Menagerie in thread


BUFFALO with googly eyes: Grave yet demure, one of the Projekt works on show at Kim Sacks. Photograph by Geoff Sifrin.

A POT PLANT with a cactus growing inside it sits self-assuredly on a shelf. Until you come closer to peer at it more carefully, that is. Suddenly you realise it is not real. Or not in the conventional understanding of the term, that is. Suddenly you understand that it is a constructed bit of illusory life, made of thread, crocheted in the dense and fine Japanese stitch known as Amigurumi. It’s the work of Peta Becker’s Projekt, which blends her ideas and the handwork of close to 40 women from various countries in Africa. And it’s one of many in Connecting Threads, an exhibition currently on show at Kim Sacks Gallery.

Between the crocheted beasties, crocheted hanging potted flowers, crocheted rude-looking cacti and crocheted angels holding wilting yet crocheted flowers, there are more conventional works on show – works that you may have always associated with the Kim Sacks Gallery. These include a considerable body of exquisitely made thrown ceramic pieces by Dale Lambert and Gaby Snyman that feel so fine, you are reluctant to breath near them. There’s also several swathes of hand-printed fabric by David Bellamy, which sit comfortably somewhere between being decorative and being vista-like in their reach.

But it is the crocheted plants that will grab you by your sense of incredulity and you will want to have them all, as you leap from work to work helplessly emitting audible shrieks of delight at their aesthetic cheekiness and sheer brilliance. The stitch work is by its nature in the round, so what you get is a robust shape that’s lightweight yet implicitly three-dimensional. With a gravitas all of its own that will make you laugh.

It’s an approach to craft that ramping up the creative possibilities of women with skills in distressed communities, to high end products and an income in the same vein. The works of Projekt are no easy or lumpen craft pieces that could sit in the confines of what is known as ‘airport’ art or a vulgar flea market. Rather, they cheekily cock a snoot at all the conventions which knock crocheting off the fine art table.

There’s a rich and generous blend of well-made products in this exhibition and in all the shelved works in the rest of the gallery space, which surround the highlighted work quietly, offering a meaningful aesthetic experience. Kim Sacks is an African gallerist with arguably still the best eye in the field. And this exhibition is another opportunity to see how she puts together a concatenation of objects, traditional and playful, innovative and old, that make you look at them differently and force you to dance between what craft might be and why it differs from fine art.

  • Connecting Threads features work by Peta Becker, David Bellamy, Dale Lambert and Gaby Snyman, at the Kim Sacks Gallery, 153 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood, until June 30. 011 447 5804.

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