Electica gallery; Claremont, April 2015

Welcome to “shades of mood.” (An interesting title indeed and having spent time in this space, with the work, I think it is very appropriate.)

Louis Nel, Mary Visser, Rick Becker, Helen van Stolk and Boniface Chikwenhete

Once again Margie has given us work from a carefully selected group of artist. The diversity is deliberate and the intention is clear; we look at work by four artists working on flat surfaces with different visions, different in content and application. Boniface compliments this with his three dimensional wood sculptures. This is a microcosm of the art world; in the 20th century artist were given permission to make art as they wanted to, to use materials and ideas in unique and varying ways. I picked up a GQ magazine recently and found an article about art making and galleries, giving advice on how to manage this world, this industry that represents our time and culture. (Nice that GQ is writing about art!)

The “creative industry” is growing in South Africa and I hope our minister and deputies of art, culture, heritage and sport will be able to justify asking government for a bigger budget. After all it is artists who are asked to entertain at public events, artists who have huge influence in education, health care and it is artists who can assist in integrating our society and playing a vital role in civil society as a whole.

The GQ offers a variety of approaches for engaging in the visual arts; the article gives reasons why we should visit galleries and purchase work; this all talks into the need for more exhibitions like this one. There are reasons to invest, to make a commodity of an art work or artist as emphasized in the article but I think there are other reasons too; education, lens based, theme based, issue based etc. are all part of the jargon but to simply look at each piece one finds and converse with it for me is reason enough.

This gallery gives us the opportunity to find ourselves by giving us different images to look at and think about how and why they were made. If you watch your self doing this you may not be able to walk away from an image, or you may walk away and wonder why you are walking back; that is because for you that image will be like a magnet to your heart and you will then need to buy it. That will be the best investment you will ever make! It may not increase in value or match the curtains but you will feel the mood of the image and you will want to live with it. It may remind you of a place or person, there may be an association with a memory, an incident or a wish. There are so many reasons to have images that you relate to in your home and your work place. They initiate conversation and change the prevailing mood.

Helen says on her web site that she learns from everyone; she can then make decisions about what she wants to paint and how she wants to paint it. It is this decision making that describes an artist; it is not the gallerist or the audience or the market. I feel strongly that art should not be in the service of anything but this is a very difficult notion to stay true to. It is wonderful when a work is sold and there is a need for more of the same but this kind reasoning takes away one’s personal reason and freedom for making images. What do we do as artists to address this difficult situation? Some make pot boilers because they sell and then build a body of work that they really like and keep them for a solo exhibition; others have a part time income producing activity that helps to pay the bills…. Etc. all the while trying to use the chosen medium more effectively; pushing ones practise is important.

I am not sure how these four artist work or live their lives but the work here is an opportunity for us to share in their way of seeing and doing; each one offering a very different sense of the world around us. They are by chance of a similar age and this is all recent work.

I can’t do justice to the work as there are time constraints but some of the clues and tips I give you may assist you in spending time with each piece.

Margie has written information and she is very approachable, so talk to her and to the artist themselves. The role of the gallerist is significant in this industry and I congratulate Margie on her careful selection and generous interaction with each artist that she works with.

I am familiar with Mary Vissers work because she is very active in having exhibitions and keeping us updated. She has a confident feel for paint; she scrapes and pushes, there is gesture and chance, her hand is right there in each action and for me there is a sense of well-being and fun; she celebrates her observations of life with paint. Mary uses city-scapes as references but allows her eye to pull and push shape and form, some taking on an abstract reference to space and in others there is a recognisable perspective.

Rick Becker uses paint differently but also works with paint because of the feel of it. The light in his work seems to come from inside the painting, (in the four landscapes). He uses his horizontals to ground us into his picture plane. To understand this one needs to refer to landscape painting through history; Constable and Turner for example.

Helen Van Stolk filters her images. She paints from life sometimes but has a need to tell us stories with images; of the city, life, people, daily activity…the marks flit and float; an impression leaving us with hints of what is happening and what might follow.

Lois Nel uses colour in a tonal, emotive way leading us into his deep land/water-scapes that sit quietly and lure us in to being with them. He probably works from photographs but there is a sense that he has been there, seen these places and so uses memory too. His work is evocative and poetic. He layers his medium and finds a mood that contrasts with Helens work.

Boniface uses found wood of various shapes and textures. He uses surface to seek out the form of animals lying within and waiting to be exposed. The image is found in a similar way to how Mary finds her images with paint.

All the work can be seen in broader context too; look at landscape painting; is Louis work like Constable or Pierneef. The abstract work; I ask, what are the roots and ethos behind the abstract expressionists, the geometric abstractionists; and how much influenced are we by the impressionist approach that I feel in Louis work?

This exhibition offers many conversations; with each work, comparing one with another and I hope with Margie.

I encourage you to invest in the career paths of the artists that resonate with you and watch the others as you may surprise yourself.