Art event Open Studios Joburg promising to be a vibrant affair for art enthusiasts and collectors

A media launch of this event on Tuesday was a precursor to the two day art affair on May 28-39, 2022 in Johannesburg.

By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor

When the idea of the Idea of Open Studios Joburg were launched 2021 by Meta Foundation, they attracted a significant number of audiences. It could be because when that window of opportunity opened for people to go out after a long period of isolation due to the global pandemic Covid-19, some may have felt that they needed to go out and connect with other people after that prolonged isolation from the rest of the world. That is one way of looking at the success of that launch as masses of people moved from one arts hub in inner city to Johannesburg to another. August House teemed with visitors who viewed art and artists in their studios  where they displayed  their creations, works still in progress , while others were finished and ready to be purchased, and so was The Bag Factory Studios in Newtown, and Victoria Yards, east of Johannesburg CBD.

The second iteration later in the year did not attract the same crowds, and one reason could be that it happened at the same time as the FNB Art Joburg, resulting in too many events to attend in one city, spreading the art loving crowd of Johannesburg thin.

The organisers this time around, seem to have learned from that experience, and they have certainly perfected their concept. This time  Open Studios Joburg is not competing with no other major events, and it is bound to attract art loving crowds again.

And the people who attend this event seem to be not necessarily the same as those seen at FNB Art Joburg or Turbine Art Fair, or Online Latitudes Art Fair, three of the major art events happening in Johannesburg every year.

“May be initially the art fairs may have regarded us as a competitor, but actually the people we attract are not those that necessarily attend art fairs. The idea of Open Studios Joburg is to attract new audiences for art and therefore develop new collectors. In fact in the long run, we are assisting in growing audiences for the ar fairs,” said Meta Foundation director Sara Hallat in answer to a question from CITYLIFE/ARTS on Tuesday, 17, May 2022, as she took the media around three of the participating studios, August House, Victoria Yards and The Bag Factory Studios. The media event was a fore runner to the event actual event, which will take place over two days on May28 and May 29, 2022..

And this time around, it looks like Open Studios Joburg is attracting a a huge number of attendees.

Kirsty Niehaus from Nandos and Candice Alison from Bag Factory

“As of today, we have registered 700 people who have confirmed that they are attending, and we hope to attract more people. Currently we have around 100 artists participating. These are artists drawn from the participating studios as well as independent artists who applied to participate that we have selected. The idea is to be as inclusive as possible, and not telling artists what kind of art works they must display during the Open Studios Joburg.

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And so far, it looks like the quality of the works that will be part of the exhibition is promising to meet the expectations of audiences attending this year’s Open Studios event.

The media was taken on a tour of three artists’ studios,  abstract artist  Simone Marie Farah ‘s studio at Victoria Yards,  Sam Nhlengethwa’s studio at August House and Wezile Harmans at Bag Factory Artist Studios in Newtown.

Simone Marie Farah

Farah is a South African artist of Lebanese descent, practicing in Johannesburg. She has exhibited works with a number of South African galleries including: In Toto, The Henry George Gallery and Julie Miller African Contemporary. Internationally Simone’s work has been presented in Italy, Switzerland, Spain, The USA, Lebanon and The UAE. Although primarily self-taught, Simone studied the techniques of the Renaissance Masters in Florence, Italy, and incorporates these processes and philosophies into her work.Her paintings present realities that imply a deeper evaluation of the human experience. Geometries, erosion and informal patterns address questions of origin, and how abstract art exists apart from decorative traditions.

“I come from a corporate background and went into art practice as a result of tht death of my father (in (2013), an event which drove me into depression and to deal with the trauma of the oss and to heal I turned into art. But I have always drawn as a child and even took a year studying art at Michaelis (at the Univeristy of Cape Town). I have been practicing as an artist for the past seven years and for four years I have been based here at Victoria yards,” Farah  said.

Sam Nhlengethwa

Sam Nhlengethwa was born in 1955 and grew up in Ratanda location in nearby Heidelberg. In the 1980s, he moved to Johannesburg where he honed his practice at the renowned Johannesburg Art Foundation under its founder Bill Ainslie. Nhlengethwa is one of the founders of the legendary Bag Factory in Newtown, in the heart of the city, where he used to share studio space with fellow greats of this pioneering generation of South African artists, such as David Koloane and Pat Mautloa. Heis studio has has been located at #augusthouse since 2018 Nhlengethwa’s work has featured on a number of international biennales: in 2003, his work was included in the 8th Havana Biennale, Southern African Stories: A Print Collection, the 12th International Cairo Biennale in 2010, the 2013 Venice Biennale as part of the South African pavilion, titled Imaginary Fact: Contemporary South African Art and the Archive, and in the 6th Beijing Biennale in 2015. Nhlengethwa’s practice features in important arts publications, such as Phaidon’s The 20th Century Art Book (2001).

“The most important body of work in mu=y career was produced here at August House during the pandemic, when I created work that was exhibited in Cape Town as well as works that was shown in London and New York. Later in the year, I will however produce work that will be exhibited in Johannesburg as many people have been asking me to have an exhibition here as well,”{ said Nhlengethwa, who apart from focusing on his art prac tice, also mentors young artists. He has a Bursary name after him at The Bag factory that supports an emerging female visual artists every year. He is also known for collecting jazz music, as well as collecting works from emerging artists to support their career development.

Wezile Harmans

Wezile Harmans

Wezile Harmans (B.1990, Port Elizabeth) is an art practitioner whose interdisciplinary practice encompasses performance, film, installation as a tool for social change. His work confronts prejudices and advocates against social inequality, creating a platform for critical self-reflexivity within unwelcoming spaces. Wezile’s work is influenced by how things have come to existence, as well as motivations behind certain movements, reactions, human behaviours and how these become symbols.

Wezile is the 2022 recipient for the Best Creative Collection for Visual Art at the National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences Awards and will be showcasing a new performance piece at the 2022 Grahamstown National Arts Festival. Wezile’s noted international projects includes video performance with LEAD Project and LSE Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa, M1/M2 Highway Billboard Feature by Centre for Less good ideas, A Film by Human Rights Defender Hub Artivism and University of York (CAHR), an acquisition of works by Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum and a collection by Art Bank South Africa.

Harmans is a 2019 David Koloane award recipient, Arts & Culture Trust Finalist Recipient for 2020. His body of work has been witnessed across the country including at Iziko National Gallery (SA), Norval Foundation, FNB Art Joburg, Latitudes Art Fair, South African State Theatre, Bag Factory Artist Studios, Hangar(Portugal), National Arts Festival Main program and PIAD. The artist has participated in a number of residencies including SIRA residency (Madagascar), OpenLab residency (Karoo/Bloemfontein), Virtual Worlding Residency exchange (Canada/RSA), BODYLAND residency (Hogsback).

An artist to watch out Wezile whose practice involved creating abstract art using often discared materials such as newspaper cutting and envelopes  will this year be participating at the National Arts Festival in nGrahanstown. He is taking a body of work that also incorporates an installation and a performance called We Regret to Inform You.

“My work deals with the issue of displacement. It involves  70 percent of research and I have traced the spaces of displacement in the country over the years as well as focusing on human trafficking. Whenn it cvomes to the performance aspect of it, I choreograph my own production as well as performing in it as I come from a theatre background,” the highly articulate artist said. He currently has an exhibition running at the University of JohannesburgGallery.

..The sites for Open Studios Joburg are: August House, Bag Factory Artists’ Studios, Ellis House, Living Artists Emporium, LAPA at Breezeblock, Transwerke Studios and Victoria Yards. OPEN STUDIOS JOBURG will take place over two days, Saturday 28 May and Sunday 29 May, 2022 with selected studios being open on these two different days.

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