To stage a group exhibition on the premise that the artists all share the same geographic location is problematic. At best it might display a unified creative engagement with localised issues, at worst appear as a means of encouraging artists from an under-appreciated region. From Here to There, an exhibition of 15 KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) artists, curated by Nontobeko Ntombela and Storm Janse van Rensburg, treads a path safely between these two strands.
The exhibition’s press release states that KZN’s art scene is “often marginalised”, but the show does not intentionally explore possible reasons. The selected works also provide few clues. Of the trends manifest in these works none seem strikingly localised. Langa Magwa, Themba Shibase, Gabisile Nkosi, Clive Sithole, Vulindlela Nyoni and Zama Dunywa engage in issues of identity and heritage; Michael Croesser, Rike Sitas, Carla da Cruz, Vaughn Sadie, Peter Rippon and Lindsay Phillips display a quirky conceptual flavour. Other arrangements are possible. Bronwen Vaughan-Evans, Sitas, da Cruz, Nyoni and Phillips all use a multitude of smaller pieces to produce something bigger; Magwa, Shibase and Sithole are better viewed in conjunction with photographer Angela Buckland because of the abstract textural quality underpinning their work. And so on. Thing is, while it is possible to see affinities, the artists on show all possess their own autonomy. There is also no obvious visual aesthetic that binds them to their geographic location and it is limiting to place too much store in bogus categories. After all, Phillips, Vaughan-Evans, Magwa, Sitas, Shibase, Sithole, Da Cruz and Dunywa all use brown.
One artist whose work exhibits no bogus associations is Doung Anwar Jahangeer. In his video work City Walk, the artist walks along a pedestrian path next to a Durban highway pouring a luminous pink powder onto the ground along his route. The work exhibited a contemporary societal engagement that made it stand out from the rest.