Reopening 'Plato’s Cave': The Legacy of Kevin Atkinson
15.10.16 – 19.11.16
Re-opening ‘Plato’s Cave’: the Legacy of Kevin Atkinson
Curated by Marilyn Martin and Jo-Anne Duggan
In 2013 the Iziko South African National Gallery, in collaboration with the Kevin and Patricia Atkinson Trust, hosted the retrospective exhibition Opening ‘Plato’s Cave’: The Legacy of Kevin Atkinson (1939-2008), curated by Hayden Proud and Stephen Croeser. Drawn from Atkinson’s underground studio named Plato’s Cave, the exhibition was both a posthumous tribute and an attempt to come to a greater understanding of the impressive contribution that he made to South African art.
SMAC presented Kevin Atkinson: The Arena Paintings at the Joburg Art Fair in September. This served as a prelude to the current exhibition, Re-opening ‘Plato’s Cave’: the Legacy of Kevin Atkinson, which traces Atkinson’s creative trajectory throughout his life. With the re-opening of Plato’s Cave the curators discovered works that have never been exhibited before – finely etched aluminium panels and paintings that parallel the magnificent works in the Arena series.
Kevin Atkinson was a powerful and inspirational force in South African art, both as a controversial artistic personality and academic. Although better known as a painter and printmaker, he experimented with sculpture, installation, land and performance art. He embraced a vast range of approaches to painting, moving from geometric abstractions in the 1960s, through the severe yet sensuous contrasts between geometric and organic form in the 1970s, to the forcefully expressionistic gestural works of the 1980s. A witty and incisive voice, Atkinson tried to address complex issues, ranging from the attitudes of American and European expressionist movements to writings on language, semiotics, phenomenology and philosophy. He translated psychic energies into the visual language of a painted or drawn surface and remained an abstractionist and intermittent conceptualist till the end.