The forest is a place of mystery. Of danger. Of beauty and ugliness. Of magic.
So is In Silva, the art exhibition curated by Dineke van der Walt, the second winner of the Fulcrum Suzanne Shaw Creative Award, which has opened at the Kalashnikovv Gallery in Johannesburg.
The exhibition features works by several contemporary South African artists, including Allen Laing, Anastasia Pather, Diane Victor, Gina Waldman, Jaco van Schalkwyk, Maja Maljević, Mandy Coppes-Martin, Richard (Specs) Ndimande, Rosemarie Marriott and Tsoku Maela.
“In Silva means ‘in the forest’. I imagine it as a place where almost everything – or anything – is possible. So the forest, in stories, usually tends to be somewhat dangerous, but it can also be quite transformational,” said Van der Walt at the exhibition opening.
“You’re quite often confronted by monsters, which I think you might see here as well, but then you have the choice to decide how you deal with them. And whatever you decide, will decide your character.
“Your character as a person, but also your character in the story, because In Silva is the setting for a visual narrative. So it only exists with you being in it.”
The exhibition is sponsored by the Fulcrum Group, which launched the award competition in 2016 together with the Bag Factory Artists’ Studios, to identify and mentor outstanding young South African curators.
The programme is named for the late Suzanne Shaw, a passionate art lover, part-time curator and Fulcrum employee, who died tragically in a car accident in 2015.
Shaw passed away a few days before an exhibition she was curating at Fulcrum’s offices opened to the public, Fulcrum’s head of brand, Clodagh da Paixao, told the audience at the opening.
“Su’s love for the arts was instrumental in her bringing a love and appreciation for arts to the culture of the Fulcrum team, So, therefore, we put together the Suzanne Shaw Creative Award … to celebrate the life of Su,” Da Paixao said.
She acknowledged Shaw’s son Luke, who was present at the exhibition opening with his girlfriend.
“Thank you for letting us share your mom’s passion for the arts, to bring it to more people,” she said. “I think what we’re seeing tonight, what Dineke has curated, we’ve made Fulcrum proud and we’ve made Su proud.”
Madeleine Selmer-Olsen, head of research and development at Business and Arts South Africa (BASA), said the exhibition is “a really wonderful example of the kind of work BASA encourages, and the kind of thing we support”.
“We’re all about encouraging mutually beneficial partnerships between business and the arts, so that society and business have greater understanding and appreciation of the arts, and also so that the arts can be more sustainable,” she said.
Bag Factory Artists’ Studios director Candice Allison congratulated Van der Walt on the exhibition.
“I’m so excited to see this kind of support being given to young curators in South Africa. There’s not often in a curator’s career, especially when first starting out, that you’re given the opportunity and freedom to play, to experiment, and to be creative without any institutional or commercial constraints … Dineke van der Walt has done just that,” Allison said.
Said Van der Walt: “For me it’s been such a wonderful journey, and it’s been incredible to work with so many passionate people – people who are passionate about art, passionate about this award and passionate to create opportunities for young curators.”
She continued: “The incredible team of artists I’ve collaborated with for In Silva each bring a unique and very, very strong perspective into this space, which I’m sure you’ll see if you start exploring.
“So I think the only thing missing is for someone to start reading it, someone to go around and find the connections, find the narrative threads – see for yourself what’s out there. Because each artwork in itself already has something to say, but it will completely change with you coming into this space and trying to find the meaning.
“And I think that’s also why visual narrative is so important, because there can never be only one story this way; it will change each time that someone comes into this space, and it will change each time you come into this space, I think, as well.”
In Silva will be exhibited at the Kalashnikovv Gallery, 70 Juta Street, Braamfontein, until 1 September 2018.