AS YOU IMMERSE yourself in the quirky and wise body of work by Andrew Kayser currently on show at Galleri Kalashnikovv, you may experience a frisson of recognition that shifts and transitions as you look at it. But this hasn’t to do with the line work or the compositional structure: it harks back to the mesh of narrative underpinning the work which veers between religious iconography and fierce criticism of the South African status quo: there’s a bit of eroticism tossed into the mix and a lot of curious interruption. But nothing is explicit.
Indeed, Kayser’s work fits comfortably into an understanding of the kind of work you traditionally find in this gallery. If you think back to the recent exhibitions hosted here by Theresa-Anne Mackintosh and Craig Smith respectively, you will remember: there’s a soupcon of drawings that evoke the cartoon traditions of Walt Disney. But these ostensibly happy faces have dark underbellies and hearts: which you can see in the intensive line work redolent of the approach of Conrad Botes or RB Kitaj, for instance. So as you walk through this body of 17 pieces, you experience a strange mix of black humour with a sense of urban nostalgia. Sterile walled cities are punctuated with images of Christ, bodies tussle for space and unexpected interjections mess with a clean reading of the work. Much of the work confronts the surreal uncertainty of double- or triple-exposures in analogue cameras and language puns concatenate with idioms and visual jokes.
The work never trips into one-liners, however, and the interjections in the compositions offer Kayser’s work the edge that keeps you on your toes and hold you by the eyeball. He draws beautifully and intones with great facility, but drawing skills do not make an artist. Indeed, the more you allow each of these works to draw you in to their interstices and nuances, the more you realise that not a line is left to chance in these complex compositions, as the artist plays with idiomatic texture with a backdrop of tradition. A hand, a line, a swirl of paint burst into your line of sight to shift it. Each time.
You may leave the exhibition with Nikos Kazantzakis’s quasi-religious texts echoing in your head, having been summoned by Kayser’s juxtapositions. Or the fierce nose thumbing of religious precepts that Günter Grass constructs in some of his work. The work teeters on taboo, it tiptoes around issues of violence, but in its eloquence, it never explodes crudely.
It’s a pity that the gallery’s ‘studio space’ is not populated with a new exhibition – but more seriously that it is not closed to viewing, so there’s a bit of detritus from the previous exhibition which shouldn’t be allowed to mar your experience of Kayser’s work.
- Christ Haus! by Andrew Kayser is at Galleri Kalashnikovv, 70 Juta Street, Braamfontein, until June 1. Call 073 124 8183.