A group exhibition, Crumbs, has opened at the Stellenbosch GUS gallery. It features the work of five final-year Stellenbosch University Fine Arts students. They are Olivia Bevan, Annamieke Engelbrecht, Paul Marais, Simonn Marais and Wenike Smit. Crumbs combines these students’ practical work about their area of interest. Themes that they explore include education, identity, sound, escapism and language.
As final-year students, the department’s artists are expected to exhibit their work once a term in groups of five. According to Paul Marais, who also helped curate the exhibition, their group was scheduled to showcase their work last. “As the ‘leftover crumbs’ of the class, we decided to call ourselves the crumbs, hence the name of the exhibition,” he said.
The name also symbolises each artist’s attempt to crumble their chosen subjects and to break it down into various art forms:
Bevan’s work consists of collagraph (a process where different mediums are attached to wood or cardboard) and printed art on fabric. Both are affordable mediums, that explore accessible education.
“I looked at how spaces like the gallery and art schools can become more accessible and inclusive to everyone,” she said. Her work also imagines educational spaces that do not yet exist.
Engelbrecht’s work is a series of self-portraits, which includes paintings, sculptures and video footage. A character that she used to conceal her identity also features in this series. This character deals with her uncomfortableness of being looked at or having her photo taken.
Marais’ Night Drive series includes paintings that capture his ritual of trips in his car at night. “I wanted to capture the feeling of driving by myself, the sounds in the car and the lights,” he said. He uses sound as a source to do so.
His work The Empisal KH-710, which includes paintings and sound pieces of his mother’s knitting machine, represents labour, industry and his mother:
“I wanted to capture the sound [of the machine], but also my mother’s hard work. I wanted to capture the movement, the emotion and the joy that she experiences while working with this machine.”
Marais’ series of digital photographs portrays students during nights out, and the unhealthy mechanisms they use to cope with anxiety.
“My angle is capturing the externalist escapist sub-culture of Stellenbosch, within their dystopian utopian space. So, the photos are about people escaping their reality within their constructed space,” she said.
Smit’s series of paintings, which portray the Afrikaans poem Bitterbessie Dagbreek by Ingrid Jonker, investigates translation. “This project is about how certain meanings are lost through translation,” she said.
Each painting in the series symbolises a word, which was first translated from Jonker’s poem. Smit was inspired to create this series by the language barrier that she experienced as an Afrikaans student in Stellenbosch.
Crumbs was exhibited at the Stellenbosch GUS gallery until 28 April 2017.
-Tania Heyns and Paula-Ann Smit