Complexities of identity

2011-09-29 00:00

HOW we see ourselves and how others see us is the concept at the heart of About Face, a new group exhibition opening at the Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg today.

The driving force behind the exhibition, which is in the main gallery until November 6, is Hilton artist Cally Lotz, who describes it as something of an epic undertaking.

“What began as a simple idea for a group of artists to get together to paint each other became a project that was almost bigger than Ben Hur,” she said.

“Looking at someone and painting what we think we know about him or her is one task. But when I had to look inside me to find out how to portray myself, I realised that any one image is but a reflection of a whole range of realities.

“The process of completing a self-portrait, as well as a portrait of six of the other artists has highlighted the complexity of personal identity... [and] the viewer is invited to explore and reflect on the nature of individual identity as expressed through the public and private images of the artist.”

Each of the artists taking part in the exhibition — Sue Physick, Siyabonga Sikosana, Emmanuel Khumalo, ­Annette McMaster, Moray Comrie, Eva Banach, Jo Trickett, Renee Leslie, ­Kobie Venter, Floris van Zyl, Bheki Khambule and Lotz herself — has completed a self-portrait, as well as a portrait of six of the other artists, all the same size. These seven images will be hung together.

Lotz said another aspect of the exhibition had been educational for those involved. “We have had regular gatherings to socialise, organise sittings and plan our big event. On almost each occasion our plans grew and grew, producing a wonderful momentum and camaraderie within the group,” she added.

“It has been a journey that has filled a void in many of our artistic lives, and has given us wonderful mentoring as a group. This project has proved to be a brave, challenging and honest expression of a shared journey.”

In addition to the works on show, which range from paintings to drawings and even collage, visitors will be able to view the artists’ workbooks, which were produced during preparation for the exhibition, and a visual of the artists at work both in the gallery and in their own studios.

• The Tatham Art Gallery in Chief Albert Luthuli (Commercial) Road, Pietermaritzburg, is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 6 pm.

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