The recent record attendance at the Art in the Streets exhibition at MOCA LA, heralded a renewed interest in Street Art.
There is clearly a rising fascination with art making in urban spaces - often by anonymous artists – as people attempt to become familiar with an increasingly urban environment. The personal motivation for these artistic impulses is ubiquitous; it is either to beautify dilapidated urban spaces or to provide some form of social commentary in the form of paintings and tags. Far from being a new phenomenon, Street Art is in many ways a re-emergence of mankind’s earliest artistic impulses. It is largely thanks to these impulses that we have knowledge of prehistoric or extinct peoples, compelled to document stories of hunts, rituals and daily activities on cave walls.
Overlay – “to cover the surface with a decorative layer or design; revealing or connecting elements” - finds itself amongst these artistic and social events: redefining spaces and environments, both familiar and unfamiliar; documenting the past and the present. South Africa has a rich history of these artistic forms, most notably amongst the cultural histories of the Koi and San, and later the Zulu and Ndebele. The last also later used these traditions as a form of silent protest against their forced displacement by the apartheid regime, especially by using bright colours and geometric patterns to decorate their houses. Esther Mahlangu has an established reputation for pioneering and promoting traditional African techniques in contemporary art.
Trained since childhood in the Ndebele artistic tradition, she is best known for abstract works in her signature Ndebele idiom. During her long career Mahlangu has travelled extensively and exhibited with numerous international artists. In recent years her works has also come to include traces of more contemporary influences. One of the highlights of Mahlangu’s career remains the BMW she painted in the traditional Ndebele style in 1991. The work remains a prime exhibit in the BMW Art Cars Collection in Germany, alongside others by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and David Hockney.
Since her last Cape Town show she has exhibited in various countries and was also the official artist representing South Africa in Italy during the last Soccer World Championship. At seventy seven years of age, Mahlangu continues working and teaching, spending her precious time in between international exhibitions and her home in Mabhoko, Mpumalanga making art. Apart from this, Mahlangu also makes time to decorate her house in the traditional Ndebele style, attracting visitors from around the world to her village. Collectors of Esther’s work have shown increasing interest in her sculptural works and 34FineArt is delighted to include several painted objects in Overlay.
Avail yourself of this opportunity to acquire one of these works, while they are still affordable. A limited edition silkscreen print will also be available. By melding traditional artistic practices with contemporary concerns, Mahlangu has successfully expanded the traditional Ndebele craft of house decoration taught to her by her mother and grandmother into the world of fine art. Her work celebrates the rich and evolving cultural spaces of the South African landscape, and has rightly achieved a special place in the South African art world.
The exhibition takes place from 21 February– 24 March 2012 at 34FineArt, Second Floor Hills Building, Buchanan Square 160 Sir Lowry Road Woodstock. Gallery Hours: Tuesday - Friday 10:34-16:34 Saturday 10:34-13:34
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