A first look at a Dropbox folder of the Sasol New Signatures award winners had Grethe Kemp confused. Then she visited the exhibition and heard what the artists had to say.
Sasol New Signatures is the longest-running art competition in South Africa and is integral to giving unknown artists a platform on which to show their work.
Open to those who have not had a solo exhibition yet, it’s perfect for young or emerging creators to enter.
This year’s entrants showed a definite trend in moving away from painting on canvas and towards massive experimentation with different mediums.
Materials used by the top 100 included a vast array of things – Omo washing powder, hospital beds, steel, wood, sand, leather, ceramics, plastic crates, audio recordings and even computer programs.
The winning work by Jessica Storm Kapp from Stellenbosch, entitled Mapping Time, consists of stamped columns of earth embedded with found objects. Hailing from Knysna, she used layers of soil and found objects to document the Knysna fires, as well as obliquely touching on themes of time, history and land.
A simple picture of the work is difficult to understand; only when you’re physically at the exhibition and go up close to the layers of sand and embedded objects do you get a sense of the work.
Similar is runner-up Peter Mikael Campbell’s pencil drawing Kaisen (“change for better” in Japanese).
On paper it looks like a grey stain, but when you look closely you see thousands of painstakingly drawn rectangular fibres that come together to form an incredibly serene and contemplative work.
The similarity continues with the merit award winners.
Megan Serfontein created a computer program that blurs an image of the viewer when they stand in front of the monitor – an effect that can hardly be captured on this page, while Debbie Fan’s restaurant receipts only take on their real meaning when you see how physically large they are.
The crux of the matter is that art – especially art that is made from nontraditional materials – is inscrutable if you don’t see it as it’s meant to be viewed. This page is thus only a precursor of the actual works. To experience them, you’ll have to go to the gallery and see them for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.
- Check out the works at the Pretoria Art Museum until October 7. Be sure to also check out Sasol New Signatures 2017 overall winner Lebogang Kganye's solo exhibition, which is also on display at the museum