“The Artist is no other than he who un- learns what he has learned, in order to know himself,” (E.E. Cummings 1958)
Reflect is presented by Graham Modern & Contemporary and brings together the artists George Pemba, Peter Clarke, Gerard Sekoto and Dorothy Kay in an exhibition de- signed to captivate its audience through con- necting histories.
Graham Modern & Contemporary will be exhibiting at the Investec Cape Town Art Fair 14th – 16th February 2020 focusing on pioneering artists whose work unveils the intersectionality of lived experience during South Africa’s tumultuous years of segregation.
The convergences that the exhibition highlights are reflected in representations of social spaces, human connections, perseverance and hope. Exhibited alongside each other, Pemba, Clarke, Sekoto and Kay offer rich interpretations of historical struggles and what these may mean today. How do we learn to unlearn? How do we see ourselves reflected in this past? And how do we shape a different tomorrow?
These questions become central in locating the significance of Modern African art today, and in relating it to contemporary lived experience.
Committed to developing and promoting a strong international programme of African art, Graham Modern & Contemporary establishes the discursive links between artists of different periods and the importance of inter- generational exchange. Reflect, presented at the 2020 Cape Town Art Fair, is an example of this long-term vision.
George Pemba, born in 1912, admiring Renoir, Monet, Toulouse Lautrec, Degas and Gauguin, found himself applying classic techniques but adding a cultural context. Pemba’s depictions of life scenes expose his interest in local life and people. The genre is more than a simple ‘record’ of township life but allows for the complicated constructions of historical context. Pemba’s work has a universal quality. The deliberation of composition and use of colour in his works creates a richness and intensity. Pemba is considered one of SA’s most prominent artists.
Peter Clarke was born in 1929 and establishing artistic motivation was fundamental in his outlook. His earliest influences were Mexican artists, German Expressionists and Japanese prints. Hardship is inextricable from his work. His reactions can be interpreted as observational yet inevitably subjective in opting rather for everyday life than being overtly political. His views regarding the transition from apartheid have been unremittingly positive within the art.
Gerard Sekoto is considered a pioneer of modernism in Africa. He developed an interest in depicting people and simple local life, holding his first solo exhibition in 1939. He had the first picture by a black artist displayed in the museum in South Africa.
In 1947 Sekoto left South Africa. Sekoto held his first solo show in Paris in 1949. In 1989 the Johannesburg Art Gallery honoured him with a retrospective exhibition and Wits awarded Sekoto with an honorary doctorate.
In 1990 the French Government awarded Sekoto the award of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters. In 2003, Sekoto was posthumously bestowed the Order of Ikhamanga.
Dorothy Kay was born in 1886. She began studying figure painting at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art and the Royal Hibernian Academy School. In 1910 she moved to South Africa. She was represented in the British Empire Exhibition in London in 1924 and in the same year exhibited internationally. She was elected a member of the Royal British and Colonial Society of Artists, exhibiting at the Dominion Artists’ Exhibition where Queen Mary purchased one of her etchings; “Romance”.
Read more in the Cape Town Art Fair Editorial.