THE BELEAGURED GRANDE dame of visual arts in Pretoria, Pretoria Art Museum, is aware of her flaws, which in many respects are not of her own making. Like many state-run institutions dealing with the arts in South Africa right now, the neglect of the building, its environs and the ugly 1970s redolent design is something that is far away from the current issue of the day on a back-burner which may well, at this point, be ice cold. Given these limitations, the heart and soul of the museum – its staff – are clearly still hard at work in keeping the space relevant. On show in one of the museum’s smaller spaces is a gem of a debut solo exhibition by relative newcomer Banele Khoza (b. 1994).
This young product of the Tshwane University of Technology, who comes of a rural background in Swaziland, has seen an exponential rise in the interest his work has enjoyed, and this is completely warranted. Capable of working with such an intimate sense of filigree in his pen and ink drawings, that it sometimes beggars belief, Khoza is stretching his skills into the realm of watercolour and installation.
What you will see in Temporary Feelings, the first solo exhibition hosted under the ‘For Sale Project’ run by PAM – in the past, this project featured group showcases – is ghoulish images, with an intense sense of soul and wit, redolent in many ways of the work of artists such as Robert Hodgins, not only in terms of his wild and oft outrageous use of colour juxtapositions, but in his use of narrative and composition. Khoza looks at life and death, sex and identity in the curious, complex and candid way that is the privilege and blessing of his youth.
The work is not stripped of cynicism, neither is it sugar-coated, but it is exploring the sense of possibility that Khoza’s instinctively beautiful lines embrace.
Central to the exhibition is an installation behind glass deemed “artists’ books”. Gaze closely at these and you will realise that while Khoza has remarkable aptitude for the book arts, these works in question are books bursting with his distinctive mark-making, bleeding over into written words and back into drawn elements, rather than artists’ books with their own identity and reason for existing.
Overwhelmingly, Khoza is not only a ‘new kid on the block’, but the energy and fierceness he brings to PAM’s environment is an injection of hope and new blood for the institution. Whether his transient presence here, in this far room of the museum, has the fire in it to develop its own momentum, remains to be seen. The exhibition’s initiative is the brainchild of its curator, Mmutle Kgokong – and hopefully art lovers will continue to see developments under this young professional’s steerage – that has the power to override PAM’s currently crumpled reputation.
- Temporary Feelings by Banele Khoza, curated by Mmutle Kgokong, is at the Pretoria Art Museum until September 4. 012 358 6750.