De Arte - Volume 2015, Issue 91, 2015
Volumes & issues
Volume 2015, Issue 91, 2015
Author Federico FreschiSource: De Arte 2015, pp 2 –3 (2015)More Less
de arte 91 brings together a diverse range of scholarly essays and book reviews, taking us from seventeenth-century Flanders to present-day South Africa, via the Michaelis School of Fine Art in Cape Town, into the liminal realm of photographic theory, and introducing a number of volumes that speak to the ever-evolving complexities and contradictions that characterise contemporary South African art and artistic debate.
The art of design : curriculum policy and the fine art vs. design debate at Michaelis School of Fine Art, 1925-1972 : researchAuthor Anna TietzeSource: De Arte 2015, pp 4 –17 (2015)More Less
This article opens by questioning the narrowness of our modern usage of the term 'art', and the consequences for our understanding of the 'art school'. It takes as its case study the curriculum policy of Cape Town's Michaelis School of Fine Art, from its inception up to 1972. Specifically, it examines the institution's longstanding resistance to the idea of a broad curriculum including a range of design subjects, closely allied to a school of architecture. This resistance is attributed to the widespread belief of the time that, outside of the 'hard' sciences, universities should not teach primarily vocational skills and that design belonged within the social and educational world of technical colleges instead. It is noted that Michaelis modeled itself for many years on the Slade School of Fine Art and that only one director, Rupert Shephard, seriously attempted to question this model. After Shephard's departure, it is argued, Michaelis reverted to a relatively narrow fine art curriculum, divorced from most aspects of design practice as well as from architecture - a curriculum which persists to the present day.
Author Bernadette Van HauteSource: De Arte 2015, pp 18 –38 (2015)More Less
In this article I examine the production of tronies or head studies of people of African origin made by the Flemish artists Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Jan I Brueghel, Jacob Jordaens and Gaspar de Crayer in an attempt to uncover their use of Africans1 as models. In order to contextualise the research, the actual presence of Africans in Flanders is investigated. Although no documentation exists to calculate even an approximate number of Africans living in Flanders at that time, travel accounts of foreigners visiting the commercial city of Antwerp testify to its cosmopolitan character. A general perception of black people in those days can be extrapolated from the notebooks of Rubens and contemporary theological views. The examination of black tronies starts with the studies of Rubens, made after live models first in Italy and then in his workshop in Antwerp. By comparing various African head studies and considering them in the context of contemporary studio practices involving assistants (Van Dyck) and collaborators (Brueghel), a historically more accurate picture emerges regarding the production of such studies. Jordaens and De Crayer also made black tronies for use in history paintings, and by tracing their appearance in a select number of works it is possible to distinguish their respective models. Assumptions regarding the extent of the influence of Rubens are thus put in perspective while giving credit to contributions made by Van Dyck, Jordaens and De Crayer to the study of African people.
Author David PatonSource: De Arte 2015, pp 39 –62 (2015)More Less
In this article my aim is to deepen, expand and indeed question the associations with which, I argue, Froud's thirty-year output seems to have become too easily and comfortably categorised. This is done through a close analysis of selected artworks exhibited on his recent exhibitions titled 'A retrospective of exhibitions I never had'. Building upon a 2003 review by Carine Zaayman in which she evaluates Froud's work as a joining of the weighty, dirty concerns of the real world within the sterilised space of the art gallery, I argue for a re-reading of the selected works in an attempt to reveal Froud's deeper, more critical and cynical eye. Through a lens of black humour, a gendered, filmic, comparative and literary re-reading explores a zone of discomfort and dark absurdity at play across all facets of his diverse output.
Femme fatale : a visual/textual reading of the figuration of Justine in Lawrence Durrell's The Alexandria quartet : researchAuthor Allyson KreuiterSource: De Arte 2015, pp 63 –75 (2015)More Less
This article considers the themes that shape the female character, Justine, in Lawrence Durrell's The Alexandria quartet. Adopting a feminist Gothic position, I shall consider how Justine's portrayal as a femme fatale makes her a vehicle for Durrell's articulation of a misogynistic perspective throughout his tetralogy. Throughout the article, my contention will be that Durrell's deployment of certain Gothic motifs, in this instance the vampire, automaton, marionette and doll, alongside the trope of the femme fatale, fashion Justine's embodiment as a monstrous-feminine Other and the locus of masculine fears. My reading will also adopt the rather unconventional position of reading art images into Durrell's narrative, in order to become a critical interpreter of his textual-visuality.
Source: De Arte 2015, pp 76 –88 (2015)More Less
In this article, the concept of liminality is examined as it relates to the photographic process. It is examined how, at the time of exposure, light enters the darkened space of the camera through the aperture, and is then inverted and transformed to create an image on the light-sensitive medium inside the camera, using either film or digital sensors. Photographic images represent objects and data in front of the camera at the time of exposure. The discussion in this article,however, is focused on the transformation of such visual data captured in the light that emanates from the objects in the ambit of the aperture of the camera at the time of exposure. The contention is that since the captured light is transformed during the photographic process, an indexical character (that is, a one-to-one reference of the moment captured) cannot be ascribed to the photographic image representing the captured moment. To explain the argument, this process of transformation is related to the concept of liminality and how it affects the indexical nature of the photographic image, with specific reference to the photographic imagery of Michael Wesely and Jurek Wajdowicz.
A long way home: Migrant worker worlds 1800-2014, Peter Delius, Laura Phillips and Fiona Rankin-Smith, (Eds.) : book reviewAuthor Robin PalmerSource: De Arte 2015, pp 89 –93 (2015)More Less
This book is associated with an art exhibition, 'Ngezinyawo - Migrant Journeys', which featured at the Wits Art Museum, Johannesburg, in 1994, but it is very far from a catalogue. While it may be large-format and illustrated, like an art or 'coffee table' book, this edited volume of 18 chapters (in addition to the introduction) is a comprehensive study of migration in and to South Africa by leading scholars in the field that can stand alone as a scholarly contribution.
Exact imagination : 300 years of botanically inspired art in South Africa, Cyril Coetzee, Tracey Murinik and Astrid Klee (Eds.) : book reviewAuthor Lize GroenewaldSource: De Arte 2015, pp 94 –97 (2015)More Less
Norman Bryson (2001:110), in considering floral art in the seventeenth century, ventures that '[t]he paintings [of botanical subjects] build a strong case for themselves without once having to invoke visual pleasure. Pleasure is disavowed, hidden by production; what replaces it is strain, effort and the work imperative.' Confronted with Deborah Poynton's Land of Cockaigne 2, in Cyril Coetzee's lavish publication that accompanies the exhibition 'Exact Imagination: 300 years of botanically inspired art in South Africa', curated by Coetzee and held at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg between 8 October and 6 December 2014, the viewer might be inclined to dismiss Bryson's assertions of grinding labour as the only signification of botanical art. Poynton's floral utopia (p. 130) pulsates with what art critic Lloyd Pollack (2006) terms the artist's trademark 'thrilling feats of illusionist skill' and 'phantasmagorical irreality'; it is not the only work in this impressive exhibition that suggests intense pleasure, and not necessarily of the aesthetic kind. Notably, the very first plate (p. 2) in the exhibition catalogue, Peter Charles Henderson's Maggot-bearing Stapelia (1801), confounds the limitations of metal engraving to produce a narrative of glutinous sensuality that verges on soft porn.
Uncertain curature : In and out of the archive, Carolyn Hamilton and Pippa Skotnes (Eds.) : book reviewAuthor Brenda SchmahmannSource: De Arte 2015, pp 98 –100 (2015)More Less
In initially encountering this volume I was puzzled by its title, and wondered whether 'curature' might perhaps be an established term which I somehow had not encountered. But the editors provided a reassuring indication that this was not the case in the opening paragraphs of their introductory essay: 'If curation can be understood as concerned with the organisation and preservation of collected items in a wide range of museums', while 'curatorship is the term increasingly used in the disciplinary practice of curation in the fine arts', the term they have invented - 'curature' - 'is a way of positioning the volume adjacent to the practices of and literatures of [these] two specialist, though intersecting domains' (p. 1). The term 'curature' has still further resonance in regard to the discursive potential but also problematics and paradoxes of the archive, as the editors reveal. Referring, on the one hand, to curare, to care, it also invokes reference to curia, the courts of the Christian church: thus on the one hand invoking an allusion to the tender nurturing of souls, it also refers to the assertion of authority over those seeking salvation. The overall title of the book - Uncertain curature: In and out of the archive - is in fact a brilliant encapsulation of the complex thematics of a volume which operates between the museum collection, the fine art creation and the archive as a construct, and which reveals how the salvation and tending of objects and images involves the assumption and exercise of discursive power over them.
Author Landi RaubenheimerSource: De Arte 2015, pp 101 –103 (2015)More Less
This impressive coffee-table style book, published by Jacana, represents South African pop-satirist Brett Murray's work since the early 1990s, and contextualises the importance of political comment and even agitation propaganda in his work. Four essays introduce his work, laying the foundation for interpreting Murray's work as far more complex than his infamous portrait of President Jacob Zuma,The Spear. Although the contributors make a point of discussing much of Murray's oeuvre, pointing out the subtleties of his political comment through the years, The Spear seems to be the focal point of this book with the 'Hailto the thief' exhibition being the highlight. It remains a useful vantage point from which to interpret Murray's work. Annotations by the artist himself introduce each of the bodies of work that are represented in the book, and echo the dominant themes such as identity, political satire and appropriation of popular culture discussed by Steven Dubin, Ivor Powell, Michael Smith and Murray's fellow Michaelis graduate in Fine Art, Roger van Wyk. The book features large high-quality prints of much of Murray's work, and these are arranged into sections around the specific bodies of work they represent. There are numerous double page images, and both close-up and in situ images of the artworks. The essays that preface much of the visual material are insightful and challenging, and represent key voices in the heated debate that surrounded The Spear during the time of the exhibition. Towards the back of the book there is also a copy of an article on the matter by Njabulo Ndebele, which appeared in City Press in 2012.
Author Pamela AllaraSource: De Arte 2015, pp 104 –106 (2015)More Less
Impossible mourning's author, Kylie Thomas, is both an activist and an academic - a dual role not uncommon in South Africa. From 2001-2003, she traveled from the University of Cape Town (UCT), where she was working on her dissertation, to the township of Khayelitsha, where with Jonathan Morgan she led two art therapy workshops with HIV-positive participants, the great majority of whom were women. The book is a product of that challenging and difficult experience and the decade of reflecting on its meanings thereafter. Her central premise is that still today deaths from HIV/AIDS remain largely invisible and unacknowledged, and that 'visual forms of representation can allow for powerful, evocative and transformative modes of engagement with traumatic experience.' (p. 5). Her larger purpose is to link the failure to publicly mourn the tremendous losses resulting from the epidemic to the failure to adequately mourn the deaths that occurred during the struggle against apartheid. She postulates that 'those we fail to mourn are those whose lives are unrecognized in the political sphere,' and insists on a public acknowledgement that those lives have meaning. (p. 9). Her assumption - a valid one, in my opinion - is that until those who remain marginalised and dispossessed, those who have disproportionally suffered the losses of HIV/AIDS, enter the public sphere via a process of mourning, one can find little appreciable political difference between South Africa pre- and post-democracy.