SOLO – the Investec Cape Town Art Fair’s curatorial project – is nothing short of astonishing this year. It is not the nod to women artists, a global genuflection, that matters, but the quality of the work. In ugly times, and there is nothing uglier than ours since the middle of the last century, artists arrive with uncanny correctives.
In this case we find thrilling depictions of the void by Alexandra Karakashian; penetrating portraiture by Riley Holloway; farce disguised as abstraction by Kemang Wa Lehulere; staggeringly beautiful depictions of solitude by Kirsten Beets; colour fields shattered by grids by Nina Holmes; black bodies thrust into inexistence by Sungi Mlengeya; and bizarre fusions of Christ in Africa by Teresa Kutala Firmino. Wa Lehulere’s title for his recent solo show – Here I am, a concrete man, throwing myself into abstraction – is a pithy summation of this year’s curatorial project: how one occupies and lives inside of space. We are caught between substance and nothingness, imperatives and hopelessness. The thrust into abstraction is the preparedness to cede established codes and modes of conduct. Concretion is not the thing. It is flux that matters. Or, a profound sense of unsettlement.
This is evident in all the works on show. If a fractious nullity inspires Karakashian, it finds its echo in Mlengeya’s dissolution of black bodies in white voids. If Holloway gives us portraiture that is quizzically intelligent, while allowing for our becalmed remove, then Beets plunges us into distant waters where bodies bob and lives, always, exist despite of our own. If Firmino asks us to rethink the place of Christianity in Africa, and the consequences of this dispossession, then Wa Lehulere asks us, more intimately and abstractly, to examine more closely, more psychically, not only the consequence of this loss, but how one can restore a sense of self, of worth, of being – by re-entering the void in which those dispossessed were thrust.
As Holmes more frenetically reminds us, the void, or abstraction, comes with a grid. Nothingness has its anchor, its ball and chain, which today, in this astonishing grouping of artists, we find the potential to free ourselves from. Proprioception – the perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body, or the means whereby one navigates oneself in space and locates meaning and feeling therein – is the key to this year’s curatorial project.
Because what links these artists – despite the fact that connecting the dots is a treacherous exercise – is that all of them understand that bodies, our own and others, cannot survive without connection, and that this connection, destroyed at every turn, is all the more vital if as a species, a joint culture, we are to survive. Hence Wa Lehulere’s wager: thrusting the concrete into the abstract. Hence gridding abstraction. Hence bodies buoyed by flux. Or bodies self-contained yet emptied. Hence the frisson of faith and faithlessness. Or voids scarified. At every turn we find ourselves questioning and challenging the turns we
make. In art, everything is permissible. But it is our collective consciousness in a state of siege that is most evident in this superb showing at the 2020 ICTAF.
Editor’s Note: At the time of print of the Cape Town Art Fair Artpaper, Stevenson was presenting a SOLO booth by Kemang Wa Lehulere. Stevenson is currently presenting a SOLO booth by Mawanda Ka Zenzile, another artist in their stable. The Art Momentum was unable to reflect this change in it’s print version.
An article by Ashraf Jamal
Featured image : Teresa Kutala Firmino, “Buffalo Town Hall 2”, 2019. Mixed media on unstretched canvas, 121 x 102 cm. Courtesy of Everard Read.
→ eclecticacontemporary.co.za > Nina Holmes
→ smacgallery.com > Alexandra Karakashian
→ stevenson.info > Mawanda Ka Zenzile & Kemang Wa Lehulere
→ everard-read.co.za > Teresa Kutala Firmino
This article was written for The Art Momentum | Cape Town Art Fair Artpaper 2020.
Articles are published in their original language | Les articles sont publiés dans leur langue d’origine