A selection of press articles are available on this page. Also see the artist’s Shortened CV for more articles and citations.
UJ Arts and Culture presents an exhibition entitled Mine at the UJ Art Gallery during March 2012. This exhibition, with a selection of nineteen films by prominent South African artists, addresses not only the concept of deep level mining, but also that of personal ownership and the countless ways in which the self is identified and positioned.The diverse works chosen by Berlin based curator Abrie Fourie for this show all have a common denominator: the artists make references to themselves in their work – either in person, as actor, model, observer, interviewer or instigator.Furthermore, some of the artists such as Johan Thom, Bridget Baker, Robin Rhode, Teboho Edkins, Doris Bloom and Gregg Smith presently live in European capitals, while South African based artists enjoy an increased presence in the global art world. Their various approaches are thus colored by local and diasporal perceptions, but they all nonetheless seek answers pertaining to aspects of identity from a perspective on South African concerns.Capitalist exploitation, colonialism, the social, political and cultural realities of the country, history and memories are addressed by artists such as William Kentridge (nine of his videos produced between 1989 and 2003 will be on show and we get to meet Soho Eckstein again), Penny Siopis (Obscure White Messenger:2010) and Bridget Baker (Steglitz House: 2009 – 2010), while Minette Vári, for instance, in her production (Alien:1998), positions herself in the cultural archive of the new South Africa during the period 1994 to 1998.
The film and video productions with their often experimental styles are described by Anna Schrade from the University of Bayreuth as seeking “… to represent the experience of living between two or more cultural regimes of knowledge and explore the myriad ways in which we identify and position ourselves in a world where “mining the self” is imperative for the formulation of new and alternative identities, histories and discourse” (2011).
Fourie, who conceptualized this exhibition, is an artist, photographer, curator and art facilitator.
This exhibition was first shown at the University of Bayreuth in Germany last year, and at the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year.
A booklet providing more insight into each of the works will be available at the exhibition.
Discussion and walkabout: Saturday 17 March 2012 at 11:00.
Bridget Baker, Dineo Seshee Bopape, Doris Bloom, Jacques Coetzer, Teboho Edkins, Simon Gush & Dorothee Kreutzfeldt, William Kentridge, Donna Kukama, Michael McGarry, Nandipha Mnthambo. Zanele Muholi, Cedric Nunn, Robin Rhode, Berni Searle, Lerato Shadi, Penny Siopis, Gregg Smith, Johan Thom, Minette Vari
7 – 28 March 2012
Time Out (Dubai), 24 January 2012
From the viewer’s perspective, video installations can be a tricky medium to wrap your head around. The content is often obscure and indecipherable, and it’s all to easy too walk away feeling more than a little confused. However, if you’re armed with some background knowledge on the artist and their intentions, video installations can be a rewarding and fascinating art form.
One such exhibition, entitled ‘Mine’ (showing at Ductac’s Gallery of Light), presents video installations of 17 South African artists (including well-known notables William Kentbridge and Robin Rhode), in which they comment on personal ownership. Each artist also appears in his or her film. To help you understand the pieces, we asked five of the artists. to give us an insight into their work.
Title of installation
‘Terms of Endearment’.
Length of film
Three minutes 49 seconds.
Describe your video installation.
In short, it’s a work in which I wanted to express something about the relationship between domesticity, art and the subconscious. For most of my career my home has also been my studio. There’s something interesting about the way in which art is simultaneously very personal and social, domestic and public.
What message are you trying to convey?
I think we ought to carefully examine the myriad ways in which ideas about dirt and cleanliness figure so prominently in the way we structure and understand the meaning of our lives.
Where do you appear in the film?
I appear made up in ‘skull face’, as a delirious character that seems to celebrate the material messiness of life even from beyond the grave.
Who inspires you?
The ingenuity of ordinary people.
Do you have a favourite filmmaker?
I love film generally, and three names come to mind immediately: Steve McQueen, Bill Viola and Werner Herzog.
What makes you proud to be South African?
We are a hybrid, multicultural nation.
Exhibition of films includes work by internationally acclaimed artists William Kentridge and Robin Rhode
DUCTAC’s Gallery of Light is set to host the UAE’s first ever contemporary South African Art Exhibition this January when it plays host to Mine, an exhibition of films by South African artists. The exhibition, which is supported by Emax, will run from 18th January – 4th February, 2012 and will showcase video productions by 19 South African artists including internationally-renowned artists William Kentridge and Robin Rhode.
The exhibition is curated by South African artist, photographer and curator Abrie Fourie, who explains the concept behind the exhibition: “The title refers not only to the idea of deep level mining, but to the concept of personal ownership. The works featured have been chosen for their diversity, with the common denominator that the artists make reference to themselves in their work, either in person, as actor, model, observer, interviewer or instigator. Mine seeks to explore the myriad ways in which we identify and position our ‘selves’.”
Some of the artists whose works feature in Mine currently live in European capitals, while others are based in South Africa, although their increased presence in the global art world since 1994 means making frequent forays abroad. Nevertheless, whether creating from a local or diasporal perspective, and no matter how varied the themes and artistic strategies may be, all the works presented in this show are centred in one way or another around specifically ‘South African’ issues.
Mine has been made possible thanks to the invaluable support of Emax, the largest electronics retailer in the Middle East. The contribution and technical assistance provided demonstrates the company’s continuing support for the arts in our society. Mr. Neelesh Bhatnagar, CEO of Emax, said, “We have continually worked towards giving back to society who have played an integral role in our success. Mine is a wonderful initiative and Emax is proud to be associated with it.”
At the heart of the exhibition are works by internationally-renowned artists William Kentridge and Robin Rhode. Kentridge is known for his evocative prints, charcoal drawings, animated films and theatre works that reflect the complexity of a South African society brutalised by decades of apartheid. Kentridge has had major exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2009); Philadelphia Museum of Art (2008); Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2007); and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2004), among others. He has been recognised with many awards, including the Sharjah Biennale 6 prize, Carnegie Prize (Carnegie Museum of Art) and the Goslar Kaisserring Award.
Robin Rhode approaches his multidisciplinary and unconventional art practice through the high energy of street inventiveness and youth culture, often drawing on the subcultural codes of hip hop, popular sports, film and fashion to render the everyday as art. Rhode’s work is included in the collections of numerous international institutions, including The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA),New York; Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC; the Honart Museum Collection, Tehran; and the Goetz Collection in Munich, amongst others.
The other artists whose works are featured in the exhibition are: Bridget Baker, Dineo Seshee Bopape, Doris Bloom, Jacques Coetzer, Teboho Edkins, Simon Gush & Dorothee Kreutzfeldt, Donna Kukama, Michael MacGarry, Nandipha Mntambo, Zanele Muholi, Cedric Nunn, Berni Searle, Lerato Shadi, Penny Siopis, Gregg Smith and Johan Thom.
Credits: First published online in ‘Expat Echo Dubai’, 14 December 2011
“FIVE SENIOR SOUTH AFRICAN ARTISTS WERE RECENTLY ASKED BY AN ITALIAN CURATOR TO EACH PROPOSE A LIST OF YOUNG ARTISTS FOR A SHOW IN SIENA, ITALY. AMY HALLIDAY ATTENDED THE RESULTING SHOW AND REPORTS ON SOME OF THE DISCUSSIONS IT ELICITED“
Unpredictability, argues Minette Vari, is the primary unifying feature of young South African art today. Speaking alongside Berni Searle and Sue Williamson at the exhibition, .ZA: Giovane Arte dal Sud Africa, held at the Centre for Contemporary Art at Palazzo delle Papesse in Siena, Italy earlier this year, Vari and her colleagues spoke with admiration of the up-and-coming generation’s work, which reflects and refracts this unpredictability. Chief curator Lorenzo Fusi appointed Vari, Searle, Williamson, as well as Kendell Geers and Marlene Dumas, to act as co-curators and cultural interlocutors in selecting a group of young artists still residing or mainly operating in South Africa, and largely unknown to a European public.
By having artists rather that curators overseeing the exhibition, Fusi sought to avoid “a bad reprise of any given recent biennale”, constituting, instead, a symbolic passing on of the torch from internationally accomplished artists to their younger colleagues, many of whom are painfully caught between the implications of remaining in South Africa or pursuing a career in the diaspora. The title of the show laconically captures this generation’s tension between the local and the global as they grapple with the central question, “Should I stay or should I go?
Credits: First published in Art South Africa, V6.4 (Main Feature Article), by Amy Halliday
Rat Western: Artthrob, March, 2008
‘.ZA Young Art From South Africa’ at Palazzo delle Papesse, Sienna
Affording internationally recognised, mid-career artists an opportunity to select younger artists for an important exhibition, thereby giving ‘the nod’ to the younger artists as potential ‘successors’ is the refreshing concept behind’.ZA Young Art From South Africa’, currently on show in Sienna. In addition to making a few of his own choices, curator Lorenzo Fusi enlisted the assistance of five South African artists – Marlene Dumas, Kendell Geers, Berni Searle, Minnette Vári and Sue Williamson – inviting each to put forward three names. Read More
Sandra Federici: The Courier, April/ May 2008
.Za: Young Art from South Africa
“It is possible to speak of South Africa without falling into the traps of cliché about race, apartheid, colonialism, class, poverty and AIDS?” asks Kendell Geers in his text for the exhibition catalogue, .ZA – Young art from South Africa.
This is the very challenge underscoring the exhibition produced by the Centre for Contemporary Art Palazzo delle Papesse in Siena. As stated by director Marco Pierini, this initiative started with the purpose of “photographing” the country’s young artistic production in collaboration with more mature artists (Marlene Dumas, Kendell Geers, Bernie Searle, Minnette Vári, Sue Williamson), each of whom has been requested to choose three artists. The exhibition’s creator Lorenzo Fusi has joined them. Read more
Tuks exhibition unmasks the art creme de la creme – Pretoria News, May 23, 2008 Edition 1
Department of Visual Arts, University of Pretoria
The Visual Arts Department at the University of Pretoria is celebrating 100 years of making art and shaping artists. The long list of contributors may not be exhaustive – only those who have gone on to achieve some level of acclaim feature here – but the sheer quantity of artworks on display, not to mention the tiresome trek from building to building, is exhausting.
As an exhibition it is ambitious, and the effort put in certainly warrants a slightly longer exhibition period than the week and a half allotted. It may take the uninitiated one whole week to find all the hidden nooks and crannies. As an advertising campaign, overlapping with Tuks’ upcoming Open Day, it draws attention to an illustrious list of alumni and staff that reads like a “who’s who” of local and national talent, including Bettie Cilliers Barnard, Walter Meyer, Gunther van der Reis, Gustav Vermeulen, Keith Dietrich, Guy du Toit, Anton Karstel, Helena Hugo, Angela Banks, Collen Maswanganyi and Diek Grobler.
Clearly, the University of Pretoria is a fulcrum around which the local art scene orbits.
The conventional status of Tuks, historically a white, Afrikaner bastion of old-school academia, is somewhat reflected in this collection. Figure studies in bronze, in the vein of Angus Taylor and Francois Visser, realistic portraiture by Helena Hugo and Hanneke Benade, abstract and kinetic sculpture by Etienne de Kock and Johan van der Schijff, indicate a high standard of technical and aesthetic proficiency in painting and sculpture, broken only intermittently by the subversive more conceptual tendencies of artists like Johan Thom, Diane Victor and Minette Vari.
However, it’s no secret that only a few of those who study art make it exclusively as professional artists – and you can identify them from the hair on their teeth.
Many of them supplement their art career with one in teaching or curating. For some it’s a necessity; for others a vocation.
Many of these ex-students and lecturers have extended their scope and gone on to form the backbone of Pretoria’s other art institutions and galleries.
Their names will be familiar to generations of art students.
Among the gallerists and curators are Elfriede Dreyer of Fried Contemporary and Gordon Froud of Gordart in Johannesburg.
Anyone who has studied art knows that teachers, lecturers, mentors and institutions make an indelible mark, not only on the development of output, style and content, but also on an individual’s philosophy of life.
Institutions with their complex knit of stuffy academia and often eccentric personalities have all the ingredients of a tribe. A marginal and incongruous tribe perhaps, but a powerfully expressive one, and one which continues to expand and evolve from the stable centre of this prestigious university.
Johan Myburg: Beeld, 8 November 2007
Bliss – Mark Cloet, Jacki McInnes en Johan Thom Fried Contemporary, Pretoria
Dat die titel van dié uitstalling misleidend of ten minste meerduidig gaan wees, verwag ’n mens wanneer jy by die galery instap. En so gebeur dit ook met Bliss.
Soos op enige goeie kunsuitstalling verken die drie kunstenaars dié konsep, verruim dit en draai dit selfs op sy kop. Maar op minstens een vlak is die betekenis van “bliss” soos in “gelukkig” ononderhandelbaar: Die manier waarop die werke in die Fried Contemporary aangebied word. Die galery is nie oorvol nie, die werke kry kans om asem te haal en, les bes, knoop die werke van die drie kunstenaars ’n sinvolle en stil gesprek met mekaar aan. Read More
A LOOK AWAY ISSUE 5, 2007 – Cover + Inner
You can download the inner by clicking Here
Robyn Sassen: Art South Africa, 2007
Johan Thom ‘The Theory of Flight’, Bag Factory, Johannesburg, 1 – 30 November 2007
On paper, Theory of Flight relates to the Greek legend of Icarus, son of Daedalus, who constructed wings of wax in an attempt to fly. His arrogance took him too close to the sun, which melted his wings, causing him to fall in the sea and drown. In performance, Theory of Flight evokes the surreal play of values surrounding Schulz’s careful crafting of a human attempt to capture what gives birds the power to fly. It is considerably less comforting a series of images than the Greek reference, and also more emotionally unwieldy. Read More
Anthea Buys: mail and Guardian, Pick of the week (9 Aug 2007)
Johan Thom at the Bag Factory
Sean O ‘Toole: Financial Times, 17 August 2007
An evening o f performance art at The Bag Factory, Johannesburg
(The above article appears online @ http://secure.financialmail.co.za/07/0817/life/clife.htm)
Ingrid Stevens: Art South Africa, Vol 2 Issue 3, 2004
Johan Thom at Outlet
Naas Ferreira: Die Beeld, 2003-04-09
Johan Thom:Ons almal is kaal
Nasionale Kultuurhistoriese Museum, Pretoria
“Die koning is kaal!” Min mense durf die waarheid ongesensureerd kwyt raak. Slegs kinders, hofnarre, sjamane en kunstenaars kan dit nog waag om die werklikheid te ontbloot.
Johan Thom vereenselwig hom met die sjamaan as “die brug tussen die mens en die spirituele omgewing waar die goeie en bose magte speel met lig en donker”.
Met die uitstalling van sy multimedia-werke (vir sy meestersgraad in die skone kunste aan die Technikon Pretoria) ontbloot Johan Thom vir die eerste keer in drie jaar sy denke in een ruimte aan die publiek.
Wanneer ‘n mens die vertrek betree, konfronteer die “wit soldaat”-reeks jou. Dit is ook die sleutel tot die res van die uitstalling en Thom se denke.
Ons is almal bewus van oorlog en die soldaat se rol daarin. Maar Thom se soldaat is kaal met ‘n wit masker en ‘n verskeidenheid van wapens. Hiermee breek hy ons stereotipering van die soldaat en konflik af en dwing ons om anders na onsself te kyk.
Logika werk nie in Thom se wêreld nie. Hy gebruik alledaagse materiaal soos ‘n trollie, koeldrankbottels en koerantpapier en plaas dit in ‘n ander konteks om ons uit ons rustigheid wakker te skud.
Die reeks swart gesigte teen die muur ontbloot die lig in die donker. Vir hom is daar nie meer ‘n onderskeid tussen die objek (die ander) en die subjek (ek) nie. “Die ander is ek en ek is die ander.”
Hier beweeg Thom weg van die mitologiese en die rasionele fase sodat daar nie meer ‘n grens is tussen mens en natuur nie. Die laasgenoemde fase staan bekend as die sentour of perdmens-fase.
Thom breek die dualisme van mens/natuur, goed/kwaad, lig/donker af. Deur elke werk dwing hy die toeskouer om anders na die wêreld te kyk. Daarom maak hy die kyker deel van die werk. Bewegingsensors aktiveer werke om in gesprek met die gehoor te tree. Nou is jy nie ‘n toeskouer nie, maar ‘n deelnemer.
Met sy openingsaand het Thom die gehoor dieper betrek. Niemand kan as deelnemer ontsnap nie.
Thom is deur kunstenaars van die jare 50 en 60 geïnspireer. Die grootste invloed is egter films soos The exorcist wat die uitstalling omhels. Uit die toneel waar die priester die bose in die dogter vra wat sy naam is, kom Thom se coup de grace. Die bose sê: “I am no one.”
Ons vang dinge te maklik met naamgewing vas en verminder daardeur hul waarde. Name verwyder ons ook van mekaar en bring spanning tussen ons. Kyk verby die name en sien jouself in die ander raak, simbolies verteenwoordig deur die bloed in baie van die werke.
Thom is ‘n moderne profeet/sjamaan wat die wêreld vir ons ontbloot en ‘n brug bou uit ons beperkte logika na die gees. Daarom kan Thom dit waag om hardop te skreeu: “Ons almal is kaal.”
Borrie la Grange, Beeld, 2003-09-26
Rooi spikkels is ‘kuns sonder rigiede parameters’
‘n Geverfde man prop 18 rooi merkpenne in sy mond en spoeg dit op ‘n massiewe stuk papier uit.
Feesgangers kyk verstar toe. Tien rooi spikkels op die papier sê net genoeg om hulle verder te verdwaas. “Wat gaan aan? Is dit kuns?” vra een vrou en stap stil weg.
Die geverfde man is Johan Thom, ‘n performance – en – liggaamskunstenaar, en sy sending is om werke soos dié na die gewone mens te bring.
Hoewel die merkpen-spoegwerk – deel van die Bind/Ontbind-reeks happenings op Aardklop – talle dronkslaan, meen Thom sy werk is toeganklik vir almal omdat dit gaan oor die ervaring deur ‘n liggaam. Die 13 happenings in die reeks was vanjaar ook te sien by die Biënnale in Venesië.
“My werk steun op eenvoud, ‘n speelsheid en die onmiddelikheid daarvan.
“Die werke in Bind/Ontbind handel oor identiteit en die liggaam en moet fisieke inspanning verg. Dit moet my dwing om dit deur te sien,” sê hy.
Thom sê hy “rek” sy liggaam se perke deur dié werk te doen.
In van sy ander werke by Aardklop het hy by ‘n minibustaxi-staanplek vislyn om sy gesig gebind ten aanskoue van geamuseerde pendelaars.
“Ek wil mense juis nie afskrik nie. Hulle moet kan voel dat hulle op straat te doen kan kry met kuns sonder die rigiede parameters van galerye en uitstalruimtes.
“Mense moet kan voel dat hulle my werk, én enige ander kunswerk, kan interpreteer en iets daaruit kan kry wat vir hulle sin maak.
“Hulle moet nie bedreig voel nie,” sê hy.
Thom sê die werk is speels en hoef nie oorlaai te word met betekenis nie.
Vir die intellektuele bied hy die volgende oor die werk: Rooi penne wat hy in sy mond prop, word gebruik om korreksies aan te bring by onderwysinstellings. Die wit verf en papier dui op skoonheid, reinheid en leegheid van identiteit. Die penne verhoed hom om te praat, om die leegheid te vul.
Wanneer hy die penne uitspoeg, maak die objekte van korreksie die eerste merke op die papier, hoewel daar voorheen niks was om te korrigeer nie.
In die 21ste eeu waar inligting en tegnologie koning kraai gryp Thom terug na die eenvoud van die liggaam en die ervaring van die aksie.
“Mense en kunstenaars raak te vasgevang in gevorderde tegnologie terwyl die meeste van ons steeds sukkel om ‘n toaster behoorlik te laat werk,” sê hy.
Wanneer jy dus weer iemand sien wat penne spoeg of vislyn oor sy gesig trek, moenie bekommerd wees nie. Dit is net kuns.