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Speech act #2. Performance last August at the Association of Arts for Drawing Conclusions II curated by Diane Victor. For the work I read excerpts from texts out of my personal diaries for the period of 2009-13 whilst standing on an old portrait created with flour on the floor. The piece is a meditation on the materiality of memory and its artifacts. (Photograph by Carla Crafford).

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Houseboat #1. 2019. Wood, glass, Material One, glass and mixed media Sizes: 230cm x 300 cm x 205cm

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‘Missing: Selfportrait as an ass asleep in my son’s bed’ 2019. Photographic inkjet print on Hannemeule 2/3 (Edition of 3 and one artist proof) 50 cm x 65 cm Photo Credit: Garreth Fradgley

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This year lecturers and artists from the Department of Visual Art at the University of Pretoria made a huge splash at Aardklop. Dr Johan Thom, Senior lecturer in Fine Art was for the second year running the head visual arts curator for Aardklop. Other lecturers and past alumni from Fine Arts whose works were showcased as part of the visual arts program include Diane Victor, Avi Sooful, Shenaz Mahomed and alumni such as Angus Taylor and Cazlynne Peffer.

Figure 1: Installation view: ’14 Stations of the Cross’ by Diane Victor. Photo Credit: J. Thom

Curator Dr Johan Thom conceived the visual arts program under the collective title of ‘Spoke Diewe en Digters’. The program was conceptualised in relation to the complex history of Afrikaans as a poetic language, one indelibly shaped by a persistent undercurrent of creative, often anti-establishment practices and thoughts. The life and work of figures such as Eugene Marais, the ‘sestigers’ (including Breyten Breytenbach, Etienne Le Roux, Adam Small and Ingrid Jonker) and even more recently those of Koos Kombuis and Johannes Kerkorrel served as inspiration for a large-scale exhibition premised upon the exploration of creative process and the contested place of visual art in our contemporary society.

In total seven exhibitions were mounted by Thom across the venues located on the campus of the North-West University during the festival. These include the solo exhibition ‘Skadu en Lig’ by festival artist Diane Victor, the group exhibition ‘A Flood in my hands’ (curated by Aysha Waja), ‘Saamklop’ (a program featuring the work of artist collectives including The Dead Bunny Society, Found Collective and The Centre For The Less Good idea), ‘Degenerative evolution of the living’ by Donald Wassiwa from Uganda (kindly made possible by ABSA), en ‘Die groen grass groei daar om’ a solo exhibition by Liza Grobler. Thom also curated a large-scale group exhibition featuring the work of local and international artists including global superstars such as Marina Abramović, Olu Oguibe, Roger Ballen, Jodi Bieber and many others. Finally a special music programme with Pretoria-based musicians including Bacchus Nel, Die See and Blinkruiter concluded the program with a show filled with poetry and musical ghost stories.  The last also included a series of oil portraits of Afrikaans musicians painted by the artist  Ronel Kellerman.

The work of this year’s festival artist Diane Victor set the tone for much of the visual arts on display. Victor is perhaps best known for her unflinching depiction of violence and discrimination against women in South African society. Apart from exhibiting a series of new drawings and prints Victor created a site specific installation of fourteen light projections against the walls of a concrete walkway of the auditorium of the Hennie Bingle Student Centre. This ethereal work titled ’14 Stations of the Cross’ was conceived as a pilgrimage of sorts, with each of the fourteen portraits depicting a victim of femicide. In this way viewers could stop at each portrait and meditate before reaching the end of their journey at the top of the staircase.The work was made all the more ghostly as each of the portraits was literally made from smoke on glass through which a bright light then projected the image against the wall. Victor was deservedly awarded best visual arts exhibition at Aardklop 2018 for her efforts.

The festival also provided a rare opportunity to see the work of the veritable grandmother of performance art, Serbian artist Marina Abramović in person at the NWU Art Gallery. For ‘Confession’ (2010), a video loop of sixty minutes, Abramović sits in front of a donkey telling it her deepest, darkest secrets. Amazingly the donkey almost never moves right until the end.

Figure 2: Confession Performance for Video by Marina Abramović, 60 minutes, 2010. © Marina Abramović. Courtesy of the Marina Abramović Archives

Other highlights at the festival this year included ‘Pink and White Flowers’, an installation artwork by Olu Oguibe, made possible by the support of The University of Pretoria and The Nirox Foundation. Oguibe was a recent visitor to the Visual Arts Department of the University of Pretoria where he spoke about his life and work as an internationally renowned artist, scholar and activist. For ‘Pink and White Flowers’ Oguibe made a large-scale installation in the botanical gardens consisting of four thousand petunias stacked together. The work served as a portrait of Nokuphila Kumalo, a young girl who was also a South African victim of femicide. Sadly her mother had no picture of her but could remember that she liked pink and white flowers. Each of the petunias could be taken home by a visitor to the installation thus extending the work beyond the exhibition.

Figure 3: Installation view of ‘Pink and White Flowers’ (2018) at the botanical gardens of the North- West University, South Africa, by Olu Oguibe. Photo credit: J. Thom

Original post here:

https://www.up.ac.za/en/visual-arts/news/post_2727551-up-visual-arts-lecturers-and-artists-feature-large-at-aardklop-the-potchefstroom-national-arts-festival-1-7-october-2018

 

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Opening: Thursday, 23 March from 18:00 to 20:00
Featuring Lament, a performance by Lizette Chirrime in collaboration with Ledelle Moe, at 19:00

ARTIST FEATURED
Willem Boshoff | Joni Brenner | Marco Cianfenelli | Guy du Toit | Stephan Erasmus | Richard John Forbes | Gordon Froud | Kim Lieberman | Ledelle Moe | Marcus Neustetter | Lwandiso Njara | Brett Rubin | Joachim Schonfeldt | Johan Thom | Sophia van Wyk

Gallery MOMO Cape Town is proud to present (DON’T) LOOK BACK – a group sculpture exhibition, a collaboration between  the NIROX Foundation and Gallery MOMO. The exhibition continues NIROX’s commitment to fostering the arts, particularly the development of three-dimensional work, and the artists across the country who have dedicated themselves to their discipline. (DON’T) LOOK BACK explores the practice of constructing form through the medium of sculpture. Featuring work by seventeen sculptors affiliated to NIROX, the exhibition offers a sampling of recent South African sculpture.

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The Bag Factory Artists’ Studios is thrilled to announce its 25th Anniversary Exhibition entitled
FOUNDATIONS AND FUTURES

When: Opening on Friday, 28th October, 2016

Time: 6pm

Where: Bag Factory Artists’ Studios, 10 Mahlatini Street, Fordsburg

The Exhibition Foundations and Futures runs from
Monday 31 October until Saturday 10 December 2016,
Monday to Friday 9am-5pm.

For 25 years the Bag Factory Artists’ Studios has been more than just a building and studio space. It has provided the foundation of many an artist’s career. Built out of the dream for artists from different backgrounds to be able to work together, the Bag Factory is a community that continuously supports and builds on its ethos of “the community studio space where artists practice is held in the highest regard and experimentation is encouraged.”

Over 25 years these foundations have been strengthened by the artists and staff who have poured their passion and efforts into the community and ethos of the space. In recent years the Bag Factory has worked hard to encourage a younger community of artists to engage in our programming ensuring that the life-blood of the space – interaction and development – continues to pump.

The community has played host to artists such as Helen Sebidi, Deborah Bell, Sam Nhlengethwa, Penny Siopsis, Benon Lutaaya, Blessing Ngobeni, Neo Matloga, Dinkies Sithole, Kay Hassan and many, many more. We have created an international following through our visiting artists programme and a consistent space for art loving members of the public to experience outstanding work.

While many things have changed over the past 25 years, 3 have more or less stayed the same.
1. After 25 years, artists David Koloane and Pat Mautloa still have studio space at the Bag Factory.
2. We remain in the hessian bag factory in Newtown that gave its name to the organisation.
3. We have never changed our creative community ethos.
The organization without any of these would not exist and each is linked.

On Friday 28th October 2016, the Bag Factory begins the celebration of an incredible 25 years with an exhibition entitled Foundations and Futures. Since the inception of the organization, over 300 artists have been through the space either as studio artists, visiting artists, participants in workshops and exhibitions and as winners of award programmes. All of them have been influenced and have influenced the space in many rich and diverse ways.

Foundations and Futures is an acknowledgment of these influences and the celebration of a space that not only supports the artistic community but is driven by it. The programme continues with artist performances, conversations and master classes through the months of October, November and December 2016.

Artists participating in the exhibition Foundations and Futures opening on Friday 28 October 2016 include Blake Daniels; Paul Emmanuel; Jarrett Erasmus; Marie Fricout; Gordon Froud; Carlo Galli; Arash Hanaei; Diana Hyslop; Sharlene Khan; Asanda Kupa; David Koloane; Shenaz Mahomed; Pat Mautloa; Tshepo Mosopa; Ndikhumbule Ngqinambi; Tracey Rose; Usha Seejarim; Lerato Shadi; Johan Thom; Stijn van Dorpe and Mary Wafer

Join us on this momentous occasion to celebrate 25 years of outstanding artists, art and art enthusiasts.

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Johan Thom & Willem Boshoff Elephant Peepsite, 2014. Etching using elephant skull with lines made up of alphabet beads on extruded acrylic super 220 x 127.5cm

Johan Thom & Willem Boshoff Elephant Peepsite, 2014. Etching using elephant skull with lines made up of alphabet beads on extruded acrylic super 220 x 127.5cm

Prints from The Animal Series
@ The Collectors Room, Fried Contemporary
Johan Thom with Willem Boshoff, Diane Victor, David Koloane and Bevan De Wet.

Opens Saturday 24 October @ 12 – 2pm
Concludes Saturday 21 November 2015 @ 14:00

Fried Contemporary Art Gallery is pleased to present a body of work by Johan Thom created at the Nirox Foundation in 2014 and exhibited at its Project space in the Maboneng precinct, Johannesburg. The series of prints, titled: ‘Prints from the Animal Series’ is a series of etchings produced by Thom in collaboration with a number of well-known artists.

More info here: Fried Contemporary

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You are invited to join us on Monday the 28th of September 2015 at 14h00 in the Visual Arts Gallery, University of Pretoria, for our Departmental Research Seminar.

I will be presenting a talk regarding the artworks from my recent solo exhibition at The Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg.

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Roger Ballen, Cat in fish tank, Silver Gelatin Print, 40cm x 40 cm, 2000

Roger Ballen, Cat in fish tank, Silver Gelatin Print, 40cm x 40 cm, 2000

Johan Thom will be in conversation with inimitable photographer Roger Ballen tonight @ 18h30 as part of his book launch for the new and expanded edition of Outland (2001).

The selection of photographs on exhibition in the Collector’s Room was primarily curated around aesthetic concerns. These would include formal aspects of the work such as the use of line, light and dark tones, composition and so forth.

From a curatorial perspective we feel that the socio-cultural and political dimensions of the work have been explored in great depth. We implicitly accept and understand that Ballen’s work has a deeply political grounding and touches a raw nerve in the politics of representation in post-apartheid South Africa – especially where it concerns issues of whiteness racially speaking (of what it represents or should represent) and of ethics (of power relationship between the photographer and his subjects), for example.

The questions that Thom will touch on during this interview concern the particularity of Ballen’s artistic vision – the photographs as artworks the photographer as an artist. He says about the interview: “I hope to expose if only partially something of Ballen’s artistic working methods and processes, i.e. making; conceptualizing; selecting and generally creating the imaginative world that has become the hallmark of his artistic output since the time of first publishing Outland in 2001”.

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Call for Participation
We would like to invite artworks, papers, posters, presentations, performances, activities for the Forum to be hosted by
Department of Visual Arts (UP)
24 July 2015
at
the Van Wouw house under the rubric of
*imagetext*

Taking our cue from WJT Mitchell’s concept imagetext we want to explore the complex, intermedial, multimodal exchange between image/text and text/image. The following topics may be creatively addressed but are not exclusive:

How are images translated into text? How is text imaged/imagined?
What is the interface between image and text/text and image?
How do image and text/ text and image relate?
How are the boundaries established, structured and maintained between image and text?

Participation may include but are not limited to the following:
• Art works
• Performances
• Papers (short 10 minutes and longer 20 minutes)
• Posters
• Flash Presentations (5 minutes)
• Interventions
• Recitals (poetic, musical)
• Demonstrations
• Video presentations
Please send proposals and abstracts for participation to Prof Amanda du Preez and Dr Johan Thom at imagetext2015@gmail.com before or on 7 July 2015.

Please also include a technical list of requirements with your proposal (including wall or floor space requirements, digital equipment list and so forth).

We look forward to receiving your proposals!

For attendance please RSVP with Ms Sikho Siyotula (imagetext2015@gmail.com).

Refreshments including tea and biscuits will be provided throughout the day. For lunch bookings a number of eateries including Piza e Vino (http://www.pizaevino.co.za/brooklyn.html ) is in walking distance from the venue.

Kindly supported and made possible by the Andrew W. Melon Foundation.

imagetext Call for Participation.docx-2

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Johan Thom, Faust the African; The Enfant Terrible, 2015 Found objects, builders foam, mixed media 110 x 600 m

Notes for ‘Faustus the African’, a series of artworks by Johan Thom 2014-2015

‘Approach the brink serenely and accept the risk /of melting into nothingness’

(Goethe’s Faust, 57)

‘I look upon myself as a reasonable temple of God’

(Faustus of Milevis, Numidia, North Africa circa 350-400 AD)

Almost all the works from this series are casts drawn from a 19th century French ceramic bust of Faustus.

I fall in love with this bust of Faustus almost a decade ago. This Faustus is a wall-mounted ceramic in the kitchen my friend Guy Du Toit. Guy tells me that the sculpture has been in his family for as long as he can remember. His mother was frightened by it as child and so too it is with him and with his children. The bogeyman in the hall. But for reasons wholly unclear to me I am drawn to it. This attraction is the starting point for this series of works now known as ‘Faust the African’.

Two interrelated questions. First, why am I drawn to this devilish figure? And, then what does this attraction say about A. the artwork (this particular bust of Faustus, its formal and material properties) and B. about me?

Of course it is one thing to answer these question by speaking or writing about them and completely another to make series of artworks through which to consider and indeed process the answers to these questions. With this caveat in place I turn to a discussion of the working process.

Johan Thom Faust the African; The Explorer, 2015 Found objects, builders foam and mixed media 50 x 40 m

Johan Thom, Faust the African; The Explorer, 2015, Found objects, builders foam and mixed media, 50 x 40 mm

1. Process

Throughout the working process is more or less the same. First I make a silicone mould of the original ceramic Faustus after which I proceed to cast copies thereof in ordinary builders foam.

Builders foam sets in approximately thirty seconds and expands approximately fifteen times its original size. This makes for a rather unpredictable casting process, one in which artistic decisions have to be made in a split second. It is like drawing, or to be more precise like making a quick sketch of a moving figure. If you don’t get it exactly right in the moment, catch the gesture, the form or the movement, no amount of work after the fact can ever fix it.

I enjoy this game and refuse to tame the material. Each time I cast another copy I add however much of the mixture I feel is appropriate. When I add too much the foam bulges and bubbles out of the formal constraint imposed by the mould. The same gaping hole into which the mixture is poured is also the very same cavity from whence the rapidly expanding foam leaks back into the outside.

2. Frozen moments

The whole process of casting with builders foam is a game in which the process itself is captured as something like frozen three-dimensional moment. Again the builders foam sets in a matter seconds – even as it continues to gurgle and expand it coagulates and stalls seemingly mid-movement.

Process image of 'A lone dry skull' by Johan Thom, 2015,  (builders foam, found objects)

Process image of ‘A lone dry skull’ by Johan Thom, 2015, (builders foam, found objects)

I turn the mould around as I pour the thick gooey mix into it. When I de-mould Faustus’ neck and shoulders appear stretched far beyond the limits of ordinary flesh and bone. This Faustus’ plasticky foamy porcelain-like body is presented as if in process of being pulled apart, of oozing, of putrefying and/or of reconstitution itself anew. Over and over again.

A note in my studio reads: “Is this hell? No, there is no hope after hell. This body is being reanimated, given a new lease on life. Besides, I am not the devil”.

3. On character.

Each foam Faustus is unique. Some of the cast heads are smaller, others much larger, clumsy even. But perhaps more to the point, once mounted the different size and shape of each cast lends a particular character to the face of Faustus.

This one seems devious, another withdrawn, one more feminine and others meaner, delirious even evil. But as it is in life so it is in art. Each millimeter matters. Nudge a bust forward by only a fraction and loses its balance, it begins to fall. Suddenly the eyes appear drawn into the skull, the shoulders hunched and somewhat unsure. From a self-assured chin raised high to figure huddled in conspiracy in five millimeters. Add a dash of pink and blue and play havoc with Faustus’ gender.

Each millimeter another gesture, each gesture another world.

4. Combines

Whilst playing with a deck of cards I realize that if I combine these foamy Faustusses with other objects the difference between the casts can be explored with even more depth and complexity. In this case, I create a Janus-type head that resembles a figure from Victorian English Royalty: the Victorian ruff collar made from a spread of cards, one side Dutch blue and white, on the other, red and black figures (numbers, kings and queens and so forth). I laugh when I mount this obscene two-faced-figure on an ice cream bucket. Presto! The ruff collar is transformed into a sail for a tub. But where to? (The colonies is suspect).

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Johan Thom Faust the African; The Gambler – Royalty, 2015 Found objects, builders foam and mixed media 45 X 156 m

For “Faust the African: Health and Sanitation” the bust is coupled with a wooden toilet, an antique potty trainer. This a tongue in cheek ode to Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ of 1917 but also to the ‘History of shit’ (1978) by Dominique Laporte, a little known but rather amazing book about the sewers of Paris. To be more specific, Laporte chronicles the history of sewage in Paris and how, after completely re-building the city in the nineteenth century as the modern French capital, residents are finally forced to take ownership of their waste.

This game with found objects and meaning seem to me closely analogous to way in which I relate to the objects that populate my material surroundings and how in turn, these surroundings exercise a very real influence on my identity as an individual. Put two or more seemingly disparate elements together – a paintbrush, a speaker and a head cast in foam – and soon other things start to happen. ‘Other’ as something in between them that is really irreducible to any single element or predetermined causal structure.

This is some kind of magic, one found in the particular way surfaces rub off on one another. To use a metaphor, we are attracted to our mates because we desperately desire to be close to them. If this is so it is because there is always a fools hope that the magic that so imperceptibly draws us to them may rub off on us. But only if we can get close enough, for long enough.

And what of objects? Are we immune to their charms? I think not.

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Johan Thom Faust the African; Health and Sanitation, 2015 Found objects, builders foam and mixed media 160 x 61 x 40 m

5. Performative relations

My meaningful relationship with the objects included in this body of work is time and place specific. That is to say this relationship is indelibly shaped by the experiences, ideas, discrete histories and even the presence of the other objects that I may encounter in a particular moment.

During a breakfast at a small restaurant in Queenswood, Pretoria I discover standing beside my chair a wooden potty trainer for sale at the antiques shop next door.

Whilst browsing through a second hand bookshop, I read about erstwhile leader of the South African Communist Party Chris Hani’s disgust with the armed struggles’ military training camps during apartheid. In brief, Hani was infuriated by the fact that the exiled comrades and military trainers were living a life of luxury whilst the new recruits were dressed in rags, semi-starving boys with guns.

And Faustus? Well let me just say as a product of Afrikaner Calvinism I applaud the man that shunned superstition and chose reason, no matter what the final outcome.

In this way the foam casts of Faustus exist as the very material embodiment of my performative relationship with the original object and its varied meanings. Faustus has a meaningful history and I cannot neatly extrapolate my attraction to the object from those meanings.

But still, the object also exists in the here and now, and so it would be utterly foolish to pretend that all I love is its history, the story of Faust if you will.

To only love history, received narrative is to be trapped in a loveless relationship that will never be consummated in the here and now. And how could it?

To love a ghost is to love nothing but your own nostalgia.

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