A bit of this, a bit of that

TURKEY tales: He who plays the piper calls the tune. Drip blok by Sarel Petrus and Dylan Graham. Photograph courtesy Fried Contemporary Art Gallery.

TRY NOT TO be misled by the title of this exhibition. It isn’t the third iteration of a computer game about snakes. Or eyes. Once you’ve disposed of that preconception, you’ll feel a little freer to explore the collaborative pieces in this showcase to the work of Pretoria-based Found Collective, clearly in its third manifestation, which promises to allow the voices of disparate visual artists to sing together.

And disparate is kind of what you engage with. Not much information is available on the Found Collective, which comprises a whole range of artists, old and young, well known and relatively new on the scene. There’s an overwhelming sense of an inner circle here, which doesn’t offer much for the outsider or casual gallery visitor to hold onto.

Not all of the works on show fit with all the others, and the essence plays into the notion of a collective that is more about disparateness than it is about a well curated and hand-picked body of works. In some strange ways, this exhibition contains a little of the energy that jump-started aspects of European surrealism into life, by way of Exquisite Corpses – conventional parlour games translated by diverse hands into collaborative drawings of strange creatures.

But that’s just about the energy in the show: these are not all representations of creatures. Some are beautiful in terms of the unexpected segueing of artists’ input. Others, less so. While Lothar Bottcher and Christo Niemandt offer a meditation on a rearview mirror, called Project Project Re-view Mirror, the work tries to do too many things at once and results in being too obscure.

Shenaz Mahomed in collaboration with Cobus Haupt on the other hand, have created a work which blends formal figurative sculpture with filigree. And the result? Rather quirky and endearing while it teeters with solemnity. This little Aniconic female figure stands like a boyish and contemporary Joan of Arc on a chunk of wood, elegantly.

There are horses by Angus Taylor and Rina Stutzer protruding rudely from a Vusi Beauchamp painting and Sarel Petrus and Dylan Graham have together created Drip blok, a bronze-cast plucked-looking turkey poised on a table covered in drips and images of armed artillery men. The digital drawings reworked into something else by Alet Pretorius and Banele Khoza feel a little contrived and a tad overworked, the splotches of cast bronze peppering the wall by Guy du Toit and Lala Crafford, called Lig en lug aangehaal, considers something held in great earnestness with a quizzical eye. And then, there’s a magnificently made relief print, with blind embossed edges by Helen Lotter and Hannah Kempe called Lacuna.

All in all, it’s a useful showcase for the kind of thinking and technical skills that’s happening among the artists in this group, but as an exhibition in these linked spaces, it doesn’t sing with visual or conceptual harmony.

  • Snake Eyes 3.0 by Found Collective is at Fried Contemporary Art Gallery, 1146 Justice Mahomed Street, Brooklyn Pretoria until June 16. Call 012 346 0158.
  • Participating artists: Maaike Bakker, Vusi Beauchamp, Lothar Bottcher, Bernard Brand, Bianca Brand, Tatenda Chidora, Lala Crafford, Jayne Crawshay-Hall, Guy du Toit, Pieter du Toit, Brendon Erasmus, Heidi Fourie, Dylan Graham, Cobus Haupt, Hannah Kempe, Banele Khoza, Allen Laing, Helen Lotter, Shenaz Mahomed, Setlamorago Mashilo, Franli Meintjies, Isabel Mertz, Christo Niemandt, Sarel Petrus, Alet Pretorius, Marika Pretorius, Nkhensani Rihlampfu, Johan Stegmann, Angus Taylor and Carly Whitaker.


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.