When the light goes on
What is the role of light in art? Six diverse artists, each working in a different me-dium, interpreted the theme of “light” for this special DEKAT feature.
In the depths of the darkest layer, the devil hides…
– Bronwen Vaughan-Evans
Bronwen Vaughan-Evans’ paintings are created by using a process of layering light gesso on top of darker gesso to create a controlled surface in which the dark layer lies just beneath a thin, light skin, alluding to a metaphorical weight beneath the surface of things. The images reference objects and places from her immediate environment. The works are not only painted but also sanded, which softens the focus to become mirage-like.
Conceptually her work is about excavation, which is reinforced by the removal of the surface to create the image. Vaughan-Evans works with imagery that interrogates both the physical and emotional spaces that individuals occupy, as these spaces shape our identities on a personal and socio-political level.
Bronwen Vaughan-Evans lives and works in Durban.
That which transforms our world
– Dylan Graham
In Arms, a solo exhibition by Dylan Graham at Artspace in Rosebank, Johannesburg
Titled In Arms, the exhibition is a collection of new paintings by the artist, rendered in oil on wood in Graham’s distinctive style. Graham’s painting references much that is to be seen in artists of the Renaissance and the Baroque whose use of light sources and the shadows they create transform everyday objects and scenes into dramatic and loaded imagery. “I try to make art free of message, narrative or concept – merely an interpretation of what I see.” Although Graham strives towards the unbiased observation of whatever presents itself, by so doing he captures the ambiguities and dualities present within people and phenomena. In this way life and death, the beautiful and the ugly, virtue and vice are seen to co-exist, sometimes to blur or merge. The result is a rare and direct confrontation of reality through the eyes of the artist.
In the limelight
– Roelien Brink/William Kentridge
In 2008, the 24-year-old female artist, Roelien Brink, legally changed her name to that of renowned artist, William Kentridge. Brink (now Kentridge) explores the notion around celebrity, fame and instant fame in an obsessive and direct manner. She also investigates what art is and how authentic it is and to what extent artists borrow/take from one another. Furthermore this specific artwork explores issues around identity and gender. Brink’s self-portrait is an extension of this exploration, using the camera, a medium often associated with celebrity, limelight, spotlights and glamour. Brink finds it important to relate medium and concept in her artwork and she often makes use of the photograph as medium to offset her artwork.
Brink exhibits at the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG).
Our deathly shadow over nature
– Jaco Sieberhagen
After formal studies in theology Jaco Sieberhagen ventured on his journey of discovery of the arts and experimented continuously with different media until he finished his first lasered steel sculpture in 2003. These shadow sculptures have provided him with a language and liberty to communicate that which he wants to express. In this way he can capture in form those things that he sees, experiences and lives with others. With his works he wants to send viewers on a journey of thought to their own humanity. The limited edition works from collections like Being, Trapped in History and his recent collection No(n) place like home speak of this journey of discovery which he has undertaken.
His continuous search for ways to give substance to his thoughts brought him to perspex and its transparency. The shadows made by the lasered perspex works created further possibilities for the artist to let his art speak.
The work that is featured in DEKAT is titled Exodus. “We live in a time in which the words home/homeless/homemaker/homely/home-made/homestead have become acquiescent words because too many factors have turned “home” into an alien space for mankind and beast. It can rightly be said that mankind is itself responsible for so many things that alienated its “home”, while the alienation of others results from forces outside their control.
“There are so many whose ‘homes’ are literally destroyed without us taking notice and, furthermore, without realising that our own ‘home’ will eventually be affected by it.
“The honey bee is one of the innocents whose ‘home’ is literally being destroyed by known and unknown factors. In the past two winters America has lost almost 70 percent of its bees. Countries as far removed as Japan and Italy have declared bee-hive losses of up to 45 percent in the past year. And South African bee farmers daily find hives in which not a single bee remains and which no other swarms want to move into. Farmers in the Langkloof area are already calculating losses in harvest due to the drastic reduction in bee numbers. The term “colony collapse disorder” has been created to refer to the situation.
“It is estimated that 85 percent of all plants on earth are directly dependent on the pollination role played by bees, and that 45 percent of everything humans eat is affected in one way or another by the activities of bees. It is thus little wonder that Einstein made the statement, decades ago, that should bees disappear from the earth, people will follow within four years. With this work I want to focus the viewer’s attention on the exodus of the bee. The work is composed in such a way that one actually looks at the shadows of the bees. As a viewer, one unknowingly moves in front of the light rays and therefore the human shadow will extinguish the shadows of the bees. In this way I’m trying to portray something of humankind’s deadly shadow falling on nature.”
In the limelight
– Lien Botha
Award-winning photographer Lien Botha’s most recent exhibition, Parrot Jungle, at the Photographer’s Gallery was her ninth solo exhibition and ushered in a new era. For the first time she now works with a digital camera and what immediately catches the eye is that every photo is a story in itself and represents a complete narrative. For Parrot Jungle she has taken 45 personal photos of people and places in and around the Western Cape. Her intention with this series of photos is to take the viewer on a road trip.
Lead us from darkness into light
– Poorvi Bhana
Om asato ma sadgamaya,
tamaso ma jyotirgamaya,
om shantih shantih shantih
brihdaranyaka upanisada 1:3:27 – India
Oh Almighty, lead us from the unreal (falseness) to the real (truth)
from darkness into light
from death into immortality
Oh Almighty, may there be peace, peace, peace
These words form part of a prayer, originating in ancient Hindu scriptures known as the Upanishads. The prayer endeavours to elucidate that a human being is born without knowledge of the supreme, but with age comes the realisation that there is someone behind this mundane world who controls all forms of life and in whose hand we are mere puppets, playing our roles on the stage of the world in accordance with the wishes of the supreme. For nothing gratifies people more than their own search in the absolute stillness of their being, where soul and mind dive into the region beyond the limits of their fate and fortune. My exhibition of lights, projecting images placed in a pitch-dark room, further alludes to the fact that there is darkness within us as well as around us, leading us to search for this inner light, the knowing of which outshines all darkness (removes all obstacles and dispels all ignorance), awakening the individual to his/her true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality. In essence, its meaning can be transcribed as – from non-existence lead us into existence, from darkness lead us into light, from death lead us into immortality.
My work is largely based in clay and glass (sandblasting), and I take much of my inspiration from nature, delicately stylised Indian motifs and bolder organic African forms. I usually enjoy working on a smaller scale and work mainly in stoneware. I create pieces that are mystical; pieces that showcase the inimitability of my ancestors. My goal as an artist is to preserve my cultural identity, and at the same time enrich other people’s daily lives with quality work that is both inspiring and pleasing to the eye.