GRAFLIT! – Building a local comics Anthology.

I’ve had the great pleasure of coordinating the GrafLit Event this year. For those of you that don’t know, GrafLit is a concept that was originally created by Andy Mason and Keith Dietrich in 2013 and comprises of a joint exhibition and publication with SA brewed comic art as its focus. The exhibition functions as the official launch for the publication and is hosted by the Younblood Gallery in Cape Town. What we’ve a achieved this year was amazing, especially since the event has grown greatly in scope and impact. I was amazed by the interest the public showed, as well as the willingness of the artists to contribute new work. From my side, it’s  inspiring to see a break from the tenets of Bitterkomix that have dominated the visual character of SA comics for so long.

GrafLit - Urban Interiors.  Editorial Team: Su Opperman, Andy Mason, Jean de Wet and Keda Gomes. Cover by Hanno van Zyl.

GrafLit – Urban Interiors.
Editorial Team: Su Opperman, Andy Mason, Jean de Wet and Keda Gomes. Cover by Hanno van Zyl.

 

The theme for this year’s GrafLit publication is rooted in the Urban landscape of Cape Town – where environment meets spyche, metaphors are constantly shaped and altered. Consequently,  the publication reflects each artist’s unique internalisations of the the city-sphere. The elements that comprise Cape Town has left a mark on its residents, how we interpret our environment also affects how we realize our notions of a shared space. Seeing the various reflections of Cape Town in this publication, showed the city as both a concrete reality and a conceptual occurrence – a space in which an assortment of parallel narratives exist simultaneously, whether they be contested, included, excluded, individual or culturally located, I’m just glad that we’ve caught some them in the pages of this book.

On a personal note, working alongside the likes of Jean de Wet was just an amazing experience. His eye for detail and his obsessive perfectionism can only bode well for any publication. Thanks Jean! Having the cover silk-screened was such a good choice, it created  a wonderful tactile experience, reminding the reader that; for all it contains a book is still an object. Creating an anthology also has its own challenges, from managing 24 artists and also getting them ready for a group exhibition really tests logistics, but the editorial team pulled through and managed to draw something concrete from all the disparate visuals we gathered, thanks to a cohesive theme. In all honesty, I do think this year’s GrafLit publication has set a certain standard for future local comics anthologies. It’s amazing what you can achieve with a minimal budget, but you do need some form of budget at least! In that regard, I’d just like to thank the CCIBA for providing the monies to make this possible. There is such amazing talent of South African creativity out there, but only a minimum of it ever gets realised because of financial constraints in this country. At least some of it gets out there and Cape Town is never lacking in creative potential! I’m glad be a part of that and to contribute in my own small way.

Su Opperman - Urban Interiors.

Su Opperman – Urban Interiors.

The theme I based the publication on was actually based on a painting I had in mind, initially. Consequently, I constructed the whole project around the painting I wanted to make for the exhibition. It all came together nicely. Often what happens when your in the comics genre, is that people forget that you’re a serious artist and that you’re not just constrained to books, but can in fact can make larger works. One of the chief aims of GrafLit is to expose comics book artists as artists to be taken seriously within the mind of the public. Artists that are capable of working within a variety of genres and mediums and who can express themselves successfully on divergent platforms. Creative enterprise is never limited to a singular expression, but rather feeds of multiple influences simultaneously. Comic art is a prime example thereof and that is one of things that we showcase through this exhibition.

Anja Awesome! Venter

Anja Awesome! Venter

Anja Venter. Another multi-talented individual It was just amazing to work with all these artists, each with their own process, visual characteristics and stories. Anja created one of my favourite stories within the anthology. Another was Jean de Wet’s and Daniel du Plessis’s.

GrafLit Exhib.! Urban Interiors 2014

GrafLit Exhib.! Urban Interiors 2014

Just amazing to see an event solely geared towards comic art and it being a success!

SU Opperman and Andy Mason.

SU Opperman and Andy Mason.

Cheers Everybody! And thanks for the support, next year is gonna be a blast!

 

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Paint matters? Checking out what’s hot/or not at the Barnard show.

Cape Town! Winter Weather! Elemental forces, bitter winds, roaring rain and art. Inescapable car-guards waving down a car for a hard landing in the southern suburbs.  Two art appreciators decide to make a run for it! Squelching into the Barnard gallery, we drip water onto a white floor. Thanks to the German, I find myself at another art show. Bringing the consideration to mind, that recently, I’ve experienced too much “high” culture and not enough “low”.

Stepping into  ‘Paint Matters’ as presented by the Barnard Gallery,  left my mind adrift.  As a viewer, confronting a solo show is always vastly different from experiencing a group exhibition. The former usually presents a grand narrative as expressed by a singular artist, the latter – a variety of impressions drawn together by an overarching context or concept. Looking at the works on the wall, experiencing the space and people, made me reflect on the construct of ‘the city’.  Cape Town, is not by any extant a large city, but like any city it is a multi-tiered entity, with it’s many hierarchies, semblances of order and underlying contested space.  It’s generally agreed that the function of a city is to bring together wealth, knowledge,  ideas and artifacts.  A notion I find exemplified when experiencing an ‘exhibition’, especially group shows.

Paint matters was a visually exciting show. It had variety and it had texture. The Barnard Gallery is one of my favourites, it might not have the space of Brundyn+, but it has a wonderful quality of openness and light due to its glass facade. Allowing the outside world to penetrate its hyper-conscious space.  Consequently, artworks are not experienced as something encapsulated from the world, but rather as something a part thereof. My favourite for the evening  was Alexa Vogel. I think it was Stuart Hall that said that character develops out of that strange space where the ‘unspeakable stories of subjectivity meet the grand narratives of history’. I suppose it’s also at this fluid intersection where the notion of personal taste lies.

Alexa Vogal-Verdant - oil on paper

Alexa Vogel – Verdant

So, what’s hot or not? Here’s the hotties for the evening! – First off; Alexa Vogel. I’m a neo-classicist at heart,  even though my personal work is darkly bizarre, which is why works like hers will always speak to me. It was  a pleasure to acquaint myself further with her style.  Last time I saw it was at the Cape Town art fair earlier this year, hoisted under the Barnard Banner. She achieves a  wonderful element of translucency through her paint application and use  of colour.  I’m not a fan of the floral  encounter, but her work conveyed a lush atmosphere.  A  combination of Gainsborough’s backgrounds with  the  exuberance of Turner.

Ndikhumbule Ngqinambi- Closer to the Rainbow

Ndikhumbule Ngqinambi- Closer to the Rainbow

Another favourite was a work by Ndikhumbule  Ngqinambi, titled ‘Closer to the Rainbow’. It’s just amazing to see what these black guys get up to in art world. Time and again  they put forward some of the strongest works that test our South African sensibilities. They tend to be hyper-politically aware, a remnant of the revolution mentality,  when form and perception was placed under threat. Elements of which we now  frequently see on exhibition. And a last hottie was Sarah Biggs wit:  ‘Day 37 (I know you are out there)’. An absolutely beautiful abstract piece. A work like this  makes you appreciate painting again, as both medium and act.

Day 37, I know your are out there

Day 37, I know your are out there. Sarah Biggs.

Asha Zero - CMX

Asha Zero – CMX

The not so hotties for the evening – Above, CMX done by Asha Zero. She’s a doing well for herself, was also showcased at the Cape Town art fair this year. Reminiscent of 1950’s pop meets  grunge. Her colour scheme and use of collage reminded me specifically of Richard Hamilton’s Just what is it that make today’s homes so different, so appealing. The Dada-esque and poppish elements are there (you can’t miss them!), but when viewed – it just came across as childish when compared to some of the other works. The business of ‘not taking art seriously’ in the Fine Art world, is a very serious business indeed.

Ryan Hewitt - Untitled

Ryan Hewitt – Untitled

Then, Ryan Hewitt. A pretty hot painting, but also placed in my not so hot category. Why? would you ask. Currently, I feel that the art scene is overburdened by large scale, colourful, decorative portraits. He’s got a great understanding of colour and clearly is a master painter. A work like this will always sell, which is exactly what happened at the Barnard Gallery.  A tendency that is exemplified in the current dominance of Lionel Smit as an artist, when it comes to our local art scene. What happens in situations like this usually, is that their commercially so successful that they force the art academics to eventually take them seriously. In this regard, I do tip my proverbial hat to them! Ha ha.

Alexandra Karakshian - Passage

Alexandra Karakshian – Passage

Lastly, Passage by Alexandra Karakshian. Don’t even ask me.

Overall, Paint Matters was pretty awesome. It really showcased the diversity of what’s trending with painting currently. The speech by Virginia Mackenny was  insightful.  I found her  passion admirable and her view on art  inspiring.  It highlighted the point, that painting these days rather portray inner worlds, than outer. A tendency felt and conveyed through each of the works on exhibition. Stronger in some, than in others. After the show I just wanted to pull out an easel and paint, even though I haven’t put a brush to canvas in years! If an exhibition can have that effect on you, I’d definitively give it a thumbs up! Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Thursdays – Cape Town art scene July.

First Thursdays! An event or evening I usually miss, which happens to a lot of us South Africans. It’s so easily confused with another local cultural occurrence, the so-called Puza Thursday.  As an artist, I often fall into the latter and before I know it, any sense of critical thinking has become decidedly uncritical. For those of you that don’t know: First Thursdays occurs on the first Thursday (you didn’t see that coming) of every month in Cape Town. It’s an evening whereby the Cape Town galleries have decided to collectively open their doors to the public till about 10 pm. It’s social, it’s open, it’s relaxed and popular. I always find the exclusivity of the art world to be removed during these times. Individuals move around freely, enjoying the shows without any sense of added pressure. Consequently, the Cape Town art scene has become more accessible to the public.

As usual, I already had plans for the first Thursday of this month, which had nothing to do with art.  Luckily,  my friend – Maik Kobald  from Red Room Art was being an assertive German. Telling me, in an accent that compels one to obey, to show some face and get into the scene. Later that evening, I found myself walking around Bree Street thinking about art whilst enjoying the vibe, victuals and various refreshments on offer by the Cape Town gallery system. We visited a couple of galleries, ranging from SMAC, Barnard, Ebony to Brundyn +, enjoying art from the mediocre to the glorious. The most thought provoking work I encountered was at Brundyn + , an exhibition titled Ditaola by a young, black, South African artist named; Mohau Modisakeng. Modisakeng is an artist tempered by the Michaelis art school in CT, an art school that consecutively puts forward some of the strongest, young artists in SA.

Ditaola was an exceptionally strong exhibition. All the works being autonomous and contributing to an overarching whole. What I find fascinating about a gallery space is how it is a direct reflection of the mindscape of the artist, ranging from the symbolic, conceptual, cultural to the material. It was like walking into his soul, buying physically into his imagination. This effect was easily facilitated by the by the size of the Brundyn + gallery, the size of the works on exhibit and Modisakeng’s use of combining large scale sculptural forms with massive photographic stills.  When looking  at South Africa, the polemics of our past dictate a lot of our contemporary concerns and this is directly reflected in our local art scene. Modisakeng’s work falls within this category. The way in which he’s translated the effects of colonialism and the realities of post-colonialism as realized and experienced through his cultural lens, is truly striking. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the discourse of violence and underlying aggression inherent in our society, as effected by or performed on the individual, so thoughtfully and subtly handled.

Regarding the show, I only have the following critique: In the Brundyn + press release it states that Modisakeng’s work “engages the black body as a site of fragmentation, distortion and degradation”, yet this wasn’t the case in Ditaola. When viewing the works, I experienced the ‘black body’ as an honorable figure, not in the sense of being morally correct or principled, but as a figure with integrity. To me, his subject matter had no hint of degradation attached to it, nor an element of fragmentation, but rather he portrayed figures that where absolutely self-aware of their space and power within a post-colonial, post-apartheid South Africa. Never have I seen the effect of colonialism combined with black culture done so visually succinctly (his use of wrought iron with its popish affectations really caught my eye).  As a last concern, I would like to add that for all his weighty subject matter the effect is somewhat flattened when you actually touch some of the sculptures and realize that their hollow cast plastic molds. Sculpture has always been a 3-dimensional, tactile experience. Within the framework of Ditaola, this has the adverse effect of negating the viewer’s experience of Modisakeng’s in-depth thinking to something hollow when touched. An artwork at its strongest is always when it’s physically experienced, for all its abstract and critical notions, materiality in this regard, will always inform our opinions.

What can I say? Ended the evening by drinking gluwein out of plastic cup in a sexy, silver car. Above all,  Art and pleasure should always go together. After parties can always wait, but culture can’t.

Mohau Modisakeng. Brundyn+

Mohau Modisakeng. Brundyn+. I view this as reminder of Hermes, but fully South Africanised.

Maik Kobald enjoying the show. (the western gaze)

Maik Kobald enjoying the show. (the western gaze)

Wrought iron. Ditaola Brundyn+

Wrought iron. Ditaola Brundyn+