Saturday, February 14, 2009

Old work new images.

Ceramic Installation, Market Theater Gallery (1989).
The ceramic works
that follow formed part of an installation of 30 pieces, held at the Market Theater Gallery in downtown Johannesburg in 1989. The work was in direct response to the political situation in the country (during apartheid era of the 1980s). There was a very strict ban on the media at the time - however photographs and the visual arts enjoyed some freedom; albeit locally. There was an International Cultural Boycott (instituted against all South Africans) and the work therefore could only be seen by the local community - even though numerous artists worked and exhibited whilst in exile. Here at home it was very much a situation of preaching to the converted.
Because very few people of the international ceramic community have actually seen my earlier work, I have decided to showcase a few ceramic statements sculpted during apartheid - some images are of my studio (at the institution where I taught), showing work in progress.
I have been asked to approach someone to write an article about my work for Ceramic Art and Perception. Hopefully some of these images will evoke interest whilst the article is being written.

The National Party, (ruling Party's Car of 1989). Collection JAG (Johannesburg Art Gallery).
The car is depicted boiling and looking worse for wear (taking strain), symbolic of the ruling party's endeavour to find answers in a losing battle with the ever so determined majority (International Sanctions and Boycotts). They are leading the procession of cars into an arena (a political rally of sorts before God). The cars are moving through a guard of honour, created by the left and right wing party's representatives and or pawns. On the outskirts (on the periphery of the installation) are the wild pack of dogs, smoke fired and ready to pounce and grab the spoils - they are individually animated (press moulded with hand built extensions) and reminiscent of the jackal headed Anubis (guider of the souls to the underworld - Egyptian Mythology) see images far down below.

Eugene Terre-blanche, The leader of the AWB, an extreme right wing political grouping in South Africa, whose political views were premised on the Nazi SS. They demanded a separate state within the new political dispensation, and to meet these objectives, many of them moved to a place in Central South Africa, called "Oranje" - a place where they could live side by side, share similar values; albeit one of the minority groupings in South Africa.

Conservatives, One of three cars depicting the major political groupings in South Africa, leading the procession is the National Party - the ruling party of the day, then the Conservative Party (The Conservatives - image above and below). One car represented black leaders, sellouts to the government of the day, for accepting to rule apartheid created black homeland states; organised round various ethnic groupings in designated areas, reminiscent of the present provincial system. Numerous black people, without the vote, were repatriated to these states; the ruling party's last resort to level the political playing fields and secure the majority of the land, the wealthy regions in SA for themselves (to protect minority rights).

Conservatives, Side view depicting the conservatives of the day and their offspring as Nazi youth. Take a closer view of the ossewa (ox wagon) paraphernalia, depicted as a mascot on the grill of the motorcar, reminiscent of Die Groot-trek (The Great Ox wagon journey of 1836). The Afrikaners, who objected to British rule (enforced English), moved in huge numbers in ox wagons up north to find their hinterland / promised land. The cigar in the farmers mouth is reminiscent of a barrel of a gun, whilst the woman wears a conservative hat. Every year, clad in these traditional clothing, they would attend a cultural festival at the Voortrekker Monument (built outside Pretoria). Every conservative Afrikaans speaking South African would attend the celebrations to commemorate the Day of the Covenant; God's intervention to safe them as a nation at "The battle of Blood River".

The Police,
Police motorcars were painted yellow and blue during the 1980's. The above image is reminiscent of the governments pawns of the day, the policemen and woman including informants and of course the military that enforced their presence when the ruling party declared a state of emergency, especially during major riots . Clad in copper (Copper Nazi helmet and buttocks) the piglet has a tail and horns symbolic of the devil and in it's mouth is stuffed a hot dog - see detail below.

Policeman (Detail).

Wild dogs ( Anubis inspired creatures)
On the outskirts were the pack of wild dogs (20 of them), smoke fired and ready to pounce and grab the spoils - they are individually animated (press moulded with hand built extensions) and reminiscent of the jackal headed Anubis (guider of the souls to the underworld - Egyptian Mythology)

Another pair of Wild dogs (Anubis inspired creatures); details of it's significance is explained in the caption above.

Wild Dog - closeup.

Saint George and the Dragon, (1988) Collection Carl Landsberg.

The ceramic statement depicts the ruling National Party (1980's) as the dragon like vehicle in confrontation with Saint George, the black liberation figure. He is the offspring of the acrobatic Peruvian inspired ceramic figurine (collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art), giving birth to the liberator. He is reminiscent of the boy in the movie Tin Drum, clothed in animal skins, whilst his arm is outstretched in the shape of a wooden club, ready to pounce the dragon. The Ice cream is symbolic of the boy's knighthood - god's divine intervention in support of his cause - black liberation theology.

Saint George and the Dragon, Detail (1988) Collection Carl Landsberg

The joy of a hypocrite is but for a moment, (1988), an edition of two; One in a private collection, the other in the National Gallery in Cape Town.
Earthenware ceramic sculpture; Press-moulded with hand built extensions, painted with Amaco under glaze colours, glazed and fired to 11:20 degrees, Acrylic painting in selected areas to reinforce a plastic feel. The work depicts the awkward situation of the white minority; also the government of the day - in a very compromised situation.

Working in my studio at the Technikon Witwatersrand in 1989.

Closeup of studio - work in progress in 1989.


Anonymous said...

Hi Eugene
Probably one of the most prophetic depictions of the political institutions of the day and so very sad that the apreciative audience was so limited.
Glad you are using this oportunity
to showcase this wonderfull work on an open platform.
The homelands were organised along tribal grounds which justified the process as "each individual tribe's needs" were being catered for in a specific geographical area. The relics of this process is still evident in our current provinsial system.
The great trek started in 1838 and the 100 year anniversary in 1938 led to the upsurge in Nationalistic pride. The end product which was the Nat. party win at the election of 1948

Anonymous said...

Hi Eugene, great to have access to these amazing images...I would request though, that you give some of the dimensions(sizes) of the individual pieces. It's only when you see them in context with you in the photo, one realises how large they are. Personally I would find this useful...Karen