system which protected and infringed on me, empowered and disempowered me, promoted and denied me."

Next up:

Murray is one of the artists selected for the show 'Liberated Voices' at the Museum for African Art in New York scheduled for February 1999, and will also participate in a show called 'The New Republics' with other South African, British, Canadian and Australian artists opening in London in May.


Brett Murray was born in Pretoria in 1961 and lives and works in Cape Town. He has a master's degree in fine art from the Michaelis School of Fine Art. He has exhibited extensively here and abroad, and has work in many national collections.

Contact: tel/fax (021) 47-1971

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