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RE-collecting and RE-membering

Ruann Coleman’s recent solo exhibition Certain Lengths at SMAC Gallery attracted great interest and confirmed once again his status as one of South Africa’s most promising artists.

After last year’s success as one of the featured artists at the FNB JoburgArtFair, SMAC Gallery will again show strong Coleman work at this year’s fair. It is Dr Danny Shorkend’s review of Ruann Coleman’s Certain Lengths for The South African Cultural Observatory that puts this exhibition into perspective: ‘Coleman’s work incorporates a multitude of different forms and materials, some found, some directly from nature and others geometric, leaning against one another and objects teetering on the verge of thought and objecthood. He has incorporated measuring tapes and in one piece titled Faktura – a drawing on oxidised steel – one notices a kind of mathematical formulation or problem that is in the process of resolution. Civilization, for want of a better word, is often nothing more than the abstract understanding of nature, in order to use, manipulate, excavate and appropriate.

Ruann Coleman
Ruann Coleman | Study IX (Potagoras) | 2017 | Painted Pakhuis Diamictite | 21 x 14 x 13 cm

In this sense, nature is turned into culture and is then glorified as the order or system of dominance. Yet, perhaps the artist questions pure empiricism as a measuring yard stick; perhaps one cannot measure, perhaps the finite has a deep non-quantifiable at its root, so to speak? I suggest the artist alludes to this through his constant upsetting of the natural. For example, the measuring tape is often cut up and reordered. Besides, the exact value of things are only relative to the initial frame of reference – the highly arbitrary unit of measurement. In a sense then, there is no Platonic mystery attached to numbers. On the other hand, the sense that all material things can be quantified is a highly useful method for categorisation. Yet, such a picture is fragmented and that is why Coleman returns to nature as he uses a large trunk-like form that interacts with the gallery as it seemingly protrudes from the wall and then reacts with the observing consciousness. Nature and culture need to be balanced, neither subservient to the other.’

Ruann Coleman’s artistic practice is based on play, impromptu juxtapositions, experiment, chance and the serendipity of random accident. Mostly free-standing, un-monumental, process-related and at times, in formation, his sculptures combine and amalgamate organic and inorganic found materials such as wood, metal, tape or glass, establishing a rapport with an array of post-minimal practices. Conceptually, his work pivots around the materials of his found objects, their weight, scale, form and balance

Ledelle Moe’s catalogue notes give further insight and explain how Coleman’s Certain Lengths ‘navigates through precariously balanced, tilted, leaning and firmly connected objects and forms. These sculptures and their accompanying titles evoke a sense of fragility and play as they connect with both the surrounding architecture and viewer. Relationships are evoked out of entangled materials. These relationships are geological and speak of time, matter, age and sediment. They are disposable and speak of waste, improvisation and haste. They are plastic and speak of composite chemicals, expanding foam, industrial intrusion and infrastructure. They are found objects, old and re-framed. ‘Coleman RE-collects and, in doing so, RE-members. He uses materials to re-member each piece, collecting each object to re-collect, translate and reorient these material and objects into a new vocabulary. In doing so, the construction of each sculpture involves a certain deconstruction of the materials. In this way, their behavior and function are subverted and appropriated.’

Ruann Coleman
Ruann Coleman | Brace | 2017 | Cast Cement Branch and Rock with Strap_84 x 20 x 13 cm

Ruann Coleman was born in 1988 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He obtained a Master of Fine Arts in 2014 from the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, prior to which he completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts, from the same institution in 2012. Coleman presented his first solo exhibition, titled; Balancing Act, at SMAC Gallery in Stellenbosch in 2014. In 2015, he was the artist in residence at the Centro Luigi Di Sarro in Rome, Italy, which culminated in his debut international solo exhibition titled Found:Rome. Coleman’s work was included in OUT OF CONTEXT at the UJ Art Gallery, Johannesburg in 2015 as well as The Space Between Maps at the Absa Gallery in Johannesburg in 2016. Coleman was selected to take part in the Corso Superiore di Arti Visive (CSAV) – Artists Research Laboratory at the Fondazione Antonio Ratti in Como, Italy in July 2016. Between residencies, he continues to live and work in both Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa. Ruann Coleman presented a solo exhibition, titled Ulterior, as a special project at the 2016 FNB JoburgArtFair.

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