In both downstairs galleries, veteran artist from Johannesburg David Koloane will be showing paintings, drawings and watercolours, while upstairs, Madi Phala will exhibit new works in mixed media and collage entitled Herdbooyz.
Stanley Hermans: “Cautiously curious in his nature, and with conscious intent, David Koloane immersed himself completely in mostly the frenetic distress and fecund misery of the human condition. He comes to the surface with complex inventions that reflect extremes of joy and pain; innocence and weariness, anger, passion and fury-the commuters in his apocalyptic cityscapes shuttle through history, time and space in a blurred and shattered landscape of relentless urban conflagration, and psychic implosion. David Koloane: “My work can be said to reflect the socio-political landscape of South Africa, both past and present. The socio-political conditions created by the apartheid system of government have to a large extent transfixed the human condition as the axis around which my work evolves.” Stanley Hermans: Access to meaning in Koloane’s work requires the closest scrutiny. His surfaces arrest and engage, leaving the viewer more curious, wiser and stronger about mostly ourselves, and perhaps a bit less pedestrian about what we can reasonably expect of ourselves, and others. He engages the human condition by stealth, a bit like the cosmic sleuth in a trench-coat with the collar up. David Koloane: “I think the human condition in contemporary times is driven by technology, more than in any other era. The development of technology has divided the world into the developed, the under developed and developing countries. Cultures in Asia and especially Africa are still coming to grips with technology as a means of expression, or way of life in the 21st century. The residual resilience of people, especially in the developing countries, is still driven more by a spiritual resilience rather than by technology. I think that is why South Africa is regarded as a miracle because people didn’t expect that we could sit down and resolve our differences without the interference of the first world, supposedly the more sophisticated, these self-appointed monitors or custodians of culture in the 21st century. But, we managed to sit down and through our collective human resource managed to sort out our problems. But, I am also interested in what happens to humankind generally, not only in South Africa. Spiritually we have to agree to offer of ourselves without expecting any return. This spirit of giving is what Africans call Ubuntu. I think that it is very important that one doesn’t isolate one’s self, and that we don’t think of ourselves as better than the others because of the material world, physical attributes, academic attributes or any kind of that sort of thing. We are first and foremost equals. Basically our human resilience is the same.” Stanley Hermans: What inspires and informs your choice of subject matter? David Koloane: “It has to do with the fact that the townships were built as labour colonies for industry in the city, and were placed a certain distance away from the city, as if the objective was our labour but not our presence. So people have to commute. This has always fascinated me, especially now that we are able to travel to other countries, and see different situations where people can walk from their homes to their work environment. South Africa is still one of those countries that has migrant labour as an industry in itself. The townships are often uniform structures. In the design of the houses there is no distinction between one house or the other. The number of family members is not taken into consideration-you might be a large family but you are allocated a ‘matchbox’ house. So, most of the people have to live their lives outside.” “For Koloane, stray dogs are a metaphor for certain aspects of township life. He uses the words ‘displaced’, ‘vulnerable’, ‘brutal’, ‘vicious’, and ‘neglected’ to describe them, and talks about their life as a ‘minute-to-minute feat of survival. They move around in packs like hyenas and can be just as vicious. They drift around waste dumps, garbage cans, wedding and funeral ceremonies.’ Mgodoyi is a derogatory word for stray dog, used to describe people who lack feeling and humanity and will do anything they can to survive.” Andre Croucamp. Veronoque Tadjo observes that: ‘The recurrent image of the dog in Koloane’s work is used to point out the brutality of life in the townships, its “man eat man” attitude and the survival skills that it requires’, with Nadine Gordimer having this to add: ‘Koloane’s dogs are of no recognisable breed. They are outcast, as the people of the townships are, in the townships where the dogs scavenge-but the difference is that the dogs are free.” “The constantly evolving achievement in the work of David Koloane is his transformation of a dedicated awareness of, and strong participation in what has gone and goes on in this world. And as we stand before his paintings and drawings, it is his gift to us of our world-South Africa past and present.” Nadine Gordimer” The above are extracts from an interview that Stanley Hermans, artist, art critic and writer, held with David Koloane in which he has also quoted from other commentators. David Koloane was born in Alexandra Township in Johannesburg in 1938. He received his art training at the Bill Ainslie Studios in Johannesburg from 1974 to 1977 and, thereafter, at the Birmingham Polytechnic in England in 1983, the Triangle Workshop in New York in 1983 and at the University of London from 1984 to 1985 where he received a Diploma in Museum Studies. From the first Koloane was involved with the community: as co-founder of the first black-owned gallery in Johannesburg (1977), visual arts co-ordinator for various art workshop projects, co-founder of the Thupelo Art Workshop Project (1985), curator of the FUBA Art Gallery (1986), co-curator for ‘Art From South Africa’ at the Museum of Oxford (1990). Since the early 1980s he has served as a co-ordinator, co-curator, curator, judge, practising artist, writer, intellectual, lecturer, external examiner for UCT, and artist support system. Amongst the many exhibitions that he has curated are: “Dialogue” at the Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town, ‘Seven Stories About Modern Art in Africa’ at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London (1995), ‘Women’s Voice’ at the Daimler-Chrysler Museums in Stuttgart, Germany (1995), ‘New Prospectives’ at the Newtown Galleries (1996) and ‘Art Dialogue South Africa-Germany’ at the Castle in Cape Town in 1999. In 1993 he co-founded and began directing the Fordsburg Artists’ Studios (now the Bag Factory) in Johannesburg and in 1997 he served as a board member of the National Arts Council of South Africa. Koloane began exhibiting in the 1970s and has participated on group exhibitions all over the world, including London, Paris, New York, Cologne, Oxford, Washington DC, San Francisco, Finland, Florida, Kuala Lampur, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Pretoria, Johannesburg and Durban. Some of the most prominent international group exhibitions onto which he was invited include: “Art Towards Social Development” National Gallery and Museum in Gaberone, Botswana (1982), the Triangle International Artists exhibitions in New York (1983/4), Contemporary Black Artists exhibition at the Academy Art Gallery in Paris (1987), an exhibition with Dumile Feni and Louis Maqhubela at Gallery 198 in London (1988), ‘African Encounter’ at the Dome Gallery in New York (1989), The Neglected Tradition a the Johannesburg Art Gallery (1989), South African Murals at the ICA Gallery in London (1990), Art From South Africa’ at the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, (1990) ‘Liberated Voices’ at the National Museum of African Art in Washington DC, (1999), ‘Global Art’ at Seippel Gallery in Cologne (1999/2000), and Ubuntu at the Malaysia Art Museum (2002). In 1993 he was selected for the South African entry to the Venice Biennale. Koloane has held numerous solo exhibitions since 1977, at Nedbank Gallery, Gallery On the Market, the Goodman Gallery (on many occasions), all in Johannesburg, at the NSA Gallery in Durban, and at Seippel Gallery in Germany. This show at AVA is his first solo exhibition in Cape Town! He received a British Council scholarship in 1983, a Vita Quarterly Award in 1993 and the Prince Klaus Fund Award in 1998. Numerous articles and essays have been written about the artist in many leading South African and international catalogues, journals and magazines. He has also written widely on art in a broad range of publications which include, Bonanza magazine, Staff Rider magazine, Third Text magazine, African Arts magazine for UCLA, catalogue text for the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale and text for the catalogue of ‘Liberated Voices’. His work is represented in the collections of Larry Poons in New York, Robert Loder and Anthony Caro in London, SANG, Botswana National Museum and Gallery, BMW Germany, Mobil Oil South Africa, Daimler-Chrysler Germany, Smithsonian USA, and Victoria and Albert London. He is represented in many private collections, both here and in Holland, Mozambique, Italy, England, the US and Finland. Madi Phala, upstairs, holds a Primary Teacher’s Course from Mafikeng College, and is currently studying for his BA Fine Art through UNISA. Most of his working life since 1978 has been spent teaching in primary schools, but from 1981 to 1986 he worked as a model builder, special effects artist and set painter. In 1975 he founded the Bayajula Group of the Arts. He began exhibiting on group exhibitions at the Germiston Town Council in 1979, and has since participated on group shows at Goodman Gallery, the Triangle Workshop in New York, FUBA Gallery, various Thupelo Workshop exhibitions from 1985 to 1992, art.b in Bellville, Cape Gallery, an art fair in London, Greatmore Studios as a visiting artist in 2004 and Bag Factory in 2005. From 1992 to 1998 he was involved in a programme for educating and exhibiting the work of artists, both young and old, in Ekurhuleni. From 2000 to 2002 he taught at the Mbira School of Music and Arts and in 2002 was a participant at the Joy of Jazz in Gauteng. Phala is very involved in outreach art projects, inlcuding several with school children in Cape Town and Johannesburg for FUNDA Art School.
Phala says of his life and work: “I was born in Payneville, Springs, Gauteng, in 1955. My family was removed and relocated in Kwa Thema in 1960. I have since moved down to Cape Town at the beginning of 2004. I use oils, acrylics, leather, canvas, wooden pieces and artist’s gel. My affection for working with collage has just begun to develop in a much more interesting way for me. After participating in the Triangle Workshop (New York) in 1992, I realized the need to work and develop my community in arts. I was still a full-time teacher, teaching Science, English, and Art. I used to teach Art after school in my garage. One of my students was the late Nhlanhla Xaba, who recently died tragically in a fire. My commitments removed me from the world of professional art showcasing. After participation in the Triangle and Thupelo Workshops (1985-1992), I finally decided to become fully involved with the real and solid art world. My stay in Cape Town has begun to bear fruit. After my three-month residency at Greatmore Studios in 2004, I held a solo exhibition at the Association For Visual Arts and thereafter in 2005 one at the Renault showroom in Claremont, Cape Town. I have thus far participated in the Cape Town Festival, teaching school children recycling through tie-dying. I have also taken part in several printmaking workshops, in preparation for exhibitions.” Phala’s work is represented in various important private collections in South Africa and abroad.