Something of Apartheid South Africa Revealed


The thing I love most about SMAC is how they are determined to put their artists into the canon, to make them seem significant. Like having a space at Venice. Or printing a massive catalogue and having a retrospective for a mid-career artist. Such as the recent Anton Karstel show.

Which is not to say that Anton Karstel isn’t deserving, or insignificant. I just wish everyone would have that much faith and investment in who they represent.

This show reminded me of the significance of painting in contemporary art, as to why the application of colour onto a surface can break down an image and allow space for interpretation. Mostly, that is. Some of the earlier work seemed garish and under pressure. But the Beach Girl and Prime Minister series really amused me. It seemed to me that the lightness and sexual frivolity of young white South African girls is protected and ensconced by a dark and bitter masculinity. They are teasing and playful but inextricably linked. It’s a bit of Apartheid subconcious.

Poo brown and ochre were the dominant colours in the Battlefield paintings. It seems a very South African palette (see the recent show at SANG of 40′s and 50′s SA art for the real deal of muted shit colour), but the purposeful use here evokes both repulsion and nostalgia. Its like intentionally watching a Bok van Blerk music video. You float between the historic, the ironic, the funny, the horror and the pathetic.

It’s a wry sense of humour that is both critical and appealing at the same time.

(Having said nice things about SMAC, their website is awful: No high quality images. Hard to find what I wanted.)

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