Art Beyond

Major David Koloane Career Survey Opens at Iziko South African National Gallery

The Iziko South African National Gallery, with the support of Goodman Gallery, are pleased to present A Resilient Visionary: Poetic Expressions of David Koloane– an exhibition of the works of South African artist, David Nthubu Koloane (born 1938), curated by Thembinkosi Goniwe.

The exhibition profiles an extensive selection of artworks by David Koloane, which attest to his incredible contribution to the advancement of South African visual arts during and after apartheid. This exhibition traces Koloane’s artistic trajectory, helping to shed light on his creative and intellectual endeavours over the course of a 40-year career.

At the centre of A Resilient Visionary: Poetic Expressions of David Koloane is Koloane’s unique aesthetic and visual vocabulary. Through his expressive, evocative and poetic work, Koloane has interrogated the socio-political and existential human condition, using the urban life of Johannesburg, a disparate city constitutive of suburbia and townships, as his subject matter. This is a Johannesburg that Achille Mbembe and Sarah Nuttall dub the elusive metropolis, owing to its enduring restlessness, influx, mutation, affluence, indigence, ambivalence and challenges. Koloane’s representations of Johannesburg are populated with images of cityscapes, townships, street life, jazz musicians, traffic jams, ladies of the night, migration, refugees, dogs, and birds among others. Imaginatively treated, through the medium of painting, drawing, assemblage, printmaking and mixed media, Koloane’s scenes are a blend of exuberant and sombre, discernible and opaque pictorial narratives.

Underlying these quotidian depictions which define Koloane’s artistic grammar is his search for what it means to be a modern black subject under colonialism, apartheid and the new democratic order. The result is a body of work which largely reflects Koloane’s own experience and knowledge of the precarious state of being or non-being, black and human, dehumanised and rehumanised.

In bringing this work together, the exhibition A Resilient Visionary: Poetic Expressions of David Koloane bears testament to the artist as both witness and participant in the ongoing transformative struggle to make the (art) world a more hospitable place for black artists. The exhibition is also a celebration of Koloane’s contribution to South Africa’s national and cultural struggle, bestowing, in the words of Steve Biko: “the greatest possible gift” an artist can give its subject: “a more human face.” It is this gift that Koloane has shared with the world at large, a gift he continues to espouse at the age of eighty-one years. And it is his creative and intellectual gift in the form of artworks and written excerpts that this exhibition presents.

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