NMAG regularly invites exhibition scouts worldwide to share their views on art exhibitions showcasing young talent, enabling you to participate in that experience however remote you might be. Cape Town scout Lambi Chibambo recently visited the graduate exhibition of the Michaelis School of Fine Arts in Cape Town, South Africa and highlight the work of artists Kirsten MacKrill, Thandiwe Msebenzi and Rory Emmett.
The Michaelis graduate show never falls short of providing the audience with an all-round enlightening and innovative range of artworks. It’s continuously fascinating to witness how each student interprets and expresses their thoughts, feelings, emotions and portrays them through their craft. If this were a better world, I would love to share a hologram version of the exhibition; sadly, technology and I are not those kind of friends. Nonetheless, picking a few artists’ work to share was a tough choice to say the least.
I recall one art piece by Deborah Weber that really imprinted itself at the back of my retinas. It was not so much something that traumatised me or left me feeling entangled in a web of confusion or distaste but rather, commanded my attention. It felt as though in a room full of people you, and you alone, were having an intense conversation with the masked individual. Their energy was directed towards you. Drawing from the raw emotion of recent art-student movements such as Rhodes Must Fall and Open Stellenbosch, the Ubulungiswa/Justice Collaboration, it captured the essence and significance of such an important historical and social period in the country.
Another piece that really struck me was work by Siwa Mgoboza. At first, I felt confused and almost frustrated by the artwork. My mind was uncomfortable and my inability to connect with his work made me want to disregard it all together. However, in retrospect, I just needed to allow my mind not to be so complacent by looking for a simplistic pre-packaged answer. The juxtaposition of each element forced me to push my imagination and construct the images for myself, somewhat like a visual crossword. His use of various Shweshwe (traditional South African material) prints highlighted the personal aspect to his pieces as the artwork aimed to examine the concept of identity and what it means to be African: past, present and future.
That for me is the beauty that art possesses. Like a mirror, it reflects our environment and thoughts forcing us to dabble in certain areas of thought that we sometimes may not usually want to venture into. You can’t un-know or un-see something. Like it or not, to some extent you will consciously or unconsciously engage with what you have absorbed through sensory stimulation.
Mikayla Humphries pieces seemed so lifelike that it would come as no surprise if someone had mistaken them for an edible installation. Short of almost licking the artwork, one could hardly stop gazing at these pieces. Her vision is well executed by her choice and use of natural materials which showcased the potential consequences of mankind’s disregard for the environment and contribution to the decrease in biodiversity.
Xanthe Somers sculptures were also a stand out. They summed up the weight of living and more so often whom and what is deemed memorable within society. Her sculptures explore how the loss of memory (be it personal, social or historical) can result in a loss of identity for not only an individual but a community as well. There was a slight sombreness about these sculptures as their focus was more on the notion of human suffering in need of preservation as opposed to a memorial or monument.
Time and time again, the students from Michaelis School of fine art have raised the bar. Their graduate exhibition is an event that should be marked on every calendar from now until kingdom come.