Abstract South African Art from the Isolation Years: Part 2

30 Jun 2008 – 31 Aug 2008

The exhibition entitled Abstract South African Art from the Isolation Years: Part 2 is the second in a series of exhibitions presented by the Stellenbosch Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery (smac) to focus exclusively on the generation of post-war avant-garde artists who consciously embraced the modernist idiom and produced art of an abstract or non-figurative nature during the sixties, seventies and eighties.

The history of abstract art in South Africa is diverse and complex, comprising various influences that cannot be reduced to a single linear and chronological narrative. The exhibition has therefore been curated in an inclusive manner to represent a unique body of work which highlights the different styles and exponents that made a significant contribution to the abstract movement in South Africa.

The artists featured in this year’s collection are Lionel Abrams, Bill Ainslie, Kenneth Bakker, Walter Battiss, Carl Buchner, George Boys, Barbara Burry, Nils Burwitz, Bettie Cilliers-Barnard, Joan Claire, Christo Coetzee, Trevor Coleman, Jan Dingemans, Nel Erasmus, Charles Gassner, Nico Hagen, Hannes Harrs, Kay Hassan, Cecil Higgs, Sydney Kumalo, Erik Laubscher, Dumisani Mabaso, Louis Maqhubela, Leonard Matsoso, Pat Mautloa, Dirk Meerkotter, Richard Mitchell, Billy Molokeng, Hargreaves Ntukwana, Georgina Ormiston, Douglas Portway, Fred Schimmel, Cecil Skotnes, Larry Scully, Cecily Sash, Lucky Sibiya, Frank Spears, Henry Symonds, Jill Trapler, Hannatjie van der Wat, Gunther van der Reis, Herman van Nazareth, Edoardo Villa, Gordon Vorster, Anna Vorster, Matthew Whippman and JoeWolpe.

Also forming part of this exhibition is a unique collection of Ernest Mancoba’s (1904-2002) early paintings from Kattinge, Denmark. Recognizing the impossibility of furthering his art beyond the limits set by an oppressive socio-political system, Mancoba left South Africa permanently for Paris in 1938. Shortly after his arrival he met Sonja Ferlov, a Danish sculptor, who would later become his wife and lifelong artistic comrade. Although these paintings are presumably from 1948-1951 and do not fall into the period under review, they are most significant in showing an early exploratory phase in his imaginative development as a black artist working self consciously in a modernist abstract idiom. In Europe he exhibited with the progressive COBRA movement during the years of its existence. This is a unique and very valuable collection. SMAC is proud to be able to present these paintings this year.

The first exhibition hosted last year contained more than 100 artworks and was a commercial success. With a renewed interest in this period, the second exhibition has been widely anticipated and the demand for this type of work is clearly growing. SMAC maintains that these artists should form an integral part of the current revisionary process in South African art history and their work must be reassessed and revalued in market terms.