That Was Then
11.12.19 – 25.01.20
SMAC Gallery is pleased to present That Was Then, a group exhibition of early and recent artworks by a selection of gallery artists. The exhibition contains a cross-section of artists at different phases of their careers – from emerging to established – who work across a broad spectrum, in a variety of media.
This collection highlights how the artists have built on early concepts which remain present throughout different stages and periods, regardless of stylistic changes. There is an essential pursuit or essence which is intrinsic to the artist’s oeuvre as a whole. Formal juxtaposition of early and recent works is often a revelation for the artists themselves, offering a retrospective appreciation of their own trajectories, through a re-appreciation of works which they initially considered experimental rather than seminal at the time of making.
In this exhibition, the works act like snapshots, capturing specific moments in the artist’s journey, and their true significance can only be appreciated in the fullness of time. Artists do not dwell on these moments as they move forward in pursuit of the next breakthrough. That Was Then emphasises that the artists are in constant flux – each new work triggering the need for the next. There is a deep-seated belief amongst artists, that there is always more to be discovered, and always more to be said. This type of historic contextualisation can only provide a glimpse of a larger narrative. It is impossible to predict how an artist’s practice will evolve, but these formative works provide the viewer with clues which can often be more revealing than elaborate explanations. That Was Then demonstrates the parameters of rigidity or flexibility within each artist’s work; the distance or proximity to a core idea; as well as their own limits – how far can the elastic band be stretched without breaking? The most exciting aspect of this exercise is that it can be repeated many times over, guaranteeing surprises and innovation, whilst reinforcing the fundamental message which is unique to each artist.
In That Was Then themes of past and present, and the distance in between open up like an interlude, allowing for further interpretations. When looking back, personal accounts of the past are usually told in the narrative of “that was then”. These kinds of anecdotes are told either longingly or with regret, both consistently indicating differentiation from the present self. In the words left unsaid, “That was then, this is now”, there is always a silent but that negates the then, separating it from the now. This separation is what makes the interlude between them more evident – opening up a rift in time, like an intermission between two acts – a pause in something that later continues, but perhaps along a different path.
That Was Then includes works by; Lhola Amira, Margaret Courtney-Clarke, Galia Gluckman, Frances Goodman, Kate Gottgens, Georgina Gratrix, Cyrus Kabiru, Johann Louw, Mongezi Ncaphayi, Musa N. Nxumalo, Gareth Nyandoro, Usha Seejarim, Mary Sibande, Simon Stone and Pierre Vermeulen.