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Fine Art Festival fare

Date Released: Mon, 1 July 2013 15:00 +0200

“To point a camera towards land in Southern Africa is to draw the history of the conti­nent to your eye,” said Fine Art Senior Lecturer, Mr Brent Meistre at the preview of his Festival exhibition Sojourn at Alumni Gallery recently.

Of the over 400 images taken over the past six years, 29 are on exhibition, which includes a selection of ‘stills’ projected onto a light box. The images of the entire collection will also be published as an e-book for iPad, to be launched during the National Arts Festival.

Mr Meistre will also exhibit a site specific stop frame animation Across the Line of my Father’s Fault in a unique location- the ‘cavern’ under the fountain at the 1820 Settlers Monument.

Fine Art Head of Department Prof Dominic Thorburn congratulated Meistre on both these “exceptionally engaging and well curated exhibitions” and encouraged people to attend Meistre’s walkabouts.

Concious of the complex history of landscape photography in the continent, Meistre sought a way to photograph what he calls no-man’s land- the stark, lonely landscapes of Lesotho, Namibia and Botswana.  In 2006, he purchased a fourth-hand Eskom bakkie onto which he built a roof rack that could hold a ladder that could extend up to four metres.

 “I have also been fascinated with the outer limits of photography, and the possibility of photographing the unrepresentable, trying to find other ways of representing the world – one of the most difficult things to achieve in photography,” he said.

 “The drive then with this project was to see if I could photograph a landscape with nothing in it – an impossible landscape devoid of meaning, history and trace – abstract and stark. The project then started with this question,” he added.

He thanked the Research Office and the National Arts Council, which provided funding towards the costs of the exhibitions. He also thanked his colleagues for their support within a creative research practice and the community of Kuboes in the Richtersveld who looked after him while he was stranded in the Kalahari.

The second preview of the evening was the Fine Art mid-year exhibition held in the Fine Art foyer. Here a selection of artworks by first to fourth year students was made to be exhibited for the duration of Festival. Rendered in a variety of media, the works were selected by Prof Thorburn and lecturers Rate Western and Tanya Poole, who curated the exhibition.

Sharon Moses, a second year student, has two works on show: oil paintings on Fabriano paper which depict details from a photograph she saw in a museum on New York’s Ellis Island. When she saw the vulnerable image of officials examining newly arrived immigrants, she was struck by the reality of the great number of people who arrived on the island full of hope but meet with such adversity.

Split into two parts, the paintings show a woman waiting and another being examined by a menacing official. Using bright colours with a combination of pencil drawing, she applied the paint with a palette knife and a stiff bristle brush.

Moses said it was challenging to produce five artworks in just a week but looks forward to hearing the public’s opinion on the work on exhibition.

Most of the framed work has also been entered into the Sasol New Signatures competition, for which Rhodes is one of the entry-points. Moses said this has been an useful experience for the students as they have to present and market their work to a certain extent, an invaluable experience in preparing them for the rigours of the industry.

Kelsey Leigh Aspeling, fourth year Photography student, is showing four from a series of shots she took of the interiors of Fort England Hospital, which treats and houses psychiatric patients.

Her aim for the project was to create an atmosphere within the spaces of this historic hospital that “alludes to a kind of presence of live activity that can be felt through the very absence of human activity and through the absence of my presence as an artist within the scene”.

Motivated by her interest in space and unfamiliar territory, she wanted to “investigate the far corners of Grahamstown to really uncover something that is unfamiliar to me and especially the community of Grahamstown. There is much taboo and speculation surrounding institutions of this nature and I feel that it really is not a space to be feared but rather understood from a fresh perspective.”

Third year graphic art student, Gemma Garman has a series of delicate prints of embossed boxes and sculptural, 3D prints of the boxes themselves on show. Focussing on decorative packaging she began with the plan of the package and then, through using various printmaking processes started to add more textures and colour to the plan.

“I began using other types of packaging to create texture and explored producing the prints in both black and green,” said Garman.

 She is impressed by how her work has been presented, especially in terms of lighting, an important aspect of presentation which is often overlooked. She is grateful to her supportive lecturers “who know so much and present our work to look at its best- they make you feel comfortable about presenting your work to the rest of the world”.

Photo and story by Anna-Karien Otto