Stevenson presents The knife eats at home, the third solo Kemang Wa Lehulere exhibition with the gallery.
In this new Kemang Wa Lehulere exhibition, he explores the capacity of objects to unravel their prescribed meanings and literal forms. In paintings, drawings and sculptures, forms reconfigure themselves poetically: school desks turn into aeroplanes, tyres and crutches become free-wheeling playthings, musical scores offer evidence of bodily life.
The works in the Kemang Wa Lehulere exhibition draw on communal social experiences of the past – specifically, the student uprising of 1976 – which find an urgent echo in this contemporary moment of change. The artist creates a tender vocabulary to speak to a notion of history that is never abstract or disembodied, but always experienced both personally and metaphorically. Continuing the collaboration with his aunt Sophia Lehulere which began in his Standard Bank Young Artist exhibition, the Kemang Wa Lehulere exhibition engages with tangible and intangible expressions of the experience of history, and allows us to recognise narrative structure as entirely poetic and indeterminate.
Expressions of this indeterminacy underpin several of the new works: aurally, as rigorous elocution lessons play on loop to an already deceased student, while free-flow jazz brings cosmic pattern and colour to works on paper; formally, as gold leaf becomes the gilded motif of the failure of literal memory. Chalkboards offer exploratory trajectories caught between gold lines, and the soles of school shoes are caked in a golden-hued mud – this is gold with a tinge of melancholic blue.
In the animation of objects, and the converse inanimation of creatures, there is a movement between longing and realisation. Kemang Wa Lehulere comments that his exhibition is ‘a celebration and a critique, a love song and a lamentation – a sad love song’.
Kemang Wa Lehulere is the 2017 Deutsche Bank Artist of the Year with an exhibition opening at the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle, Berlin, in March next year. His Standard Bank Young Artist exhibition is on view at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg until 18 June.
The Kemang Wa Lehulere exhibition opens on Thursday 9 June 2016
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