Art review: ‘In Other Words’ at Galerie Noko

Rhodes masters student Brunn Kramer looks at a new Port Elizabeth exhibition


Rhodes University fine art graduate Brunn Kramer, in the process of studying for his masters in fine art, reviews the new art exhibition In Other Words, at Galerie Noko in Russell Road
When words fail, art speaks
Port Elizabeth’s Galerie Noko presents an array of drawings and paintings in its exhibition titled In Other Words, which opened on August 23 and will run until September 21.
The exhibition explores narratives and ideas of contemporary artists situated in the global souths.
It seeks to visually explore ideas that verbal and written communications fail to transmit and therefore relies on the viewer’s visual acuity to perceive and interpret meaning from the artworks.
Edgar Degas encapsulates the curator’s idea perfectly – “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see”.
The artists are offering viewers narratives around their life worlds, using their artworks as objects to embody their ideas and experiences in the modern age.
The exhibition features works by Nicholas Hauser, Khehla Chepape Makgato, Mathias Chirombo, Nana Nyan Acquah, Sizwe Khoza, Asanda Kupa, Mbongeni Buthelezi, Gladys Kalichini, Zwelethu Machepa, Bev Butkow, Usen Obot, Daniel Mooy and Sanusi Olatunji.
Of these 14 artists, I have selected a few of these artists’ works that illustrates what the curator is trying to express and how I feel about the artworks.
Mathias Chirombo’s artwork titled “Mwari and the Angels” welcomes viewers at the entrance of the gallery in tones of warm yellow hues that form part of the artwork’s background.
The foreground is dominated by three abstract figures s presented to the viewers in vivid tones of blue which compliment the warmness of the yellow hues.
The magnificence of the figures begs the viewer to ask the question “what are these figures?” and Chirombo answers this as his work is influenced by his African spirituality and customs.
He explores this notion with reference to his dreams as inspiration for his creative process.
The artist has managed to capture the ethereal of something that is so transient as dreams.
Nicholas Hauser, Nana Nyan Acquah and Gladys Kalichini presents their works in non-objective metaphors that intrinsically allows the viewer to deduce for him or herself.
The limited palette of Sizwe Khoza and the linear drawings of Bev Butkow are similar in their inclusion of figures, yet at opposite ends as Khoza’s work focuses on the realistic portrayal of children as their expressions is key to communicate his message.
That message is that “life itself never repeats, but the actions, the things that happen do repeat almost like a rhyme. And as in the game of chess you can’t make the same move twice but the game will be played again and again and similar actions and consequences will be reiterated.”
Butkow’s work titled “Easily Erased” consist of abstract figures drawn with black ink on Fabriano.
Butkow believes that “everything is not always black or white as society would have us believe – sometimes there can be the shade of grey in between the two extremes”.
Evidently, Butkow’s work epitomises this quality.
Sanusi Olantunji’s portrait titled “Deep Meditation” shows effective use primarily of paper collage to construct the dreamlike figure that is the focal point of his work.
It is evident in Olantunji’s work that the artist has learned to master the technique of paper collage to create realistic depictions influenced by music, literature, history and nature.
The qualities of the paper and the restrictiveness of the colour pallet offered by the paper allows the artist to express his feelings through his creative process.
Olantunji feels that “the words I couldn’t speak out, I express them through my art”.
Clear linkages of Chirombo and Olantunji’s work is their bold use of colour adds to the dreamlike qualities of their work.
In other words, these two artworks express the curator’s vision quite successfully, in utilising art to express where words fail to transmit.
Artistic creativity is a vehicle for transforming emotions, ideas and “dreams” into a reality, by communicating the uncommunicated and making the invisible visible.
In other words, art speaks when words fail.

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