skarrelbaan: A Recent Exhibition by Igshaan Adams

CONTEMPORARY SOUTH AFRICAN ARTIST  |  EXHIBITION  |  TEXTILE  |  SCULPTURE 

BLANK PROJECTS | CAPE TOWN | 12 FEB-19 MARCH 2022

BY OLIVIA BARRELL

Igshaan Adams’ recently opened solo exhibition at blank is titled skarrelbaan — an obscure dialectal phrase that translates with difficulty into a single word. It pulls together ideas of desperation, mania, clawing one’s way through the challenges of life, — and a depth of feeling. In many ways, this undefinable exhibition title epitomises the essence of Adams’ work, which occupies the place between naming and feeling something.

Each artwork is built from three core elements: colour, texture, and feeling. They do not exist in isolation from each other; rather, Adams pulls them together. The pieces start with an image in the artist’s mind, or a feeling in his chest, and they expand out slowly. They become a drawing, then a painting, then they start to take three-dimensional form. The original image is distilled many times over, and it is imbued with the different hands that contribute to it. Sometimes entire families within Adams’ community work small beaded sections for the final pieces. Linoleum rope, wire twine, seashells, bone, glass, and other mundane objects are also incorporated into the works. ‘’I believe that something can always be turned into something else. I look at things not for what they are, but what they could be,’’ says Adams.

Vanguard Drive, 2021

Igshaan Adams | Vanguard Drive  |  2021  |  Wood, painted wood, plastic, glass, stone and metal beads, seashells, polyester and nylon rope, ball chain, wire and cotton twine | ©Igshaan Adams & blank projects with photography by Mario Todeschini

Bonteheuwelstasie (Bonteheuwel Station), 2021

Igshaan Adams | Bonteheuwelstasie (Bonteheuwel Station)  |  2021  |  Wooden, painted wood, plastic, glass and stone beads, seashells,
polyester and nylon rope, wire and cotton twine | ©Igshaan Adams & blank projects with photography by Mario Todeschini

“I wanted to make something beautiful despite poverty, dirt and degradation.” - Igshaan Adams

Skarrelbaan (On the hustle), 2021

Igshaan Adams | Skarrelbaan (On the hustle) |  2021  |  Wooden, painted wood, plastic, glass and stone beads, seashells,
polyester and nylon rope, wire and cotton twine | ©Igshaan Adams & blank projects with photography by Mario Todeschini

Much of Igshaan Adams’ practice revolves around the notion of transformation: metamorphosing commonplace objects into something more profound. On an even deeper level, the artist transforms turmoil and desperation into hope. His large-scale works hang from the ceiling and walls like a sigh of relief — peaceful in their still and abstracted forms. They engulf both the room and the viewer in calmness. 

Adams uses colour, texture, and emotions from experiences in his life to tell a story. A collective story about the place from which he came and the people in his community, as well as a personal story about what was, was not, and could have been.

The beauty of Adams’ work is that it exists in two scales: micro and macro. It is both cosmic universe and tiny seashell.

Langa-2021

Igshaan Adams | Langa  |  2021  |  Wooden, painted wood, plastic, glass and stone beads, seashells,
polyester and nylon rope, wire and cotton twine | ©Igshaan Adams & blank projects with photography by Mario Todeschini

Adams’ intricate artworks stand as testimony to transformation, starting from one place and moving unexpectedly towards another — much like the artist’s own life. Each piece stands as a hopeful constellation of fragments:

fragments of various untold stories

     of a wary desperation [skarrelbaan]

          of identity 

               of future visions 

                    — and of numerous ordinary objects. 

The beauty of Adams’ work is that it exists in two scales: micro and macro. It is both cosmic universe and tiny seashell. It can be experienced in textured minutiae or in its calming entirety. These artworks speak personally to each viewer and their poetic collages of colour and texture imprint something into the viewer. Not a name, but a feeling that lingers long after having left the exhibition.

Haar verwags was groot (Her expectations were great), 2021

Igshaan Adams | Haar verwags was groot (Her expectations were great)  |  2021  |  Wooden, painted wood, plastic, glass and stone beads, seashells, polyester and nylon rope, wire and cotton twine | ©Igshaan Adams & blank projects with photography by Mario Todeschini

Igshaan Adams

Igshaan Adams | Haar verwags was groot (Her expectations were great)  |  2021  |  Wooden, painted wood, plastic, glass and stone beads, seashells, polyester and nylon rope, wire and cotton twine | ©Igshaan Adams & blank projects with photography by Mario Todeschini

All images courtesy ©Igshaan Adams & blank projects with photography by Mario Todeschini

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