Anna Van der Ploeg’s exhibition at David Krut Projects, a breath of fresh air on the contemporary art scene in South Africa

 Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor

If you went to check out visual artist Anna van der Ploeg’s website right now, hoping to find much about her background, you will probably come out not wiser. This is because this much travelled artist believes that by looking at her work that should be enough to tell you enough about her.

“I believe that viewing my art must be enough to tell you who I am. The background then becomes irrelevant,” the artist said. This was van der Ploeg’s response to a remark by David Krut, owner of David Krut Projects. Krut had suggested that Van Der Ploeg is a true artist in that it is through viewing her work that one gets to know her.

But the truth is you need to engage with her work more intensely in order for you to get to understand the narrative and perhaps her. This is because her practice is multi-layered. It requires actual concentration on the part of the viewer for you to travel with her in her painterly journey. It is not the kind of work that you can just give a mere glance and immediately become conversant with it. This is most probably the most articulate uniqueness in her practice.

However, the work given enough attention, reveals itself in a remarkable way that allows you to engage with it in a meaningful way.  Through her work on exhibit, you will meet various characters seated around a dinner table in an intimate conversation. I guess here it is the responsibility of the viewer to interpret the nature and direction the conversation characters are involved in.  This is where an intense concentration on the part of the viewer is required. However you will love what you see in Omens in hot bacon contradictions. The exhibition is pleasing to the eye, and you may even find intellectual stimulation If, you care to spend more of your time engaging with these prints on display.

“David Krut Projects is pleased to present Omens in hot bacon contradictions, a new body of work by Anna van der Ploeg. The unassuming table has long been the subject of Van der Ploeg’s work; through oil paintings, sculptural woodblocks, etching editions and unique paintings on paper, this innocent object of functionality and site of bounty and beauty in art history is brought into a disquieting arena of dinner table talk and capricious human interactions,” the curators at David Krut Projects state in their curatorial note accompanying Omens in hot bacon contradictions.

 But Anna the person, we got a little bit more about her this past Saturday.

Although she comes out as someone who does not like talking about herself, preferring that her artworks should be the vehicle in which people interact with her, when prompted by a visiting Indian artist to perform a poem, she put herself in a vulnerable position. It was a situation that was clearly unplanned and would unsettle even the most experienced poet I have seen on stage.

But van der Ploeg composed her posture. Took a few seconds of thinking. She smiled as she responded that she had a poem to render.  Like a professional performance poet, who had been challenged by a member of an audience in front of thousands of people, she lunched into the beautiful verses of The Art of Disappearing.  

Even when during the recitation she seemed for a few seconds to lose her track, she however with dignity recomposed herself within a few seconds of awkward silence and finished the poem as calmly as possible. For that she received an applause from the appreciative audience. Then someone whispered to me that the visual artist was in fact also a poet who wrote her own material .  “I thought she was going to recite her own material though as I heard that she (Naomi Shihab Nye) is a poet who writes her own poems,” the whisperer said.

But whether she performed her own poetry or Art of Disappearance, van der Ploeg through this act, demonstrated to all gathered that she is indeed a multi-faceted artist who can rise to the occasion on short notice. If the situation demands.

This was at the opening of her debut exhibition at David Krut Gallery in Parkwood, Johannesburg on Saturday, May 20, 2023. When she gave her speech after being introduced by Amé Bell a director at David Krut Projects, who also told visitors that it was a pleasure for the team at David Krut Printmaking Workshop, working with van der Ploeg in the creation of the prints from her paintings, we got to understand her as a person.

A well-travelled artist who has been in residencies around the world, including at David Krut Projects in Johannesburg, Brussels in Belgium and in Japan, among others Van der Ploeg’s work indeed speaks for itself as it marks her as a breath of fresh air on the South African art scene in general and the genre of painting in particular.  The works on display also demonstrate the complexity around her practices as it is multi-layered, reflecting the various experiences and experimentation probably gained at these various residencies around the world. The prints made from her paintings are indeed a stunning pieces of work to view and engage. The artist besides being a painter is also a print maker, having majored in printmaking during her studies.

I first came across van der Ploeg in 2022, when I noticed her working on her art, alone in the space that used to house the David Krut Bookstore, attached to the David Krut Print Making Workshop at the Arts on Main building in Maboneng. I took a chance of risking disturbing her and had a short chat with her. In that short conversation, she told me that she had completed her masters’ degree in fine art in Belgium. That is after acquiring a BA (HONS) degree in fine art at Michaelis at the University of Cape Town before she moved to Belgium for further studies.  Van der Ploeg also said that she was an artist in residency at the David Krut Projects.

Some of the works she created then and some of that she created recently, are part of this exhibition. Another edition of Omens in hot bacon contradictions, will also travel to New York for a season at the David Krut Gallery in the US.

Omens in hot bacon contradictions, is currently on at David Krut Projects Gallery located at 151 Jan Smuts Avenue, Johannesburg.

Please share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *