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Jonah Sack’s “precarious” new paintings

Jonah Sack’s new paintings could fall over. The Cape Town based artist might even be slightly delighted should this occur – not only because he has always gravitated towards creating fragile work that invites the viewer’s touch yet appears too precarious to be interfered with, but he is keen to draw attention to the fact that his paintings are not singular or mere two-dimensional objects.

The works possess a physical presence not ordinarily associated with painting and are arranged and displayed in such a manner that makes the viewer confront their physicality. His new body of work for his show Column at Gallery Art on Paper in Joburg is what you could comfortably term an installation of paintings, though they are not quite paintings in the conventional sense; the works are also sculptures, objects, due to the fact that they appear on thick, oddly shaped free-standing blocks of wood. As is their want, artists enjoy disrupting our expectations of mediums, particularly such a traditional one as painting, though of course painting on wood is also rooted in an African tradition of artistic expression, as well as a western one – as Sack does so here.

Sack arrives at this convention by taking inspiration from Romanian artist Constantin Brancusi’s Endless Column, a famous wooden sculpture, which recalls the simplified forms particular to African expression. This erect wooden sculpture, which was threaded onto a steel column, is hardly a precarious structure, yet interestingly this is the detail and possibility that Sack isolates.

“Falling is what the column really wants to do,” says Sack.  It is also the titular reference to it being “endless” that appeals to the artist. “There’s a confidence that somehow these physical objects – paintings or sculptures – are capable of pointing to a world which isn’t physical.”

In this way you could presume that Sack wishes to transport the viewer to a place beyond the collection of wooden block paintings he presents, depicting both abstract and figurative images, although it is, of course, hard to overlook the visual encounter he has designed for viewers.

In Sack’s exploitation of the grain of the wood, as well one’s en masse confrontation with these objects in the space, the works’ encounter is tactile. The experience of them as positioned objects is perhaps the most precarious feature of all, for they are not fixed: the blocks could be rearranged, or moved around to create different sorts of compositions or relationships.

This unique show, which is the first collection of paintings Sack has produced, will best be experienced at his solo exhibition at Gallery AOP. However, it will also be a highlight of the FNB Joburg Art Fair, where some of the works will be on display alongside his 2013 filmic piece, Exquisite Corpse, as part of his solo project stand.

Column will show at Gallery AOP until September. Sack’s Gallery Solo Project Stand at the Joburg Art Fair will show at the Sandton Convention Centre from September 11 to 13. – @IncorrigibleCorrigall – subsidised by Gallery Art On Paper.

Words by Mary Corrigall

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