With the resurgence of awareness of the global south as a socio-political construct and a renewed emphasis on the creative exploits of Africa, the South and the diaspora, it seems there is a renegotiating of the idea of Northern and Western countries as the origin of modern art. As such, focus is turning away from eurocentricty and the Western canon and facing toward the south for new ideas and aesthetics. The exhibition for Eclectica Design and Art’s summer season aims to celebrate and critically consider the implications of turning southward and facing in new directions, through fine art, performance and design.
The Cape Town summer is known for its South Easter wind, which is also affectionately called the Cape Doctor because of its ability to blow all the pollution of the city away and clean the air. The wonder of the South Easter reinforces the magic beauty of the South where our natural habitats and weather patterns that work together to create the natural glory of which South Africa is known. This is surely cause for celebration and pride as we move toward the summer months and welcome in warmer weather!
South Facing draws on ideals and notions of natural beauty that resonates with the idea of looking South – confronting the past history of European artists looking at Africa and Asia without truly understanding the context and challenging the world to find a new center and consolidate an acknowledged art tradition within the South. The idealized portraits of men and women by Corné Eksteen, Chris Denovan, Sarah Danes Jarrett and Peter Pharaoh celebrate and illuminate human beauty and image. The portraits are confrontational in their gaze, speaking to the idea of facing up to something, and the idea of looking in a particular direction speaks to the idea of a portrait – where the artist and the sitter must both confront particular levels of self-awareness and become self-reflexive. The abstract work by Natasha Barnes shows an investigation inspired by the landscapes and plant life of South Africa, while using methods of meditation and conscious practice in creating the works. As such, by facing south, we are effectively looking to ourselves and the African context in order to create a new discourse around what it means to celebrate contemporary art in 2016 and realizing that the celebration can center around African and South African creations.
South facing is originally conceived as a geographical term that applies to architectural plans. The idea in this case is based around the positioning of a building or specifically of windows to allow for the most light to enter and illuminate a space. This active and intentional method of designing ties into the theme of our exhibition, with our ever-conscious play between the modes of design and art. The exhibition presents a way to redesign our focus in the art world and shine light on local talent and creativity in the southern hemisphere. Caleb Chisha is a Zambian artist whose work speaks to the idea of duality in a Cultural Revolution, particularly in Zambia and yet is accessible to everyone through his use of colour and illustrative depictions of the environment. His painting illustrates a grappling with the medium and plays with the space of the canvas as a platform for dialogue and communication. The work of Anastasia Pather is a particular action of involvement and looking. The performative and muralistic aspect of her work can be understood as considerations of creativity that works from the individual to the public, where there is an openness and ease in identifying with the work and much enjoyment in the process. This references and locates itself within the practices of mural making in Mexico and India as a form of education and communication, while also reconsidering the purpose and environments where art can be found.
The theme of South Facing calls for artists and viewers alike to turn their gaze toward the south and reconsider the glory of that which for so long has been disregarded. To celebrate our African continent and the heritage that has enabled our perspectives. The exhibition hopes to acknowledge and cherish the values and talents of artists and creatives, while turning our focus to face in a new direction – ready to welcome in a new year.