By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor
When I arrived at an address in Parkhurst, North of Johannesburg, on Saturday, August 7, 2021, that I knew Guns & Rain, a progressive young gallery that focuses on showcasing contemporary artists from the southern African region to be at, I was anxious because I was late. But when I saw no cars parked outside the house/gallery, as expected at an event like that, I was even more worried.
After asking a car guard who was assisting to park cars three houses away from where I knew the gallery to be, he told me the gallery had moved to 6th Street. I doubted and hesitated, but a friend of his saw what I was not saying verbally, but my facial expression was betraying me, and he confirmed the car guard’s statement. “Who are looking for? If you are looking for Julie, yes she has moved the gallery to 6th street indeed,” he said. I then knew that was it and rushed to the address given, even more worried about being so late arriving at an event one hour after the opening.
And off course I got there in 10 minutes time, No. 72, 6th Street Parkhurst, where Guns&Rain moved to in February 2021. I rushed straight to the registration desk on arrival to undergo the mandatory Covid-19 protocols as I quickly as I could. Big mistake because I almost splashed half a bottle of sanitiser on this poor guy who was standing next to me waiting to register as well. Embarrassed about what could have been a disaster at the opening of an exhibition, the first one to attend after so many months due to the Covid-situation, I lamely apologized to the young gentleman. He remained calm, but said nothing. I was further embarrassed and found no place to hide. I quickly moved into the venue to view the artworks, but also to run away from the embarrassing scene.
For a moment, however I forgot about the incident as I found myself with my eyes glued on the white walls of this beautiful new home of Guns &Rain. The art pieces on the walls are beautiful, inviting to view and begging to be taken home by a discerning collector.
But then as I thought well, these are beautiful pieces that can be displayed tastefully in one’s home, I found myself glued on one particular piece by an artist called Raymond Fuyana. This is a beautiful oil on board painting. The artist does not shy away from using bold colours to express himself. It is a piece populated in a tasteful manner with several features and characters. An animal that looks like a goat is immersed in water up to its neck. Do not worry, it is not drowning and I knew this because not far from the goat or whatever this animal is, there is a man seated on a couch that seems to be on top of the water, and this man and his couch are so chilled as If to say to a viewer relax. We are not drowning.
As you can imagine, I was so taken and absorbed by this piece to an extent that I had momentarily forgotten about the sanitizer incident at the registration table only a few minutes earlier. But guess what, I was not off the hook. Not yet anyway.
“Excuse me Edward, Raymond needs to speak about his art piece,” a familiar voice behind me firmly requested me to shift as I was obviously blocking everyone’s view behind me. That was Julie Taylor, the gallery manager and owner who had brought Raymond and three other people that included well known broadcaster Eusebius McKaiser and art teacher Rene to this particular art piece for Raymond to speak about his motivation.
Can you believe it, Raymond was the very same guy whose shirt I nearly messed with a sanitizer at the entrance. I really felt like it was not my day. I summoned the courage to though to overcome my embarrassment and listened to Raymond’s wise words. But wait, we all had to listen to him through an interpreter.
Can you imagine how relieved I was. And this is not only because an interpreter Rene from Artist Proof Studio where she first met Raymond as his art teacher, was on hand to assist us illiterates when it comes to sign language. For me it was more than that, but for the realization of the fact that in fact Raymond was not angry with me when he kept quiet when I apologised for the sanitizer incident earlier on.
He simply did not hear me because he does not speak my language. I happily joined the group and listened to Raymond attentively as he took us through this particular piece and his art practice. As he spoke I also noticed that this particular piece, like others by the other participating artists, was already gone as confirmed by the red sticker.
“In my work, the theme of water is dominant. I like water. This piece is informed by the visions of my dreams. This is about my childhood memory and the things that I saw while in a dream. In fact all my art works are as a result of dreams that are connected to my childhood memories and experiences,” he told us.
After this presentation, I moved on to other art pieces, and again besides the other beautiful art works produced by these participating artists, I found myself again drawn to Raymond’s pieces, and all of them are populated by different characters, and water is the dominant feature in all of them.
But then I soon realized that I was clearly not the only one drawn to this artist’ work as confirmed by more red stickers on more of his pieces. And as more people came, I also found myself joined by others in being drawn to this young artist’s work. For example, I could not help to see that an acquaintance of mine, Liesle Barrath, an art collector on her own right, seemed to be drawn to Raymond’s work too. I left her alone after the usual exchange of greetings.
The point I am making is, this young painter, called Raymond, born in 1995 in Zimbabwe, but now based in South Africa, has a way with his surrealist paintings that immediately connect with viewers. And this is not to take away the works of others that are on display here, as they too seem to have space in the collector’s heart, as quite a number of them already were bearing red speakers on the very first day of the exhibition,, suggesting that they were bought on the very first day of the exhibition opening. But Raymond clearly stole the show on the opening, according to what I witnessed on Saturday.
The other participating artists are Isheanesu Dondo, Odirile Khune Motsiri, Hannah Macfarlane, and Boitumelo Motau. The Fresh Voices exhibition indeed has fresh voices that bring fresh perspectives in contemporary art expression in South Africa.
For those looking for collecting quality art works from young fresh talent, there are still good works that have not been collected yet, and the prices are very reasonable too. But you have to hurry up as quite a number of these stunning works already have red stickers.
As for my humiliating false start, by the time I left, everything was long forgotten as in fact I had a good “chat” with Raymond during the viewing experience, even though I could not understand a lot of what he was trying to explain to me using sign language. At least he handed me a piece of paper that explained what he was frustratingly trying with limited success through sign language to a hopelessly sign language illiterate like me.
.Fresh Voices, the 4th edition of this annual event on the Johannesburg visual art calendar, runs until August 18, 2021, 72 6th Street, Parkhurst. If you could not make the opening, you’re welcome to make a COVID-conscious gallery visit by appointment.