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Barnard Cape Town
January 31 to March 7 2018
Mary Corrigall has curated the first exhibition dedicated to exploring a ‘romantic’ turn in contemporary art in South Africa. will be staged at the Barnard from January 29. Corrigall has chosen to dub it ‘new romanticism’ as it shares characteristics with a titular movement in the late 18th century. The framing of the exhibition provides a window on which to view art preoccupied with the area where nature, science and the sublime converge.
In response to a renewed interest in depicting nature Corrigall is keen to explore the hidden tension implicit in these seemingly beautiful works which belie a long-standing conflict that an encounter with the sublime entails. While it leads to "the discovery of a capacity within the self greater than nature" (Shaw 2006 :91) it exposes too the fact this in itself places the artist at a remove from nature. The artists selected for this exhibition have plunged head-long into the natural world, concentrating on its grandeur, beauty with an inflection of awe via the ‘mystical’ manner in which they render it. Many works hover at the the threshold of figuration and abstraction.
As the Romantic movement was male dominated and the artistic products were naturally gendered with female subjects in romantic poetry functioning as "beneficent foils to fantasies of narcisstic reintergration" (Shaw 2006: 105). With predominantly female artists commissioned to create works for this exhibition, it quietly works at upturning the first 'ism' on which the foundation of art rests.
It is the first iteration of this thematic exploration presenting a contemporary generation of artists, capturing, embracing, uncertainty wrought by threats to the environment and the rise of virtual reality in the post-industrialisation and information era. The post-conceptualist turn in contemporary art has not only seen a renewal in painting but an interest in representing subject-matter that escapes reason or logic. This has allowed artists to embrace their medium, lose themselves in the process of making art, without having to ‘explain’ it and to work more intuitively than before.
Ronel de Jager
Jaco Van Schalkwyk