Lovers of fine, contemporary South African art will get a rare glimpse inside the minds of some of the country’s top visual artists this month when the intriguing Bibliophilia … Turning the Pages group exhibition opens at the Absa Gallery on Sunday, 5 February.
This creative showcase explores bibliophilia, or the love of reading, admiring and collecting books. But these are not just any books. They are the working books produced by individual artists in creating their bodies of work.The artists featured have used both the traditional structure of a book and the contemporary interpretation of book objects to produce the limited edition artists’ books on show.
Kathleen Sawyer, the 2013 L’Atelier Merit Award winner, and several other artists who have participated in the prestigious L’Atelier competition over the years, including Stephen Rosin, Shenaz Mohamed and Neil Nieuwoudt, will take visitors on a personal journey through their love of the written word and their creative expression thereof.
Consequently, the pieces are not direct illustrations of the stories themselves, but allusive meditations on the thematic elements and how these are still prevalent in contemporary culture.
Sawyer’s work, for example, is entitled Bedtime Stories, and is a series of artist’s books entailing interventions such as delicate ballpoint pen drawings and sketchbook cut-outs. The collection comprises 12 artist’s books that take Eurocentric fairy tales as a departure point for a visual discussion of what the artist feels are the most enduring motifs of the chosen narratives.
My intention was to investigate the relevance of the fairy tale genre to a contemporary audience that may not necessarily relate to the archaic references and history of the trope. Focusing primarily on sexuality and gendered power relations, the work identifies how these themes are presented in fairy tales, using this as a non-representational basis for the content of the work – Sawyer.
Participating artists include Banele Khoza, Barbara Wildenboer, Stephan Erasmus, Collen Maswanganyi, Angelique Koekemoer, Michael Meyersfield, Bongani Njalo, Martin Onyis, Stephen Rosin, Shenaz Mohamed, Neil Nieuwoudt and Kathleen Sawyer.
Bibliophilia … Turning the Pages runs at the Absa Gallery at Absa Towers North, 161 Main Street, Johannesburg, from 5 February 2016 to 10 March 2017. The gallery is open from 08:00 to 16:00, Monday to Friday.