The art of what lies beneath

2011-02-19 14:25

Visiting Durban’s harbour-side BAT Centre this week to hone in on two concurrent solo art exhibitions proved something of a shot in the arm.

Despite the city’s February heat wave, the place was abuzz with a refreshing youthful sense of creative testosterone as I made my way to meet the centre’s enthusiastic young curator and visual art coordinator, Nomusa Mtshali.

A fine art graduate of the Durban University of Technology, Mtshali gained her early professional experience at the KZNSA Gallery and African Art Centre, before joining the BAT Centre.

Palpably excited about her debut project at the BAT Centre, she leads me first to the centre’s upstairs Menzi Mchunu Gallery to show off a selection of ceramics and paintings by seasoned Gauteng artist Clive Sithole, now based in Durban.

Titled Ukuphuca, which means “to scrape off” or “to look beneath the surface”, Sithole’s exhibition probes behind ­today’s eclectic African society and its ­perception of beauty, which the artist feels often leaves black women in a vacuum in which they frequently seem to lack self-pride.

Sithole scrutinises these concerns in his paintings, many of which are executed on brown paper because of its natural texture and colour.

The artist deploys an edgy, sketchily raw technique that may be seen to encourage the notion of seeing things as they really are, while he questions how one can be proud of an identity that is not one’s own.

Driving home his point, Sithole says: “Has anyone come across a bull with feathers? A bull is comfortable in its
own skin.”

Moving back downstairs to the Democratic Gallery, I’m immediately struck by the extraordinarily assured work on display by Mandlenkosi Khoza, a self-taught artist whose passion for designing led him to study civil drafting at the Mangosuthu University of Technology in Umlazi before exploring his skills as a fine artist.

Developing a desire to paint mostly about life in Durban, Khoza draws inspiration from nature and animals.

Preoccupied with a variety of issues ranging from abuse of women, to lust, piracy and cultural rituals, Khoza uses his paintings to raise the awareness of people who engage with his work, hence the title of his debut ­exhibition, Ngiqalazise (meaning “to help raise awareness”).

Khoza started painting a few years ago after discovering the medium of expression that best serves his need to address issues facing his community.

He likes working with bright colours, and most of his paintings are abstract and rough in texture.

Most of the works currently on ­exhibition are for sale.

» 0 031 332 0451 or email visualarts@batcentre.co.za

Both ­exhibitions run until March 11


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