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The Making of an African Master: on at Gallery Momo Cape Town

Gallery MOMO is proud to present a group exhibition featuring George Pemba, Dumile Feni, George Hallett, and Leonard Matsoso. Each of these artists has been labelled a “master” in his own regard. But what makes a master’s work? Is it the craftsman’s skill? Is it the political moment surrounding the oeuvre? Must it be avant-garde, socially and formally? Must it be made at the height of an artist’s successful career, or does mastery spawn from suffering? Is the cultural significance of a work determined by the public, or by galleries, museums, and auction houses? If the space between an object and an art object is difficult to determine, the space between an artist and a historically significant artist is all the more elusive.

The works in this show meet at a unique nexus of past and present. On the one hand, they are archival documents. The works of Dumile or Pemba belong to a specific historical context. Their works and biographies speak to issues of oppression, censorship, destitution, and exile in the context of the apartheid regime. On the other hand, the images and messages in these works continue to resonate with contemporary audiences. Not only do they speak to broader issues of representation, corporeality, materiality, and aesthetics, but these works shed light on social and political conditions that might not look so distant from the so-called past.

Typically, the role of the gallery in the art world is to advocate for the new, the up-and-coming, and the never-before-seen. The curation of artwork twenty years old or older normally falls under the jurisdiction of large-scale museums. However, This unique retrospective will cover over forty years of work by South African artists, some of which has never been displayed outside private collections. Join us for a reexamination of these deeply accomplished bodies of work, as well as an inquiry into the ways in which past masters return to make our present understandings of art more legible.

For more information, please contact Keely at: | +27 (21) 424 5150

Author: Gallery Momo

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The masses of our people: reflections on Ricky Ayanda Dyaloyi

Dyaloyi (2011). The power of the powerless faces the fury of the fearless. Mixed media on canvas    
Dyaloyi captures urban, mostly township, scenes without descending into stereotypes. He conveys the energy of a place, a moment; and then throws in absurdist elements like the suspended umbrellas hovering over the crowd in Calling from a distant plain.
The paintings I found most compelling were those depicting what politicians like to call ‘the masses of our people’ as they migrate, wait, work, commute and dance.
The scale and the detail of the work requires a certain vantage point – with my tendency to peer at art at close range, the ever-exacting gallerist Monna Mokoena choreographed my viewing, directing me to the appropriate distance to view these intricate, mostly large pieces.
As I look at this work, Helen Sebidi comes to mind. This might seem like a strange association, but it occurs to me that Dyaloyi is her urban, realist colleague; with his claustrophobic canvasses rendered with a touch of the mystical. The power of the powerless faces the fury of the fearless is in this mould.
There is also striking social commentary: an audience rapt, waiting –  facing over sized microphone and speakers – Where will the wind blow this time. And how much champagne will our leaders drink on our behalf from the stage? I wonder.
According to the artist:My artwork documents the people I see around me in South Africa, I simply comment on life as I know it. I usually comment on society, poverty, the dilemma of industrialization, urbanization, irony of daily living and middle class values. I work figuratively to illustrate messages and historical events. I hope these artistic images will bring about understanding amongst the nations and also facilitate social change.”
Sex, power and money was a lowlight for me in its explicit portrayal of the toxic sexuality that often accompanies migration and urbanisation. The painting shows a predictably scantily clad beweaved woman, riding a pig. It’s bizarre enough to be interesting, but it is rather too obvious in its intentions.
Ricky Ayanda Dyaloyi was born in Cape Town. He took art classes at the Community Arts Programme. His art has been shown at various galleries, especially the Everard Read in Cape Town, and now Gallery Momo in Johannesburg. Until 21 May.
Image: Everard Read Cape Town.