ART FORM(E)S THAT MOVED US FROM THIS YEAR’S INVESTEC CAPE TOWN ART FAIR (ICTAF)

CONTEMPORARY SOUTH AFRICAN ARTIST  |  ARTIST WRITE-UP  |  SCULPTURE  |  TEXTILE

Ledelle Moe | Exploded Geographies | 2021-2022 | SMAC Gallery

BY SOPHIE COPE

South African Sculptor Ledelle Moe uses concrete to talk about something in-between the monumental and the hand-held. Profoundly industrial, and also just about to take a breath. The artist uses the material as if she is listening to it – catching it as it falls through time, facilitating its next shape. At this year’s ICTAF, Moe exhibited Exploded Geographies – a series of congregated concrete bird-like figures. They feel like they have come a long way to be here, and that this is not their last stop. How often do we encounter concrete forms that are just about to take flight? 


Moe insists on a rearticulation of concrete that is tender, malleable and situated — made up of particular places, gathered up in particular hands. Each figure in this Exploded Geographies collective is made of concrete, but with earth from a different landscape mixed in. Terrestrial angels, congregating and migrating and quietly bearing witness together – they speak to a need for belonging that is quite literally rooted in the earth, and they question the extent to which this (the earth, the belonging) can be carried around in fistfuls, or embedded in concrete skin.

Exploded Geographies  |  2021-22  |  Concrete and steel  |   Images courtesy of SMAC Gallery, copyright Ledelle Moe.

Exploded Geographies  |  2021-22  |  Concrete and steel  |   Images courtesy of SMAC Gallery, copyright Ledelle Moe.

The artist never calls them angels, but they do feel like that – the kinds of angels that are really in the world. Industrial chrysalis, homing pigeons still waiting for the thread back, still subject to gravity – slow flight between sky and mud. Among much else, the angels in the concrete are evocative of Joni Mitchell’s famous Big Yellow Taxi lyrics — they paved paradise and put up a parking lot. One imagines this parking lot to be a soulless concrete. But then Moe’s work makes us think – what if the borderlands between paradise and parking lots are more porous than all this? What is the nature of the angel-sediments that push themselves through?

Frances van Hasselt | Veld Trappings | 2021 | SMAC Gallery

BY OLIVIA BARRELL

Frances van Hasselt  |  Veld Trappings  |  2021  |  Mohair

Frances van Hasselt  |  Karoo details

Van Hasselt lives on her family farm in the Karoo. The tapestries are hand-woven from the mohair studs, some of the oldest in South Africa, that roam the farm. This work uses the mohair in its most raw and undyed form —  reflecting the interconnectivity between nature, land, animal and textile.

The age of an animal, the climate and conditions it lives in and what it eats for breakfast influences the colour and character of the mohair and ultimately how it translates into the flow, fall and function of the finished textile.” – Frances van Hasselt 

Veld Trappings captures a small region of the natural world [the Karoo], using nothing but the natural world from this small region. ‘Veld’, a particular type of wide-open landscape in South Africa, usually covered in wild grasses or low scrubs, has been captured in time through the slow ticking of the loom. Within the constructed scaffolding of this year’s ICTAF, this tapestry holds something of the place from which it came. It hangs from a natural branch and sways slightly in the wind, unperturbed by its urban surroundings. Like a small poetic image, we stand in front of it and find ourselves taken away — to a quiet landscape that many of us know in our minds, where the sky is huge above us and the grass bows its head in the wind. For does each blade of grass not want to be something more, making its own unique sound in the wind? 

Frances van Hasselt’s work is dedicated to the poetics of landscape and it reminds us to pay attention, bringing to mind the words of Mary Oliver:

‘’I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?’’ —Mary Oliver [Extract from The Summer Day]

Frances van Hasselt  |  Karoo details

Bronwyn Katz | |hai||gane |’amiros | 2022 | blank projects

BY SOPHIE COPE

Interdisciplinary South African artist Bronwyn Katz exhibited two sculptural works at this year’s ICTAF, each comprised of salvaged bedsprings, pot scourers, spirits of salt, and wire. We love them because of the ways that they reconstellate the spaces between land and language, and allow us to think about materials both as the map and the territory of the places they have come from.

Bronwyn Katz  |  |hai||gane |’amiros  |  2022  |  Salvaged bedspring, pot scourers, spirits of salt, and wire  |  blank projects  |  Courtesy of the artist and blank projects, Cape Town. © Bronwyn Katz

Bronwyn Katz  |  !noa |’amiros  |  2022  |  Salvaged bedspring, pot scourers, spirits of salt, and wire  |  blank projects  |  Courtesy of the artist and blank projects, Cape Town. © Bronwyn Katz

Katz’ work engages broadly with material resonances of land and language – a commitment to the land as a repository for memory and trauma, and to finding the words for inarticulable loss and dispossession through creative practice. Referencing Khoekhoe, |xam and other South African languages that now exist almost exclusively in writing due to colonisation, Katz’ titles and sculptural forms question the boundaries between the symbolic representation of things, and their material presences or absences – as they are felt, unravelled, and sounded out in physical space. More than anything, the work emerges as an unflinching homage to the material agency of words and things. One must imagine a version of the world in which the land is not presided over by maps or language – rather, the relationship is dialogical and co-defined. And one must ask – when landscapes and languages are lost, how much does the echo of the loss speak back? How could the echoes be annotated?

Bronwyn Katz  |  |hai||gane |’amiros  |  2022  |  Salvaged bedspring, pot scourers, spirits of salt, and wire  |  blank projects  |  Courtesy of the artist and blank projects, Cape Town. © Bronwyn Katz

Bronwyn Katz  |  !noa |’amiros  |  2022  |  Salvaged bedspring, pot scourers, spirits of salt, and wire  |  blank projects  |  Courtesy of the artist and blank projects, Cape Town. © Bronwyn Katz

Engaging with the echoes and the residues, and reconstellating them into a visual language that is new, Katz’ use of titles is important. For her works at this year’s ICTAF, the titles and their translations are:

|hai||gane |’amiros

translates as 

‘pied, parti-coloured, 

with yellow hedgehog, 

star’

&

!noa |’amiros

translate as

‘grey, 

blue hedgehog,

star’

What are the blue and yellow hedgehogs and stars? Where do they come from? Although distinctly text-like, instructions for interpretation are left wide-open. Terrestrial anemones – might this be a salvaged ancient view of the place under the sky or the sea? This is a visual language that is forever co-constructed in the spaces between the reader and the material. A should-be-impossible middle ground between the domestic and the celestial – the star-trail of the pot scourer, the lost dream of the bedspring, the sun and sky-coloured hedgehog. At once morse code and material residue – both the signifier and the signified. A constellation forever tangled up the map of itself.

Gabrielle Kruger | Montipora Lobe | 2021 | SMAC Gallery

BY OLIVIA BARRELL

Gabrielle Kruger  |  Montipora Lobe  |  2021  |  Acrylic on board  |  Image courtesy of SMAC Gallery, artwork copyright of Gabrielle Kruger

Gabrielle Kruger  |  Coral Carnation  |  2021  |  Acrylic on board  |  Image courtesy of SMAC Gallery, artwork copyright of Gabrielle Kruger

Gabrielle Kruger works with acrylic paint in its various forms: mixing liquid plasticity, extruding lines of paint like spaghetti, hanging them up to dry, and twining the coloured cords together. Sometimes the artist weaves the paint lines, or threads, knits, ruffles, and glues them. The essence of Kruger’s practice is the transformation of paint through process. Allowing the paint to become something other. 

Kruger’s new series is inspired by the kelp and seaweed pieces that wash up on Cape Town’s promenade like rags, dishevelled and seemingly sunburnt in their amber tones. Montipora lobulata is a type of reef-building coral, a base layer for other structures. Coral, not unlike acrylic paint, exists in innumerable forms and in a similar fashion to Kruger’s work, it builds up on top of each other in layers. Slowly compounding. The layers hardening into one another. Gabrielle Kruger allows her medium to take on whatever form it would like, letting it first exist as liquid — itself a frothy paint ocean — then textile remnant (weaves, cords, knits, ruffles) — and more recently, as kelp or seaweed or coralline sculpture. What do we see in these acrylic sea gardens? Or beneath their turbulent surfaces? Perhaps we do not need to look for answers — we need only lean into our poetic and imaginative reaction to them. 

‘’From the surface you

can see dark

patches where sea grass

and spirit hair grow’’ Rosamond S. King [Extract from the poem Sea Garden]

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