Splendid ordinariness and the magic of print


FOCUSED attention: Bambo Sibiya’s Street Barber, a shaped linocut on paper. Photograph by Robyn Sassen.

A MAN SITS casually but alert in an improvised barber’s chair. He and the barber behind him focus on an unseen mirror and that look they have conjures up the whole context of having your hair cut. This is arguably as iconic Dorothy Kay’s 1953 self-portrait of the same subject. In clean clear lines, the printmaker Bambo Sibiya casts an understanding of the intimacy and focus of such an ordinary activity. This beautiful shaped linocut distinguishes the exhibition of work by the Artist Proof Studio, currently on show at the Arts Association in Pretoria.

Comprising some forty unframed works, the exhibition gives a strong understanding of not only the diversity of possibility in the linked mediums of etching, lithography, relief print and what lies in between, but it also demonstrates a reflection on the kind of artists who have come through these studios. From work by prominent and well established artists such as Richard Penn, David Koloane and the studio’s co-founder, Kim Berman, to pieces by young people moving through the ranks of the field, including Jan Tshikuthula and Ezequiel Mabote, there’s a great diversity of approach on show.

And while some pieces teeter on the brink of being youthfully overworked, others, such as Mario Soares’s piece offers an insightful and unusual understanding of space. There’s a breath of wild flowers under the loose lithographic approach of Bronwyn Findlay, and Berman’s fabulous monotypes that reflect South Africa’s peri-urban landscape with pylons evokes her earlier work, but retains that unmistakable succinct freshness. It’s interesting to see how the next generation of visual artists are gravitating toward the classic genres of artmaking – portraits and landscapes still dominate and seduce with directness and sincerity. It’s a strong and multifaceted show, reflecting without unnecessary sensationalism or forced drama on a concept and an approach to making art in South Africa that is about empowerment and skill, and all the social values that go with it. The show is, in this respect, demure: the excellence speaks for itself.

  • I See You, an exhibition of works by the Johannesburg-based Artist Proof Studio, comprises work by Kim Berman, Christiaan Diedericks, Bronwyn Findlay, Boitumelo Gautlhaelwe, Sandile Goje, Sizwe Khoza, Thandiwe Khumalo, David Koloane, Ezequiel Mabote, Ramarutha Makoba, Donald Makola, Lebohang Motaung, Mongezi Ncapayi, Lukas Nkweng, Walter Oltmann, Richard Penn, Bambo Sibiya, Mario Soares and Jan Tshikuthula, at the Main Gallery space, Association of Arts in Pretoria, until July 25.

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