Sculpting the personal and the political in Johann van der Schijff’s solo exhibition In a Different Time
From the 26 January to 25 February Fried Contemporary is proud to present Johann van der Schijff’s solo exhibition: In a Different Time featuring work as finely detailed in craft as it is in meaning. Described by van der Schijff as partly autobiographical, In a Different Time is a reflection on the dualities of growing up and living in South Africa where “the underlying violence of a scarred society is set off against the simple routines of my daily life, interposed with childhood memories.”
Described by art critic Mary Corrigall as a sceptical non-conformist, van der Schijff is an artist in sculpture and new media, and an associate professor at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. He holds a Master of Fine Art (new media), Frank Mohr Instituut Groningen, The Netherlands; a Master of Fine Art (sculpture), University of Cape Town; and a Bachelor of Fine Art, University of Pretoria and his sculptural/new media works have been exhibited nationally and internationally. His research interests lie in the areas of computer-aided design and manufacturing techniques and the design of interactive systems.
In 2015/2016 Van der Schijff’s I to I exhibition at the Art on Paper gallery in Johannesburg met with critical acclaim. Professor John Higgins, the Arderne Chair in Literature at UCT referred to it as “a significant contribution to the ongoing history of sculpture in South Africa.”
Emotionally charged and demanding of deep scrutiny, much of Van der Schijff’s work focuses on the effects of apartheid and the pervasiveness of violence that continues in its wake. Interactivity lies at the heart of his work and he tempts his audiences to enter into such interactions. Andrew Lamprecht describes his works as “arguments in the artistic landscape and not as mute objects that merely serve an optical aesthetic function”. While Gordon Froud, writing for the South African Art Times, notes how in presentation, “everything is finely tuned and operates as one large installation where every work speaks to every other work”.
In a Different Time shifts between larger metal and bronze pieces that speak about South African society at large, to the more contemplative hard wood sculptures that reveal more about Van der Schijff. The bigger metal and bronze works are a continuation of the themes Van der Schijff has been working with since the unveiling of the Arm-Wrestling Podium a public sculpture in Cape Town’s city centre in 2007. Dealing with power relationships, they reference the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the public foot washing phenomenon and the never-ending political jostling that is often accompanied by violence. The other works, made in a combination of European and African hard woods are more personal reflections of Van der Schijff’s daily routines and memories of youth. As individual pieces and within the context of exhibition, they hold multiple meanings:
“This play on double meaning and ambiguity flows though the entire exhibition.
I hope that it opens up an insight into my imagination and my own confrontation of the violence that is so much part of living here as I try to make sense of my own place in South Africa,” he states.