Exhibition where viewers make art

Bongani Njalo and Nicholas Hauser at an interactive exhibition at the ArtEC gallery in Bird Street, Port Elizabeth, where members of the public are invited to join the artists in creating the art in mediums of their choice and giving meaning to the blank canvasses which line the walls
Bongani Njalo and Nicholas Hauser at an interactive exhibition at the ArtEC gallery in Bird Street, Port Elizabeth, where members of the public are invited to join the artists in creating the art in mediums of their choice and giving meaning to the blank canvasses which line the walls
Image: Fredlin Adriaan

Imagine walking into an art gallery and all the walls are blank.

Well, that’s what will greet art lovers when they amble into the ArtEC gallery in Port Elizabeth this month – but it’s all for an innovative new exhibition where artists and the public will create the art.

ArtEC is hosting an exhibition called “Xhosa Walls 2 – Restore The Balance” until the end of October.

The interactive exhibit is produced from a clean canvas, on which the public can express themselves through any form of art and have their work displayed on the walls, culminating in a final mural of their collective contributions.

Gallery manager Bongani Njalo said the exhibition would give artists an opportunity to be a part of the art and offer a completely different experience.

“Traditionally, the public visit the gallery to view works to think about, enjoy, discuss and even purchase.

“But with this project we have completely flipped this static relationship on its head and ask the skilled, formally trained artist to work side-by-side with children and those who have never picked up a brush in their lives.

“There are no limitations or restrictions,” Njalo said.

The project initiator of the exhibition is local artist and curator Nick Hauser.

Njalo said the idea behind Xhosa Walls can be explained as a play on the words “war” and “walls”, referencing 100 years of wars that played themselves out on the Eastern Cape landscape.

“The wars are a distant part of our past but people of the Eastern Cape still need to meditate on the love, hate, apathy, misery, joy, change, and so on that have been left behind.

“These are some of the themes which each of the blank walls in the gallery demand from the public,” he said.

The walls of the gallery are lined with blank paper and drawing and painting materials are available for the participants to use to respond to each theme on each wall.

This is the second exhibition of this kind hosted by ArtEC.

The success of the first exhibition, in 2016, inspired this follow-up.

“In this iteration of the project we have developed a programme of activities to take place throughout the month, with a wine and coffee drawing workshop planned for next week and a printmaking workshop planned for the following week.

“In all of these workshops we invite the public to express themselves freely and to participate at no cost with the aim of having an exhibition at the end of the month where all the art comes from the public instead of the artists.” Njalo said.

All types of art are allowed and participants will be able to add on to some of the art that is already on display.

The exhibition will run until October 31.

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