23 November 2012

Namibia: UNAM Exhibit, a Strange Show of Work

Windhoek — The University of Namibia (Unam) Visual Arts Student Exhibition, which opened at the Franco -Namibian Cultural Centre (FNCC) on Friday is a strange show of work. Firstly just about every piece on show does so under the descriptive title of 'Creative Exercise 2 or 3'.

It goes without saying that artistic endeavours are, in fact, Creative Exercises of one form or another. Gone are the mediums of drawing, painting, ceramic, sculpture, graphics et cetera, as descriptive headings. One would assume that the Unam Visual Arts community would know what the explanation is, but, for a member of the public, visiting the exhibition of works, there is not a scrap of information. But, let's start at the beginning.

Drawing, which underpins just about any form of visual art, is represented, albeit under a pseudonym. Of the works on show, only two manage to subscribe to a passing grade. It was mentioned at the opening that there is a considerable amount of drawing back at the department.

So, if those on show are the best of the best, then it might have been a wise decision to have left the rest there as well. They just do no justice to drawing or the students.

As drawing goes, this just will not do, and students will find themselves in a bind if it does not improve.

Then there is more 'Creative Exercise 2 & 3', but this time in mixed media, and this is where the quality of drawing , or lack thereof, begins to manifest itself rather badly.

With Hendrik Gariseb's 21, one has to assume that it is a canvas spray-painted in celebration of 21, whatever that figure represents, and Angelo Haak's Guitar Hero tries desperately to pick up the pace. Tatyana Jaeger's Protector does reflect a thought process in the concept and composition, but the different elements in the painting lose out because they are not integrated.

The flat black antagonistic elements, which threaten, are done in comic book fashion. And yet, the crouching figure and the cat are not at all bad. A bit of guidance in the studio could have turned it into a successful work. There are elements that can be worked on after the exhibition.

With Land Matters, however, she loses the plot completely by presenting a work with mixed signals. One sees the figure in the flattened soft drink cans, and one sees the message in the detritus, but they are not brought together in a meaningful way. The wording Our Pride sends the viewer off in a different direction.

The intention of the work is far too vague, and if this piece were to end up in the Land Matters in Art exhibition it will need some attention.

Yet some more 'Creative Exercise 2 & 3', this time with photography, of which there are quite a few images on show. It is not so much the fact that the works selected are not of a standard for an annual exhibition, but rather that digital photography now puts the medium within everyone's grasp, and Photoshop literally turns a very poor snapper into a reasonably adept potential photographer.

Unfortunately, no photographic image on display has done justice to the medium. You cannot turn a pig's ear into a silk purse, and that is why photography does not start with a digital camera!

Barton Ting's oil on canvas titled Impale (painting-Creative Exercise 2 or 3?) is a frenetic piece. The different components are scattered all over the surface of the canvas, but there is no sense of direction, no cohesion. There is no structure in the way the different elements are supposed to co-exist, and that is due almost entirely to the lack of direction and guidance.

The basics are there, it now needs some tutoring input to get the student off the mark.

Limson's Portrait, pva on paper piece is too much experimentation before the basics have been mastered. Not a good way to make progress. Then the textile designs. They are all pretty much of a muchness with nothing extraordinary to talk about. They will be recycled or used to make up garments or tablecloths, whichever suits.

Fashion Design, and there is a substantial amount of this 'Creative Exercise(s)', overwhelms this show to its detriment. What does strike one is that the need for drawing AND swatches, seems no longer to be necessary in what appears to be a very popular course! It is, in fact so popular that it had the Saturday afternoon after the opening all to itself! It has been the case in previous years as well, which begs the question; will painting, or photography, or indeed ceramics, be allotted an extra day to demonstrate their popularity, or is this reserved exclusively for Fashion Design?

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