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Barend de Wet Exhibition at SMAC

SMAC gallery is pleased to present Barend de Wet’s third solo exhibition with the gallery, Black, White & Everything In-Between.

Accompanying the Barend de Wet exhibition is a new publication with an essay by Alexandra C.M. Ross. The exhibition is on view from 06 June to 23 July 2016 in Cape Town.


The unknowability and incomprehensibility of things. That is to say, the appreciation that we cannot grasp everything in its entirety. The fragmentary, multimedia, and in-process nature of his work lends itself to this approach. “Most of his works are in-process, most of the time.”


An excessive desire to work. Black, White and Everything In-Between provides a peephole into De Wet’s ‘work:life’ symbiosis. It’s hard not to get excited by the way his work moves between colour, scale, and form; sometimes with him taking the lead role, others the material.


The emotional appeal of his work is palpable. Affording the audience the opportunity to create their own meaning as they have their own minds and see things in their own unique way, and that is as right as what he intended that work to be. Even if it is completely opposite to his intention, it’s valid.

Barend de Wet Exhibition at SMAC
Barend de Wet. Opera white bread and methylated spirits, 2016. Enamel on Steel UV light and Sound Installation. Dimensions of sculptures variable. Image courtesy of SMAC Gallery.

Material Dexterity

The materials and their imperfections indicate skill, whilst remaining humble, and the strength of the materials used either in tone or in form lead with a confident air; yet pull back to avoid being mistaken for arrogance. Historically, the relationship between artists and their hands has been longstanding, and De Wet retains a close relationship between the making of his work and its execution and finish. We, the viewer, encounter the result of the man in communion with the materials.


Although unmistakably complete and thoroughly thought through, the ages and stages of the work remain etched into its corpus. Steel, wool, or body, they all expose the lineage of that which we now gaze upon.


“I like to play. Out of play comes some works.” The rules of the game are as simple or as complex as required: to enter into the fold and to give yourself over to spending time in his world. A world in which there are no rules. Rules for engagement are honest, and “it is always political. It is all of it; it is black, white and everything in-between.” [O]n entry into his work the game is evidently still in play, with the dice thrown and deft moves made by De Wet.

Barend de Wet Exhibition at SMAC
Barend de Wet. Black, White & Everything In-Between. Installation. Image courtesy of SMAC Gallery.


Vowing that “you should practice something 10 000 times to hone the skill and come closer to mastery.


Generous in spirit and in process his performance work in particular has committed to creating a space of generosity for the viewer.

Temporally Contingent

His artworks are unutterable, meaning unable to be repeated or only occurring once. Conflating time into one plane of practice. The lack of perfection in his work defies cut-and-paste-factory creation.

Whimsical Polymath

Once again trying to define the man, the notion of the whimsical polymath springs to mind. De Wet’s work negotiates these binaries through the shades of grey. Rather than frustration in craving mastery of one medium or technique, fuelling his desire to grapple with another, instead it is a fight against boredom that pulls him to experiment and play with something new.

Adapted from Barend de Wet: An Attempted Lexicon and Taxonomy by Alexandra C.M. Ross

For more information on the exhibition, please visit the SMAC Gallery website.

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