The AVA presents three new exhibitions VIVIAN VAN BLERK, MONGEZI GUM & LONWABO KILANI, and WONDER
The Association For Visual Arts, 35 Church Street, Cape Town, presents three new exhibitions. In the main gallery Vivian Van Blerk, formerly of Cape Town, but now living in Paris, will show his latest series of photographs of his photo-constructions. In the long gallery, Mongezi Gum and Lonwabo Kilani will hold a joint exhibition of mixed media works. Upstairs in the Artsstrip Wonderwill exhibit his latest works in mixed media, as well as an installation, LTD, performed on the opening night only. This is Wonder’s first solo exhibition at AVA, likewise Kilani’s.
Vivian Van Berk was born in Cape Town in 1971. He obtained a B A Fine Art degree from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, in 1995, after which he moved to France. He currently lives and works in Paris.
He began exhibiting in 1988 at the National Theatre of Durban, and, thereafter, in a variety of venues in South Africa, including the SA Association of Arts WC (now AVA), the SA National Gallery (SANG), the NSA in Durban and the Lipschitz Gallery in Cape Town. From 1998 he began exhibiting abroad at the Pi Gallery in Chicago (1998), the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris (1998, 2000), the Galerie Beckel-Odille-Boicos in Paris (1999, 2000, 2001) and at Norback Art in Chicago (2001). His work is represented in the public collections of the Ministry of Education in South Africa, the SANG and the Michaelis Foundation SA, as well as in numerous private collections nationally and internationally.
In the catalogue entitled “Hippopotamus & Destiny 2000-2001” for his exhibition at the Galerie Beckel-Odille Boicos, Claire Bertin has the following to say of Van Blerk’s art: “To encounter the work of Vivian Van Blerk is to penetrate into a dream-like universe of a very personal nature but also rich in cultural references and allusions. We are at first taken aback, but soon seduced by this universe that mixes up the artistic categories to which we are accustomed: painting and photography, collage and architecture, autobiography and fable.
Self- definition is often at the heart of the modern artist’s work, and many of the elements in Van Blerk’s art seem indeed to be strongly biographical. The creatures in his photographs can be viewed as doubles for the artist in animal disguise like the beasts in the parables of Aesop or La Fontaine. His protagonists are also frequently made to confront their own reflection. This self-contemplation, however, is more than narcissism; it implies a determination to destroy an old identity in order to construct a new one.
There is none of the exile’s nostalgic quest for roots in Van Blerk’s work. On the contrary, the artist affirms a radical break from his South African past. No conventional regrets over a lost homeland of mythic paradise from which the artist has been expelled are expressed.
This fundamental break with the past explains why all his characters are shown as travelers. At one point or another they all turn their back on their place of origin to seek something new. Their voyage resembles a journey of initiation which is a metaphor for the foundation of a new identity. The journey also involves a necessary return to an imagined mythic origin, a journey through time as well as space to the beginning of the world.
The reconstruction of the self necessitates new foundations; the quest for these is illustrated in Van Blerk’s work by the frequent artistic and literary references to the old Judeo-Christian and European world in which he has landed. VAN BLERK uses these arcane and humorous references to construct his new artistic identity out of a debris of accumulated memories and images of an old and tired European civilization.
Interweaving his own story with often witty and melancholy cultural references the South African and colonial Van Blerk re-defines himself as a young artist in the Old World. His art, however, goes beyond these biographical and personal considerations to also become a parable for modern times, a cautionary fable in the tradition of the classical moralists warning us against our follies.
Vivian Van Blerk’s photographic fables show a world threatened by total destruction through the folly of men, a degraded world where the human figure is, however, strangely absent. Humanist values can only be recalled, as in Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, through their incarnation in animals, notably the two protagonists, the little toy cow and Angela the hippopotamus. This moralizing and cautionary component is disguised by the wit and richness of the imagery. The satire gives way, as in all the best fables, to a very special form of enchantment.”
In the long gallery, Mongezi Gum, (born 1970), new talent from Langa on the Cape Flats, completed a three year course in painting, drawing, sculpting and printmaking, at the Johannesburg Art Foundation from 1992 to 1994, before returning to the city of his birth, Cape Town, to pursue a career in artmaking.
Working from Greatmore Studios in Woodstock, Gumbelieves that art can be a means of multicultural exchange, different cultures exposing their particular traditions through their art. His subject matter thus portrays a combination of traditional African and contemporary ‘township’ values, often depicting rural Xhosa people in customary attire alongside the urban inhabitants of the suburbs on the Cape Flats which constitute his daily surroundings and condition his lifestyle.
Immersed as he is in the rigours of making and selling art, he is also a passionate community builder and a member of Ubuntu Youth Development in Langa where they are working to reduce the rate of crime and to bring humanity to the society. The melding of his community involvement with his artistic talent resulted in his success as a mural painter and he has worked on a variety of murals in his area, at taxi ranks, meeting places and at the renowned Tigers tavern in Langa.
From 1998 to 2001 Gumparticipated in four Thupelo workshops and exhibitions in the Annex of the South African National Gallery. He has also exhibited on several group shows in Cape Town, including an exhibition at Artscape in 1999. In 2001 GUM held his first solo show, at AVA, sponsored by AVA’s Artreach fund. In 2000 he received an award from Truworths for the most promising upcoming, young artist. His work has been chosen for a Truworths’ calendar and has appeared on a Woolworths’ shopping bag. In 2002 he was a finalist in a competition for new talent organized by Sanlam.
His broad, confident brushstrokes, rich use of brilliant colour and contrast, easily recognizable imagery and effective creation of ambience produce an art that is sensuous and immediate. From shacks, taps, buckets and washing lines to churchgoers, squatters, refuse collectors, dancers, musicians, donkeys, goats, Gum’s pieces entice and resonate with energy.
Gum’s work is represented in the corporate collections of Truworths, the University of Cape Town and Woolworths, and in numerous private collections in South Africa and abroad. This is his second exhibition at AVA.
Lonwabo Kilani, jointly in the long gallery, was born in Cape Town in 1980. He completed two years of studies in Visual Arts at Community Arts Project (CAP) in 2001. He currently lives and works in Cape Town and has a studio at Greatmore Studios.
Since 2000 he has been involved in a wide range of mural painting experiences in the Western and Eastern Cape, and has participated in numerous group exhibitions and artistic collaborations, such as the painting of an installation for a national conference hosted in 2000 by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town on the theme of memorialization and memory;The Day of the Dead exhibition at the Michaelis School of Art (2000); the Truworths Emerging Artists’ workshop at the SANG annex (2000), “Beating the Odds”, a multimedia art event to raise funds for CAP (2001); “Afro Metamorphosis”, CAP’s advanced visual art programme end of year show (2001); a group show organized by the AVA at Gesseau Art in Johannesburg (2002); Absolut Secret 7 at the AVA (2002); and a group show at Greatmore Studios in Woodstock (2002).
He has also been commissioned to produce logos for “Talking” magazine and for the Institute of Race Relations. KILANI has participated in a Thupelo regional workshop and exhibition (2002) and he has undertaken a work shadow at Paradox Animation Studios where he experienced 2D cell animation, editing and basics in script writing. This is his first solo exhibition.
Upstairs in the Artsstrip, Wonder will hold a solo exhibition of works in mixed media. Born in Knysna in 1967, he started painting in 1995 and has subsequently participated in several exhibitions, including Thupelo regional and international workshops and exhibitions (1998, 99, 2000 and 2001); two Absolut Secret shows at AVA (2001 and 2002); a group show with the Association of South African Artists at Kirstenbosch in 2002; Peace One Day, an international project to promote peace worldwide; and WEB at the Cold Room in Cape Town. He has held two solo exhibitions at Café Camissa and at Greatmore Studios in 2001.
Wonder has also been involved in a variety of outreach projects in the community, at Valkenberg Mental Hospital, with the homeless, with the Catholic Church, with Parliament for Child Abuse Week (2002) and with a publication on HIV/AIDS at the Centre for the Book. He has attended two mixed media art courses given by Jill Trappler; a Justice and Reconciliation workshop at the Centre for the Book in 2002, and he has created an installation entitled L.T.D at the Museum of Temporary Art in Observatory in 2002.
Wonder says of his art: “I find artmaking as a personal journey sometimes within myself, sometimes outside of myself, at times a combination of both. Working in mixed media leaves me open to explore artmaking on any level possible.” Wonder is currently an artist working at Greatmore Studios.
The exhibitions of Mongezi Gum, Lonwabo Kilani and Wonder have all been sponsored by AVA’sArtreach fund which aims to assist needy and deserving visual artists with their art related needs.