artists' books

Dust, ashes and lines that flow


ONLY connect: Lines describe form in Boitumelo Diseko’s exhibition Ecclesiastes 3:20. Photograph courtesy MAPSA

THE DRAWN LINES lie discrete and individual as they are draped over the three dimensional forms in this understated, but very powerful exhibition of drawings by Pretorian artist Boitumelo Diseko. A meditation on the men lost at Marikana, this body of close to 40 pen and ink drawings, entitled collectively Ecclesiastes 3:20 is what you get to see at Harrie’s Pancakes, in Arcadia.

Paraphrasing the biblical chapter into marks which are neither calligraphic nor crudely descriptive, these drawings are about surface and its disruption as much as they are about loss and history. Above all, they challenge expectations in sidling between the parameters that define a drawing. These are the kind of works that call you by your name even before you can recognise what they represent or understand the intellectual thinking that motivates and links them.

There is a mural painted on the exhibiting space’s wall, as well as the small mounted drawings. While this large interpretation of the visual language of this artist is initially what grabs your eye as you enter the space, which has been a voice between a visual art and culinary audience for years, it is not the critical anchor of this exhibition. Indeed, the mural almost feels contrived once you have allowed the magic in the smaller works to wash over you and play with your sense of equilibrium.

Diseko’s approach to her drawings is not unique; it’s been taught in many a drafting exercise dealing with tone and space, but this approach to line work can easily get caught in a technical and bland morass. Diseko’s lines, like those of contemporary South African artist Gail Behrmann, in her artists’ books, shudder and touch one another from time to time. They flow with a temerity that is humble in the face of the things they’re considering. Like succinct prayers in their own capacity, they offer ebb and flow, which makes you think you’re looking at the wind, or the flow of water.

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