What lies beneath


RAISING other people’s nightmares: Frederik Eksteen’s painting, Hell/Institutional Critique. Photograph courtesy Fried Contemporary Art Gallery.

AS YOU ENTER this intimate little space, your heart and eyes are grabbed by a lion lying ponderously before you. It’s the central focus of a large scale painting called Cave Painting and as you move closer to the work so do other things in this piece begin to unfold and appear. This is one of the centrifugal points to the exhibition of recent work by Frederik Eksteen currently on show in the Collectors’ Room at Fried Contemporary Art Gallery in Pretoria.

Cave Painting is not a work about a lion. It’s about much more. The human form, subject to geometric plotting and cross-casting lies in palimpsests throughout this rich and interesting work in which the artist demonstrates a mature understanding of composition and what can be left blank on the canvas.

The other painting in this ensemble is perhaps even more astonishing and the curators of the show have cautiously hung it at a vantage point where you have to already be inside the space to see it properly. This is a horizontal painting called Hell/Institutional Critique, and snide and sad associations with institutions aside, it is a fleshy vortex which threatens your sense of physical stability. It’s a remarkable painting in which you will lose all sense of time as you gaze as its raw, uterine-like interstices.

Eksteen, whose work has been covered before in this website, here, is an artist who clearly doesn’t kowtow to trends, but he knows them and understands their roots. Along these lines, he has invested his career in developing an approach to his work which is unique as it is honed. The four other works exhibited in this showcase exhibition are in mixed media on paper, and here you see a sense of almost mythological whimsy where marks made, subject matter, medium and the idiosyncrasies of the approach work together with a kind of mad synchronicity that makes you aware of the slithery movement of a snake in a state of moulting, as it makes you unable to turn away from the organic forms, the lizard’s claws, that skirt with abstraction, seduced as you are by the sheer beauty of the marks made.

It’s a modestly sized exhibition, but one that is certainly worth the drive to Pretoria.

  • Recent work by Frederick Eksteen is at the Collectors’ Room, Fried Contemporary Art Gallery, 1146 Justice Mahomed Street, Brooklyn Pretoria until June 16. 012 346 0158.

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