I had immersive art experience in Parkwood over the weekend despite wet weather: Hopping from one exhibition to the next

By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor

When it rains we often say in Africa it is a blessing. I expressed this view recently when I observed clouds gathering in the sky. I was certain Johannesburg on that day was going to be a blessed city. A friend who is originally from Belgium, disagreed though. Not in so many words.  But still made a mildly strong a statement protesting against my claim that the city was to receive some blessings.

“But in Belgium it rains all the time. Does it also mean therefore that Belgium is always blessed?” I kept quiet. I had realised that I was not going to win that one.

But over the weekend, I almost thought twice about that statement especially as I looked outside my place and watched in frustration as the rain drizzled. Seemingly non-stop in the damn morning. I almost cancelled a date at a Parkwood based gallery where an exhibition by a young artist was opening on Saturday, February 11, 2023. I am glad though that I did not cancel irrespective of the discouraging weather. This is because at the end, I got more than I had bargained for. Rain or no rain, I found myself hopping from one gallery to the next after attending the opening of Diale’s exhibition at David Krut Gallery. The gallery and the art bookstore are housed in the famous Blue House on Jan Smut Avenue, Parkwood, Johannesburg. (See my review of that exhibition in this edition).

Perhaps the idea of having so many art galleries scattered around one area is not a bad idea after. Especially when the Johannesburg weather was in its element. After the David Krut Gallery opening, I just jumped the street, and on the opposite end,  I found myself admiring the art works of Bevan de Wet, titled Lost Horizon.

“The series of prints, collages and hand-made paper works are an exploration of imaginary landscapes and spatial planes inspired by our shifting relationship with our natural world. Engaging with ideas around construction, architecture and notions of progress, the works attempt to create new mythical imaginings, of the environment,” the curatorial note guides the viewer through the works.

I got a chance to speak to Glynis Blomkamp who I found manning the exhibition in the company of a gallery assistant. The exhibition had just opened a few days earlier. She told me that there was yet another exciting exhibition coming up at Gallery 2. “This time it is an exhibition of the fine art lecturers from the University of Johannesburg. It is perhaps the time for the public and collectors to see what these lecturers have been teaching students in the fine art department of the University of Johannesburg,” she chuckled. Blomkamp did not give out the full list of the participating academic artists, but confirmed that Professor Kim Berman and Gordon Fround, senior academics in that department, will be among those whose art works will be up in Gallery 2 in their next exhibition after Lost Horizon has come down.

Still drizzling and wet, this did not deter me to walk 300 metres to Art Mile, also along Jan Smuts Avenue, heading to Circa Gallery. There the works of Norman Catherine were on exhibition. I had missed this exhibition when it opened a few days earlier and this was an opportunity to catch up on the artist’s solo exhibition titled Head to Toe.  I have always admired Catherine’s works, especially on the secondary market where their performance has been consistently decent on the auction floor in the past few years. I enjoyed viewing his works and it is always a pleasure to come face to face with this artist’s works in a gallery set up, which is an intimate environment, allowing a viewer an active and intimate engagement with us works.

After my experience of Catherine’s works, this time I did not have to deal with the incessant rain.  I just needed to just walk up a few steps across Circa Gallery into the Art Mile building. There I got to see an exhibition of two artists whose works are based on the oceanic life, such as fish and other living things that call the water their home. This too is a fascinating exhibition. “This exhibition has been running for a while now, having opened in December last year,” said Musa Nxumalo, owner of Studio Nxumalo, a mobile gallery that is steadily making a mark on the contemporary art trade. His is one of the very few art businesses owned by black art dealers in the country.

From here, I was lucky again with the rain.  I only just needed to cross one street and there I was in Everard Read Gallery. I found myself gazing at the art works of Ferdi B Dick, especially the lion sculptures. The title of this exhibition is Lion’s Breath.

But of course even though the special focus is on the exhibiting artists at this gallery, one thing that is especially great about Everard Read always is that one gets to also view a selection of the artists who have exhibited in the space in the past, and who are signed to the gallery. And so I also got to see the works of artists such as Colbert Mashile, Blessing Ngobeni, Thonton Kabeya and Philimon Hlungwani that are also hung on the walls as some sort of permanent exhibition.. I particularly liked Hlungwani’s drawing of eight Vatsonga ladies, elegantly dressed in pink tops, with the colourful yellow fabric covering their shoulders down to their feet. And you can tell that under that fabric, there is the famous xibhelana skirt.

The ladies have been drawn in such a way that the tallest is on the right and the next one is shorter than the preceding figure, creating an aesthetically tasteful picture.

By the time I left Everard Read Gallery, I could tell that I had been immersed in art for the past three hours in this art node in Parkwood. I felt good though as If defying the logic of the wet weather that seemed to have different ideas of how one shoukd spend their weeknd in Johannesburg.  So it was not a bad idea at all to decide come rain or sunshine, I was going to go out and attend Diale’s exhibition opening. At the end, this supposedly simple gallery opening function, ended up being a whole art excursion and immersive experience for me for the weekend.

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