In navigating the landscape of South Africa’s history, it is impossible to negate the prevalence of movement throughout the country. By considering the manifestations
of power and the iniquitous distribution of wealth that remains topical and difficult today, this exhibition delves into the expressions of shifting and of change through various media by artists working during particularly challenging eras. The period of modern art spurned out of tenuous times where systematic, political and existential workings were being challenged. As such, the artwork created reflected the need for differing realities to be acknowledged and continue to educate the viewer to this day.
The tradition of art making in Africa is a contested and complex set of understandings. In South Africa particularly art schools, workshops and community projects have
developed a practice of expression, skill sharing and creative freedom, with a predominant emphasis on art that is easy to make and easy for the viewer to access – most
often printmaking, from woodcuts and linocuts. As such, the stories, which have been erased, ignored or neglected, can be found through art.
From the series of illustrative woodcuts that speak of pastoral living, to the more imaginative charcoal and pen sketches by the likes of Deborah Bell, a pattern of
migration and narrative illustration comes forth. Images of mine-workers and the struggle of learned knowledge and practiced experience juxtapose themselves across
the gallery space, speaking to the navigation of urban realities and the outplaying of historical wounds that reflect, repeat and mirror current circumstances and issues that were prevalent in other countries. The truths of industrial advances and its impact on daily lives becomes universal through the art that is created – from the factory worker and farm labourers’ depicted emotion in Kathe Kollwitz’s etchings to the silence of Sam Nhlengethwa’s wonderingly still figures. Perhaps, these truths begin to speak louder when non-African artists speak of the same realities and are included within
the same space.
The language of mark making speaks to emotion rather than logic, and as such the navigation of the works on this exhibition speaks to the use of illustrative expression
and narrative ordering. Each wall and each singular grouping of artworks creates a particular narrative patterning as a means of understanding experiences. The subject
matter of the impact that history still represents today is shown from print to sketch to photograph and can be mirrored around the gallery space by reflecting the global relevance of the stories each artist has chosen to tell.