Sunday, 11 November 2012

There is winter in every spring

I was sweating like a pig. It was really hot in the Rautenbach Hall. Maybe menopause was hitting me about 30 years too early, but I spent most of the final year Fine Arts students' exhibition, entitled Exhibit Athinking about if it would be terribly rude to lift my arms and walk around like a zombie to cool down. Or if drinking another white wine/fruit juice mixture would help. Or if there was some fan I could go make friends with. It was all to no avail. Maybe sweating this profusely could count as a workout.

I don't really know what artists do, except that they spend time in their studios drinking coffee, watching Adventure Time (or some equally banal series), moaning about having too much work to do, being rewarded for constantly fucking up whilst doing nothing, and going to a lot of gigs where there is mediocre art and free wine to make it all seem less mediocre.

Exhibit A somehow does not fall into the "hey art you bore me" category (I went again when it was raining and empty-ish to verify that the initial assessment was not due to heat stroke or something). There are a lot of different media on display, ranging from sculpture to photography to installations to drawings and paintings. However, many of the students did incorporate something digital, be it a projection, or a video, or thinking that showing the audience your Photoshop skills qualifies as a great work of art.

My cousin and I walked around, trying to decide what would we buy if we had money. If I was a somewhat trendy guest house owner, where the beds are covered with crisp white linen and the walls painted in something off-white/sand-ish, I'd buy some of Libby Bell's works to add a hint of colour and local flavour (because I am a trendy guest house owner, none of that typical 'this is Africa' art and beadwork would suffice).

Libby Bell,  This is my home, not yours -series, 2012

Libby Bell, Close-up of Acacia gates, 2012
Now, if I'd own a hair salon that charges exorbitant amounts for a terrible hair cut, I'd purchase one of Zaheera Ismail's hair-prints and hang them up so that clients could a) see what an awesome hair stylist I was, b) how when I do hair the face becomes irrelevant (except for the ear, of course), and c) how it becomes art (or something equally pretentious).

Zaheera Ismail, Red Space, 2012

My cousin liked Xandri Pretorius' prints of semi-fragmented people. It does fit in some clinically white bachelor pad, situated in some blocky appartment building in Joburg and bought as a 'thoughtful' birthday gift by a hipster friend that wants to be more than just friends.

Xandri Pretorious, Fragmented: Kayla (Or it could be Nushka, I cannot recall), 2012
To me it seems like all the 4th years wanted to prove that they could not in fact do anything that is similar to classical art and actually requires some effort and talent, preferring instead to take photos with their Canon DSLRs on 'Auto'-setting and watching YouTube videos in order to learn how to merge layers in Photoshop.

Cue Danai Chinyenze's "Photography/Digital Art". Although decent to look at, I assume he did nothing of substance throughout his studies at University and in order to produce an extensive body of work in the very short timespan before the final exhibit he resorted to taking meth and jumping around in front of (yet again) the camera. Those YouTube-advice videos prove fruitful as in every image we see multiple Danais merging on 2D. This is done mostly in black-and-white, because every one knows that photography in monochrome is always more art than mere mechanical (or is it digital now?) production.

Danai Chinyenze, 2012

Heidi Fourie produced buy-able paintings if one is old and/or likes life to be still. I mean, she can paint, that is indisputable, but I wonder if her skills would not have been better used on something besides collections of tea bags and dying Frangipani flowers.

Heidi Fourie, 2012.
Justin Bergh did a number of chalk, charcoal and ink drawings of baboons, which I have no opinion on. I guess they would sell well because they are already framed and people could buy it and hang it up in their spare bedroom immediately.

Justin Bergh, Untiltled 6, 2012, and Allen Laing's pedestal and sculptures reflected in it.

In a corner of the hall Allen Laing has recreated his studio, because his sculptures are only noticeable if they are a chaotic clutter that threatens to fall from a slanted shelving unit. Art is not made only to be purchased, but I assume artists have to survive somehow if their parents are not rich people from Mpumalanga, or wealthy enough to fly their non-Capitalism-endorsing children to Dubai for a quick getaway. Laing might win prizes, but no one buys the stuff he makes. If I were not broke without the prospect of ever earning real money, I'd buy the pedestal he made to put his freakish little sculptures on instead of the art. I like the pedestal and am fascinated by the King of Limbs, but the rest I'd give to disadvantaged children to play with until the sculptures break and can be returned to the ground as dust. Hopefully Paris will incite some fresh inspiration where it is not Allentimeallthetime.

Allen Laing's  mock studio
There are two things I did like. One is a print by Zaheera Ismail entitled Screened Palm because it does not fit in with her hair-salon prints and looks ghostly. I watched Casper as a child, so ghosts are great. Or it could look kind of Cleopatra-ish because of the milkyness. It doesn't really matter what it looks like, though.

Zaheera Ismail, Screened Palm, 2012
The other is Annika Prinsloo's (Cut)opia. We were wondering if she had laser-cut all the little figures and details, but the absence of burn marks and being told that she hand-cut everything proved us wrong. The main reason I like it is because it looks like it took an enormous amount of time to make and a dedication to getting the works just right.

 Annika Prinsloo, (Cut)opia, 2012
Earlier I stated that Exhibit A did not bore me. Instead, I found it disappointing. Not all art appeals to everyone else, but the ability to appreciate what one does not like still has to be a possibility. And this is where most of the artists (some I have not mentioned because I just cannot remember their work and was thus not interested in photographing it) are a let down. It feels as though there is no real passion for their craft, as though they only produced enough objects and images because their degrees depended on it, not because they actually liked what they were doing.

Overall, Exhibit A was a lesson in personal disillusionment with what artists do. We grow up thinking that the stereotypical artist produces work because to live there is no other option but to follow this intense affection. Even though earnings are dismal, the artist must sway from the corporate path that others have taken, because his/her work is like a love affair, an ardent affection that has to be maintained, ha, til death do them part.

Instead, it seems like young artists merely make "art" because they want their parents to buy them an iMac and finance four years of mediocrity. Nothing I saw was inspired (except for Prinsloo, maybe). Art has to stir something, has to evoke an emotional response, but this was just bland, like getting a plain slice of white bread when you were expecting a Dagwood.

* I tried not to get the artworks' names wrong, but there might be errors.
** This is a subjective opinion, others might feel that this exhibit was great.

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