CityLife Arts

Visual artist Anthony Boerma takes Love is a Dangerous Drug exhibition to his home province of Mpumalanga

By CityLife Arts Writer

It is always a special moment when an artist takes his work back home where he was born to share his creativity and art practice with those that have known him when he was still trying to find his way around art.

This is the way one artist must be feeling right now as he has been afforded an opportunity to mount his exhibition in his home province by Mpumalanga’s only existing art gallery.

Renowned Mpumalanga artist John Anthony Boerma, will present his potent Love is a Dangerous Drug exhibition at the White River Gallery from the 1 May until 22 May 2021. The exhibition will officially be opened on the 8 May by Justice Edwin Cameron.

John-Anthony,the artist has a layered and multi-faceted journey that started in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga and has spanned continents and showing his acclaimed collection at this contemporary gallery in his home province is something he is looking forward to.

Director of the White River Gallery Dana Macfarlane,  A first for the White River Gallery, we are proud to present this unique exhibition of hand-painted clay plates by renowned Lowveld artist and curator John-Anthony Boerma. Forming part of his Master of Visual Arts Degree studies (UNISA), the collection of 200 gold- trimmed vessels was meticulously produced over a period of more than a year, with each plate taking three days to complete, including two firings. Evocative text recalled from songs over time, have been transcribed onto the plates in Boerma’s childlike print. The sound installation which accompanies the exhibition, references Boerma’s autobiographical memory. This engaging interplay of earthenware clay, text and sound installation, completes the artist’s long-standing exploration of personal identity, which forms the core theme of the presentation.”    

 Boerma studied painting, drawing, printmaking and sculpture as well as history of art for two years before leaving the country as a member of the End Conscription Campaign in the 1980s.  He went from studying Painting and Illustration at the Akademie Minerva in The Netherlands to an independent study programme in New York at the Cooper Union before returning to South Africa.

John – Anthony says  “I am excited to be exhibiting at the White River Gallery in the province that continues to inspire me,  as a young boy, a suitcase in hand, filled with dreams and expectations, I left the small town of Nelspruit, my hometown, embarking on a journey to discover the world and what it had to offer. Returning to the cosy comfort of my same hometown, laden with that same suitcase filled with memories, experience and a realisation that the world is as big as the memories you create and experience is what friends give you whether in the far-flung corners of exotic spaces or in the cosy armchair in the safety of what I call home. My collection of memories, as depicted in the words on the plates that are on display, depict the full circle of a road, my road, less travelled. ”

 In New York, the artist lived a non-conformist lifestyle for five years and reveled in exhibiting in non-conformist spaces, with intricately planned events choreographed to the last detail. 

After returning to The Netherlands to graduate, Boerma returned to South Africa where he continued to exhibit under the alter-ego Johnny Golightly while working for the Department of Arts and Culture.

In 2003 Boerma launched ART AID to assist skilled crafters, artists and educators to collaborate with professional members of the industry, undergo skills development training, and develop a range of products with specific reference to the heritage, environment, culture and social challenges of South Africa and its people.

It is this multi-faceted journey of identity and memory which comes to light in Love is a Dangerous Drug. Theexhibition consisting of  hand-painted plates as a sound installation, addressing his autobiographical memory. It includes text which is written in child-like handwriting and the lines of songs which are transcribed onto hand-painted red and blue lines. These lines recall the typical blue, red and white striped folio paper that was used in school notebooks., the plates mimic patterns and snippets of autobiographical memory and its remembering process  through the plates’ reflection of Boerma’s personal identity.

The body of work is reliant on his identity and presents an incoherent and fragmented structure. An important objective is to articulate that aspects of his autobiographical memory deals with continuity and discontinuity of the self. Event-specific information is presented through written songs and a sound installation of Boerma’s favourite songs associated to certain periods in his life.

Through his installation, he visually investigates aspects of a remembered event and how he recalls the latter through lyrics of songs. The way the events are remembered at a certain time, effects his perspective from which he remembers such events.

The use of music employed in the artworks plays the key role in deciphering his autobiographical memory. Music and memories are deeply interlinked since the experience of a song has the ability to transport an individual to past events. It can activate sights, noises  and emotions of an explicit event. Consequently, Boerma’s artworks introduce the relation between music and intense autobiographical memory which is visualised through child-like drawings and writings that add a melancholic aspect to the exhibition.

.Love is a Dangerous Drug can be seen at the White River Gallery at the Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre. The gallery operates from 10:00am – 4:00pm on Monday to Saturday and 10:00am – 2:00pm on Sundays and public holidays. Walkabouts with the artist will be scheduled during the exhibition.

 Facebook: The White River Gallery

White River Gallery Telephone: 082 784 6695

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