Dr Danny Shorkend reviews Oracle

By mapmyway
12 January 2017

Drawing from painting, printing, illustration and graphic experiments, this wide range of explorations at Salon Ninety One is sure to attract, writes Dr Danny Shorkend .

Bringing together artists the gallery has worked with or will do so in the future, this exhibition is an open blend of styles, mediums, techniques and themes. What one derives beyond aesthetic appeal necessarily involves sensitivity to the works on offer, for in quite a profound sense form is content. On the other hand, form is precisely merely a vessel for a content, a light that is forever elusive, shifting, potentially manipulated, ideological and often concealed.

A few works are particularly appealing: Andrew Sutherland, (see photo) whose paintings will also show early in the new year, creates an emerald-green, surreal forest-scape with a lone, solitary figure in the distance is Romantic and in terms of popular culture, has that Fangorn forest feel from the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, beckoning the viewer to take the journey to an unknown end, but a venture toward that which provides insight and clarity, even the coveted promise of knowledge.

Gabriella Raaff’s Chinese ink on fabriana, are ominous yet on closer inspection, appear to exude light and an aura of enlightenment, as the apparent smoke, ash and shadows give way to softer, more joyous expression.

Somehow, a small illustrative work also caught my attention, namely Katrin Coetzer’s Ascelpius, a reference to the Ancient Greek god of healing and medicine. The image is of a figure, somewhat forlorn, possibly in pain, yet holding a classical pose, an athletic stance with the power and prowess to cause health and the softer “blobs” of green and cream on white hold the promise of wisdom, enabling healing to take place and wholeness to be.

Jorden Sweke’s curious use of oil on canvas, recall a network of lines in a black energy field that may “represent” anything from trees to neural networks, textures of various descriptions and maps, tributaries, capillaries – a sense of a possible plan, communication, interaction and yet a potentially homogenous blur with no distinct “lighting up” of any particular path of configuration, and thus “its” function and presence is uncertain. Yet it has cosmos as Carl Sagan was wont to say; the sheer volume of lines are not a mess, a mistake, rather order arises as does the obvious reference to the tree as a life-form.

The gallery as a whole continues to convey a controlled, yet playful, slick and pristine atmosphere and there are other works that will not doubt appeal. Consider Heidi Fourie’s monotypes that contain wonderful mark-making and technical improvisation, while they seem to refer to some kind of landscape that offers much by way of psychological metaphor. Here I refer to the overt streaks of light, of plants that bask in that light, of water and earth that pulsate the glory of being. At the same time, there is clearly also a mere abstract patchwork so that there are mere elements that are divorced from semantics, estranged as mere signs that are difficult to decode or as constituting a known language, just as the individual presents a complex psychological anatomy.

You may also be intrigued by the methods and meaning of Bruce Mackay’s lino prints as his image of hands interlocked or interlocking and gesturing in some way remind one of the need to connect, hold and yet let go. In these respects, one indeed gets the sense that the gallery’s inventiveness and foresight in that the show is also in aid of SA Guide dogs Association for the blind is itself a kindly gesture and embrace. And in some senses stands as a reminder that art may lead where one may not easily find ones way, that art is a companion along the way or that our need for such guidance bespeaks the fact that like the visually impaired, much work needs to be done so that one truly can be said to see, both in terms of empirical fact and a more extra-sensory type of seeing. Then perhaps one is equally receptive to truly hear.

WHAT: ORACLE End-of-year group show
WHERE: Salon Ninety One, 91 Kloof St, Gardens, Cape Town, 8001
WHEN: until 21st January 2017

Review by Dr Danny Shorkend first appeared in the Cape Times