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.
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