The third artist to be featured in The Vault was David Koloane. Born in Alexandra and later living in Soweto, Koloane spent his formative years immersed in the urban sprawl of Johannesburg’s largest townships. While the impact of the urban township environment has never left Koloane’s oeuvre and subject matter, his figurations of urban life attempt to represent both the tangible and intangible actualities of existence.
Koloane’s most recent works continue the artist’s aesthetic and artistic exploration into the conditions of the urban South African vernacular and its inner cityscapes. In so doing, he develops powerful and poignant social commentary on African life and individual experience within the cityscapes of Johannesburg. The city is represented using layers of mixed media and exaggerated brushwork to communicate the emotional workings of the artist in response to the anxieties faced within the metropolis. He draws on the dynamic energies and individual sensibilities faced when encountering hybrid residents and different environments.
Gerald Machona was the next artist to be featured in The Vault. Gerald Machona is a Zimbabwean born visual artist with a Master’s Degree in Fine Art in Sculpture from Rhodes University and holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Cape Town, completed at the Michaelis School of Fine Art.
Machona works with sculpture, performance, new media, photography and film, and the most notable aspect of his work is his innovative use of currency—particularly decommissioned Zimbabwean dollars—as an aesthetic material. Machona’s current work engages with issues of migration, transnationality, social interaction and xenophobia in South Africa, and explores the creative limits of visual art production through the use of decommissioned currency as a key medium.
The next artist to be featured in The Vault was Matthew Hindley. Matthew graduated from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, Cape Town in 2002; where he was awarded the Michaelis Prize. As one of the countries’s most recognized younger painters, Hindley’s intense, poetic and delving artworks have featured in various critical and seminal South African exhibitions. Recent solo presentations have included An Everlasting Once at Brundyn + Gonsalves, Cape Town (2011) and Twilight of the Idols at Biksady, Budapest (2013).
Using her own photographs as well as found imagery, Syndi Kahn captures a series of figures deeply engrossed in unfolding moments. In ‘A Dream No One Can See’ a girl waves a bright sparkler; in ‘Lost for Words’ a boy grasps something glowing indistinctly close to himself. It is not always clear what is happening in the scenes, but the introverted reverie of the narratives draws us into the pure, present moment.
Drawing on long-exposure and bokeh photography as inspiration, there is a sense of visible shift in the softly blurred lines of her painted portraits. This creates movement and ambiguity. Kahn refers in particular to Manhattan street photographer Saul Leiter as a photographic muse. In her own work we can see the same attentiveness paid to the quietly mundane that makes Leiter’s photographs memorable. Kahn also cites Japanese photographer Rinko Kawauchi and her lyrical but minimal imagery. Reviewing ‘Wondering’, we see Kahn focus on similarly ordinary yet serene reflections, which honour the importance of imagination and awe in the everyday.
Atlas is a Woman by Grace Cross ran from December 2020 to May 2021 in The Vault. The series investigates the psychic and physical weight that South African women carry on them and started when Cross’s young daughter would only sleep when strapped tightly to her back. She began thinking about all the things that mother’s are expected to carry on them, historically and in this moment in feminist history.
Taking inspiration from the Greek mythos of Atlas, a titan who was condemned to hold up the celestial heavens for eternity on his shoulders, Cross’s painted female figures are similarly burdened. The bent-over women, carrying their loads of children, world globes and other symbolic artefacts on their backs, are symbols of endurance and strength in spite of the psychic and physical things they shoulder. In a society that asks too much of women, to carry it all, to strap it to your back and carry on, and to do it all. Cross offers this series as a celebration of the labour of love.
Group Exhibition by Jana Terblanche
Introducing The Vault’s first group exhibition, This room glows in the dark while we are asleep, curated by Jana Terblanche that ran from 21 July 2021 to 20 August 2021. Jana is an independent art consultant with a strong focus on exhibition curation and art advisory. Exhibiting Artists: Shayna Arvan | Good Good Boy | Githan Coopoo | Water Dixon | Banele Khoza | Rosie Mudge | Yolanda Mazwana | Brett Charles Seiler | Bara Sketchbook.
This room glows in the dark while we are asleep explored the often tangled intricacies of love, longing and loneliness. It unpacked how these complex and intangible emotions can co-exist across a spectrum. In this group exhibition, the power of the human mind to create non-physical spaces for healing, comfort or escape is embraced. This collection of work is interested in how we cling to the potential for romance and love connections in times of isolation.
Nabeeha Mohamed was the next artist to feature in The Vault from 27 August 2021 to 5 January 2022. Brown Petal, a collection of oil paintings and watercolours, was birthed from experimentation and the simple pleasure of piecing together existing forms to conjure something new. Mohamed had spent a few weeks in the studio creating watercolours that somehow didn’t quite work. Torn between not wanting to lose the time spent and wishing to breathe new life into the compositions, she decided to cut them up to create fresh arrangements.
These works revel in their playfulness; a gentle reminder that sometimes the process of rearranging past failures makes space for new discoveries. Lounging sunglasses, golden heart lockets and fantastical floral bouquets sprouting from ceramic vessels are just some of the wonderful oddities that make up Nabeeha Mohamed’s latest collection of works. The scenes presented are at once fanciful, and personal as the objects depicted carry with them the intimacy of passed down heirlooms. The cut-out technique interrupts the scale and depth perception with some elements almost jumping off the picture plane, somewhat reminiscent of childhood pop-up books.
Greatest Hits Exhibition
The current show displayed in The Vault is the Greatest Hits Exhibition in collaboration with the Association for Visual Arts (AVA) Gallery and will be on display from 28 April 2022 – 2 January 2023.
Since 2008, the AVA Gallery has been curating and hosting a fixed-anchor exhibition called ‘Greatest Hits’ – the only exhibition on the calendar curated by the AVA Gallery director. This year, work was selected from last year’s graduate shows at Michaelis School of Fine Art and Ruth Prowse School of Art. Part of this exhibition is what is currently on view at The Vault.
Greatest Hits has emerged as a means of closing the chasm that exists for art students between tertiary education and professional exhibition exposure, and it serves as a launch pad of new talent for AVA Gallery audiences, too. It is the curator’s eye on art instead of the academic’s, selecting works on grounds of individual value and their rapport with other selected works. The end result is an exhibition that offers an overview of the local and broader discourses that run through art schools in the Western Cape at the moment.
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