Installation Artists Employing Space Evocatively

In this series we’re exploring fearlessly authentic art, the kind that can’t and won’t be contained by a frame or canvas.

From bold performances to intricate installations, conceptual video works to large-scale public pieces – over the next few weeks we’ll be bringing you the best unconventional artists who push the boundaries of their medium to create art that is uncompromising in its originality.

In this series we’ve looked at performance artvideo art, and street art, and now we’ll be exploring installation art. A few South African artists have gained wide local and international acclaim for their exceptional installation works that imaginatively comment on our contemporary experiences. Artists are no strangers to the significance that objects, materials, and space carry in various socio-political and historical contexts. But there are very few who know how to harness these elements to create something that is not only coherent but highly evocative and impactful. These 6 artists each employ installation pieces to stunning and thought-provoking effect. Have a scroll:

Dineo Seshee Bopape

Dineo Seshee Bopape’s work focuses on the ambiguous gaps between things, the fragmented post-modern experience that she calls our “collective global schizophrenic now”. She is interested in notions of ephemerality, disrupted narratives, performed stories and fragments of language, dismantled sites of memory, and temporal expectation. These ideas are reflected in her work by the negative spaces between objects and elements in her dense sculptural installations. Inherently anti-linear, her installations provide the props or fragile nexus points around which multiple narratives and ideas can form and dissolve.

More at seshee.blogspot.co.za.

Fearlessly Authentic Art Dineo Bopape

Slow–co–ruption installation view | Image courtesy of the artist

Fearlessly Authentic Art Dineo Bopape

Slow–co–ruption installation view | Image courtesy of the artist

We need the memories of all our members installation view | Image courtesy of the artist

We need the memories of all our members installation view | Image courtesy of the artist

Kemang Wa Lehulere

Highly acclaimed and reticent artist, Kemang Wa Lehulere’s work explores the malleability of history. Incorporating elements of drawing, performance and found objects in his work, Kemang’s large-scale installations provide the fulcrum around which the other pieces hinge. Using an accumulative repertoire of symbolic objects (his found ceramic dogs are now a recognisable hallmark of his work) Kemang’s installations pay homage to overlooked moments in history that bear both intricate personal significance and form an important part of the overarching narrative of black history.

More of his work here.

Red Winter in Gugulethu installation from The Knife Eats at Home

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Cosmic Interluded Orbit installation from The Knife Eats at Home

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The Knife Eats at Home installation view showing Kisses from the future or Days to come | Images courtesy of Stevenson Gallery

History Will Break Your Heart installation view showing Another Homeless Song (for RRR Dhlomo) | Image by Mia van der Merwe

James Webb

One normally says that installations should be seen to be properly experienced, but in the case of James Webb’s work, they must be heard. Incorporating a sophisticated combination of media, including audio, installation and text, James’ work makes use of ellipsis, displacement and “détournement” (French for rerouting or hijacking) in order to explore the nature of belief and the dynamics of communication in our contemporary world. His sound installations captivate in their immense simplicity, imbuing the ordinary with magic and simultaneously rendering the profound plain. Underpinned by a wry sense of humour, James’ works revel in the unexpected without ever becoming gimmicky.

More at theotherjameswebb.com or blankprojects.com/artists/james-webb.

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This is my voice, but these are not my words (centre), and Imaginary Appetites (left and right) for Xenagogue exhibition

Fearlessly Authentic Art james-webb-1

Al Madat | Images courtesy of the artist

Haroon Gunn-Salie

Working primarily in site-specific interventions, public art, and dialogue-based collaboration, Haroon Gunn-Salie’s work takes on an installation-like quality through the way in which he very consciously creates and situates his works in relation to space. This follows the core thematic concern of his work, which aims to cast light on the current transitional phase of South Africa defined by the history of colonialism and apartheid. Without falling into revolutionary rhetoric, Haroon’s installations and interventions are thoughtful comments and reflections on our society, gripped in the throes of trying to make sense of its past.

See more at goodman-gallery.com/artists/haroongunnsalie.

Fearlessly Authentic Art haroon-gunn-salie-1

Amongst Men in collaboration with James Matthews

Fearlessly Authentic Art haroon-gunn-salie

Amongst Men in collaboration with James Matthews

Fearlessly Authentic Art haroon-gunn-salie

Soft Vengeance installation view

Fearlessly Authentic Art haroon-gunn-salie

History After Apartheid installation view | Images courtesy of Goodman Gallery

Wim Botha

“My works are a process of distillations,” Wim Botha explains. “They attempt to reduce all-encompassing ideas and universal factors down to their core idea.” Using a multitude of sculptural and architectural elements, Wim’s large-scale immersive installations mix classical elements like marble, bronze and oil paint with ultra-contemporary materials such as polystyrene, pine wood, cardboard, and fluorescent lights. His dramatic installations evoke the awe of the Romantic sublime, but the deconstructed, fragmented elements undermine this, giving rise to ruin at the moment of triumph. This powerful juxtaposition creates a perfect tension between the lightness of the sculptural forms and the weight of art history.

More at stevenson.info/artist/wim-botha

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Linear Perspectives installation view

Linear Perspectives installation view

Linear Perspectives installation view

Mary Sibande

Mary Sibande’s now iconic Sophie sculptural installations gained widespread acclaim for their simple yet highly effective critique of the stereotypical depictions of women as constructions of identity in a post-colonial South African context. Mary uses fabric and costume as a means to challenge and subvert colonial power dynamics in her work. Referencing Victorian dress and the rigid notion of femininity associated with that period, her installations evoke but invert the ‘master-slave’ dynamic, becoming modern monuments to emancipated black femininity. Through the character Sophie, the garbs of servitude – both to European notions of beauty and colonial suppression – have been transformed into something superhuman. Sophie’s costumes flow out from her, occupying gallery and figurative spaces that were previously denied to black women.

See more at gallerymomo.com/artist/mary-sibande/.

Cry havoc installation view

Wish you were here installation view

A reversed retrogress. scene 2 installation view

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